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Alternative energy sources a big theme of 49th Paris Air show  

With fanfare, biofuels and rivalry, Paris Air Show kicks off

Vidya Ram ::::Paris, June 19: ::::The biennial air show at Le Bourget, Paris doesn't officially start until Monday, but over the week-end, there is little doubt that the posturing and courting for business and headlines is well under way as the global aviation industry's titans landed their latest prized aircraft to much fanfare. Already, it's clear that alternative energy sources are set to be a big theme of the 49th Paris Air show – where over 138,000 trade visitors are expected. Lausanne, Switzerland-based Solar Impulse kicked off the show with the arrival of its solar-only powered jet on Tuesday.

After a delayed start, the HB-SIA prototype – which is being billed as the ‘special guest' of the show – landed after a 16 something hour trip from Brussels, and is set to show its capabilities with daily flights, weather permitting of course. Biofuel is also all the rage, with the US-based Honeywell completing the first-ever transatlantic flight of a plane on Saturday, partly powered by oilseed crop camelina. The Gulfstream G450 jet made the journey from Morristown New Jersey, half powered by bio and petroleum based fuel – a mixture that saved it around five-and-a-half tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, the airline says. It will shortly be followed by Boeing, which will use a 15 per cent camelina fuel to debut its 747-8 freighter plane on Monday. The company's new passenger jet, the 747-8 Intercontinental, touched down on Sunday morning.

For others, it will be about demonstrating green futures – EADS, which at Farnborough last year paraded a craft powered by algae juice, is already touting Volt-Air, a lithium-air battery-fuelled concept plane of which it will release further details over the course of the week. The pan-European corporation will also bring out the Eurocopter X3 for its first public flight. A video of the craft – dubbed a hybrid because it has both wings as well as rotors – drew appreciative murmurs during a conference held by EADS over the week-end.

However, it will be the solid order intake on which the chief rivalry will occur, led of course by the market's biggest players, Boeing and EADS division Airbus – the latter has already won a contract to sell 72 A320 Neos to GoAir. EADSs lively chief executive, Louis Gallois, presented a bullish view of the company's prospects, for the year ahead, highlighting the Eurofighter consortium's battle against Dassault's Rafale to win the 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft contract from India as one of its major priorities. “We must become faithful citizens of these countries,” he said on Saturday. “I feel we are in a very good position for an additional reason that not only do we have a good aircraft but it is an aircraft in the development phase – it offers Indian companies participation in the development programme” said Stefan Zoller, the head of Cassidian, the EADS division, which is part of the Eurofighter consortium. India will have a sizable presence at the show with nine Indian firms including, specialist Ambica Steels, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Quest Global among the over 2,000 exhibitors.

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