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By James Cordahi and Jason Neely
DUBAI, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Dubai-based airline Emirates [EMAIR.UL] picked the Airbus EAD.PA A350 airliner over Boeing’s (BA.N) 787 in orders potentially worth $35 billion on Sunday, grabbing centre stage on the first day of the Dubai Air Show.
Deals this week could make 2007 the biggest year in history for planemakers as soaring crude oil prices drive orders for new, more fuel efficient airliners such as the A380 superjumbo and Boeing’s mid-sized 787 Dreamliner.
The Gulf’s biggest airline bought 70 A350s and took options on 50 more while extending its lead as the biggest buyer of the Airbus A380 superjumbo by adding another 11.
Emirates’ orders included 12 long-range 777-300ERs from Boeing Co (BA.N) worth $3.2 billion.
The industry is in the third year of a record level of demand spurred by new aircraft as well as the spread of budget airlines.
Boeing’s biggest deal came from Qatar Airways, which ordered 30 787s and options to buy 30 more.
It also bought 27 777s and took five options.
Boeing entered the air show leading Airbus in their annual race for orders but the gap narrowed on Sunday.
While the 787 is already the fastest-selling new Boeing in history, the Emirates order for the A350 XWB (Xtra Wide Body) is a major boost for the new Airbus plane, which has been the subject of fitful design changes over the last two years.
The battle between the 787 and A350 for sales to industry heavyweight Emirates was being closely watched by industry analysts.
“The 787-9 is a smaller aircraft with fewer seats,” said Tim Clark, Emirates airline president, explaining the decision to go with the Airbus.
“The 10 is just not being offered,” he said, referring to a stretched version of the 787 which some airlines have urged Boeing to launch.
Separately Rolls-Royce (RR.L) said it would supply engines for the A350s in a deal that could be worth $8.4 billon if Emirates firms all options.
And United Technologies Corp (UTX.N) unit Sikorsky signed a deal for 40 helicopters from Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior.
The air show runs until Thursday.
Industry sources said Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE), Saudi Arabian Airlines and Air Arabia AIRA.DU are among those expected to announce orders this week. (Editing by Greg Mahlich)