The Airbus next-generation A350 plane took off commercially at the Paris Air Show on Wednesday, winning multi-billion-dollar deals and the European manufacturer said that more deals were in the air.
The news comes just days after the new plane took to the skies in its first ever test flight on Friday, stealing the limelight before the start of the air show -- a key event where Airbus and Boeing compete fiercely for plane orders.
The two rivals are currently head-to-head -- $44.6 billion in new plane orders or agreements for Airbus versus $44.8 billion for Boeing -- after Ryanair boosted a lagging Boeing by confirming a huge order for 175 medium-haul 737 planes.
Airbus-side, Air France-KLM also confirmed an order for 25 A350 planes -- which make extensive use of lighter composite materials to reduce fuel costs -- in a deal worth $7.2 billion at catalogue prices.
"Despite the difficulties that Air France-KLM is facing, we are in significant good shape to be able to plan for the renewal of our long-haul fleet for the long term," said Alexandre de Juniac, head of the airline group.
The agreement comes with an option for a further 25 planes, and the aircraft will come into service in 2017, he told reporters. The airline group had first announced its intention to buy the planes in September 2011.SriLankan Airlines, meanwhile, took an option to buy four of the new planes -- an option expected to be exercised within two weeks -- and placed six firm orders for Airbus's popular A330 aircraft in a deal worth $2.6 billion at list prices.
Airbus boss Fabrice Bregier promised more deals to come for the A350. Asked by a journalist whether further orders could be expected at the show, he replied: "before the end of the day."
The A350 is due to take off on Wednesday on its second test flight in the southwestern French city of Toulouse, where Airbus is headquarterd, and if all goes well again could fly over the Paris Air Show on Friday.
The plane pushed Boeing out of the limelight on Wednesday, but the US firm had stolen the thunder on Tuesday with the launch of a long version of its next-generation Dreamliner -- the 787-10.
Intended as a message that it is firmly back on track after a slew of technical problems forced the grounding of its entire Dreamliner fleet worldwide earlier this year, Boeing announced more than 100 orders for its newest plane.
On Wednesday, it said plane leasing firm CIT Aerospace had ordered 30 of its new, medium-haul 737 MAX planes in a deal worth $3 billion at catalogue prices.
The 737 MAX is a modernised version of Boeing's older 737 and has yet to come into service. It is part of a new generation of planes emerging onto the market which consume less fuel and enable airlines to reduce costs.
Other smaller competitors have also made a mark at the air show -- the world's biggest -- with ATR, a joint venture between European aerospace giant EADS and Italy's Finmeccanica, announcing one of its biggest orders this week.
Brazil's Embraer has also come up trumps with the launch of a new family of regional jets and 100 orders, with 215 other intentions to purchase the aircraft.
But the Paris air show, in its 50th edition this year, is not just about commercial battles, with the long-awaited A400M military transport plane taking to the skies as well as Russia's Su-35 fighter jet.