* Boeing to launch 777X with blockbuster Emirates order
* Etihad, Qatar, Lufthansa, Cathay may join launch club
* 1,000th Dreamliner order to end torrid year for Boeing
* Airbus in sales negotiations for broad range of jets
* Flydubai seen ordering 75 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft
(Adds uncertainty over potential Cathay order)
By Praveen Menon and Tim Hepher
DUBAI/PARIS, Nov 13 Boeing looks set to
dominate next week's Dubai Airshow with more than $100 billion
of deals as it aims to launch its latest long-haul jet with up
to 250 potential orders from as many as five airlines, industry
The U.S. planemaker is pressing ahead with the launch of its
777X mini-jumbo despite uncertainty over where it will be made,
with workers at the existing 777 plant outside Seattle holding a
ballot over a new employment contract on Wednesday.
Bulging civil and military bank balances in the Gulf remain
a magnet for Western aerospace executives as they seek to tap
thriving demand for jetliners and combat aircraft that offer
some respite from defence cuts at home.
A widely expected potential order for as many as 150 of the
new 777X passenger jets from Dubai flag carrier Emirates
could come close to matching the $62 billion of deals
amassed at the last Dubai show two years ago.
"Dubai's success is related to its airlines. It's a global
hub now and Dubai did this by buying planes and constantly
renewing its fleet," said John Sfakianakis, chief investment
strategist at Riyadh-based asset management firm Masic.
"Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also investing
billions in aviation to be able to connect to the world. These
states have to continue to invest if they want to expand."
After playing cat and mouse with rival Airbus in
the market for big twin-engined jets, industry sources say that
Boeing is expected to launch the 777X on Sunday with the record
Emirates deal and 25 jets for Abu Dhabi's Etihad.
Depending on final negotiations, which historically provide
some last-minute drama at such shows, Boeing could also announce
orders for dozens of 777X jets from Qatar Airways and Hong
Kong's Cathay Pacific during the Middle East's largest
business event, which runs from Nov. 17 to 21.
The 777X launch is expected to include confirmation of a
tentative 34-plane order from Germany's Lufthansa.
Whether Boeing can reach around 250 launch orders depends
partly on uncertainty over whether it can close a potential deal
for around 20 777X with Cathay, but the new plane is heading for
a haul of above 200 orders, industry experts said.
SPUR FOR GROWTH
Leading Gulf airlines have made Boeing's long-distance 777
warhorse and other big jets a spur for growth as they redraw the
world's aviation and logistics map around the Gulf.
The revamped 777X is the largest twinjet yet designed and
will come in two versions, seating 350 to 406 people. It is
Boeing's response to the Airbus A350-1000, which will seat 350
in three classes or about 380 people in two classes.
Boeing has had to overcome disagreement among potential
buyers over the design of the 777X, with Gulf airlines pushing
for high capacity with the stamina of four-engined jets. But a
person familiar with the design said it may suffer restrictions
on payload for the longest trips from the Gulf.
The U.S. company hopes the airshow will also mark a turning
point for the 787 Dreamliner after its temporary grounding this
year because of melting batteries. Industry sources expect
orders to top 1,000 in Dubai as Etihad buys a further 30, while
Airbus is in negotiations to sell competing models of its A350.
The latest medium-haul aircraft will also be in focus as
flydubai places a $7.8 billion order for 75 of the revamped
Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus negotiates to sell A320neos to
airlines that may include Etihad, industry sources said.
A380 SEEKS LIFT
Qatar Airways, which has complained about the reliability of
its 787s, has said it may buy more Airbus A330s.
But Airbus, which outsold Boeing in the first nine months of
the year, will be looking to end a dearth of orders this year
for its A380, the world's largest airliner.
Doric Lease Corp aims to firm up an order for 20 of the
superjumbos "soon", its top executive told Reuters last month.
The European company co-operates closely with the largest
A380 customer Emirates, which has consistently said it could buy
up to 30 more of the aircraft once it unlocks extra capacity in
its network to handle the double-decker jets.
Next week's show will fill an area the size of the U.S.
Pentagon at the new Dubai World Central airport, where airline
bosses will rub shoulders with arms merchants and royalty.
Western defence companies have long viewed the Middle East
as among the world's most lucrative markets but are facing
unfamiliar challenges as divisions grow between Washington and
Gulf allies over Iran nuclear talks set to resume on Nov 20.
"The political situation with Iran is so fluid that today's
friends and allies may be tomorrow's distant partners," said
Theodore Karasik, research director at Dubai think-tank INEGMA.
The United Arab Emirates is moving closer to a long-awaited
decision on whether to buy up to 60 UK-backed Eurofighter
Typhoons or French Rafale fighters. It is also expected to buy
25 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters, sources familiar with
the deal told Reuters.
"These countries may be in disagreement with the U.S. over
Iran, Syria and other issues, but their military relationship
remains strong," Karasik said.
(Additional reporting by Peter Apps, Andrea Shalal-Esa and
Alwyn Scott; Editing by David Goodman and David Evans)