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Aviation Industry Lands In Paris, and Business Is Looking Up

It may not be exactly what the organizers of the Paris Air Show had in mind, but when business isn't at its best, any free advertising will do.

Paris Air Show 2011 - A CNBC Special Report
Paris Air Show 2011 - A CNBC Special Report

And the NATO mission over Libya was just that: a parade (albeit a high flying, fast moving one) of expensive, hi-tech jet fighters flown under a number of flags, from U.S. F-16CJs Falcons to British Tornado GR4s to French Rafales.

Given all the collateral damage of the global financial crisis, it may have been easy to miss that global military spending was almost flat in 2010; in Western Europe, it actually declined, which qualifies as a very bad year for the aerospace sector.

For the commercial aircraft industry, 2010 was a much better year than 2009, but that's a relative statement; 2011 and even 2012 are when manufacturers count on regaining industry normalcy.

One step toward that return to normalcy could launch at theParis Air Show June 20-26, when some 140 aircraft will be on display among more than 2,100 exhibitions.

The show, which alternates locations with Farnborough, England each year, is as much about fostering bragging rights — order announcements — as it is about displaying new technology — a solar-powered Swiss plane this year. (There's also the Shanghai International Air show.)

Whether it is Airbus (E.U.) and Boeing (U.S.) in the commercial space, Lockheed Martin (U.S.) and Dassault (France) in the fighter-jet market or Cessna (U.S.) and Bombardier (Canada) in the corporate one, Paris is a prime opportunity to impress customers and investors.

These days, the show, like the industry, is more international than ever. Delegations from 88 countries will be present this year. The BRIC nations will be there, and are a major story. They are ordering more planes than ever, but also expanding their manufacturing profile.

Brazil's Embraer, long a civil manufacturer, is expanding into the defense sector in the form of communications systems.

China's Comac, founded in 2008, is meant to make the country, with its fast-growing air travel sector, less dependent on the western giant, and is already filling orders from China-based carriers.

India's state-owned aircraft designer National Aerospace Laboratories plans to develop a 90-seat plane for the domestic market, having already built a fighter jet.

What better symbol for the global economy than the industry that brings us all together.

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