Airbus set to unveil record plane order

Features Reuters

By Rhys Jones and Matthias Blamont

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LE BOURGET, France (Reuters) - Airbus was set to announce a record $16 billion plane order at the Paris Air Show on Wednesday as the EADS unit racks up sales of a revamped version of its top-selling single-aisle aircraft.

Indian budget carrier IndiGo is expected to unveil an order for 180 Airbus planes, the largest in terms of numbers and the biggest boost to date for the A320neo as higher oil prices push airlines to seek more fuel-efficient aircraft.

"The A380 is flying and we should have some more orders today," Gallois told RTL radio. Industry sources told Reuters Gulf carrier Qatar Airways would place an order for the superjumbo on Wednesday.

"The aircraft has been repaired and will fly today," Gallois added, referring to the damaged plane, which was replaced at the air show on Monday and Tuesday -- with a just-assembled A380 in Korean Airlines' livery -- after one of its wingtips collided with a building while taxiing.

OUT OF COURT DEAL

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Engine maker Rolls-Royce Plc and Qantas Airways Ltd said separately they had reached an out-of-court settlement over an engine explosion last year that forced an A380 to make an emergency landing.

Airbus outsold U.S. rival Boeing Co in the first two days of the show, notching up around $26 billion of orders dominated by sales of its revamped A320neo family.

Boeing is yet to decide whether to upgrade or redesign its top-selling single-aisle 737 as competition mounts from manufacturers in Brazil, Canada, China and Russia in the largest aircraft segment.

The healthy demand from buyers has provided evidence that a solid upswing in civil aviation is underway, powered by emerging markets in Asia. High fuel prices have also given buyers a new sense of urgency to buy fuel-efficient planes.

Airbus believes it has the upper hand with the A320neo, whose more efficient engines save airlines 15 percent in fuel costs, according to the company.

Boeing conceded it might lose some custom while it ponders the future of its 737. The company said on Sunday it would decide by year-end on its new strategy.

(Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan, Gilles Guillaume, Kyle Peterson, Cyril Altmeyer, John Irish and Tim Hepher; Writing by James Regan; Editing by David Holmes)