Unusually for Paris air show week, the big aerospace news emerged elsewhere. Le Bourget played second fiddle to events unfolding at the corporate headquarters of companies like General Electric, Swissair and Sabena.

GE's acknowledgement that its take-over of Honeywell had failed to meet the demands of the European Commission started much debate. Naturally enough there was no shortage of views other than that Washington and Brussels need to review their respective views on competition policy and agree a common position ahead of the raft of new aerospace merger plans soon to land on the desks of the bureaucrats.

As Lockheed Martin's Vance Coffman said during the show, you can't stop the pace of consolidation. To stress the point, speculation was rife that Smiths Group may acquire Rockwell Collins. If the reports are true, it is likely to happen before Collins is separated from the rest of Rockwell at the end of June. The company's chosen structure for the spin-off would land any suitor with a hefty tax bill were it to attempt a take-over any time during the first years of the new Collins existence.

Other sectors in which some of this year's exhibitors are unlikely to grace Le Bourget in 2003 include helicopter and engine makers. Honeywell's future as an independent company is problematic - United Technologies is widely touted as likely to return to the table with a bid. Ironically, UTC may pick up the company for a lot less than it was originally intending to pay.

Consolidation provided Airbus and Boeing with common ground for their usual airshow spat. This time it took the ill-judged comments by Boeing's Harry Stonecipher in a French newspaper about his rival's alleged part in blocking GE's take-over ambitions to set the ball rolling. Airbus and GE quickly put the record straight.

That was about as good as it got for Boeing as it relied on its sonic cruiser high-speed airliner development to generate interest, particularly as it had virtually no orders to announce compared with the Airbus total - 175.

Overall, the order tally across the industry was down by around 50% compared with $42 billion total at Farnborough 2000. The hiatus in regional jet orders will probably only be resolved when new products take to the air.

On the military front, the show again failed to deliver because the A400M airlifter and Meteor air-to-air missile programmes were unable to launch formally.

Source: Flight International