Air traffic jam

The Chinese firm Comac is designing a new plane to challenge Boeing’s 737
An employee demonstrates the luggage hold inside a full scale model of a C919 aircraft, developed by Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC), at the Paris Air Show in Paris, France, on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. The 49th International Paris Air Show, the world’s largest aviation and space industry show, takes place at Le Bourget airport June 20-26. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Air traffic jam
Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Judging from the recent Paris Air Show, the skies are about to get crowded. The long-standing airliner duopoly of Europe’s Airbus and America’s Boeing is far from over, but smaller aircraft makers were elbowing for space at the air show, and with some success. Canada’s own Bombardier snatched two key deals; Russia’s SuperJet won a 12-plane order; and Ryanair, the European no-frills airline, agreed to help Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China, also known as Comac, design a plane to rival the Boeing 737, the short-haul carrier’s current fleet aircraft. Even Airbus, which racked up an eye-popping 1,029 orders and commitments at the show, felt the need to throw a jab at the feisty newcomers. “The smallest [aircraft makers] will have to buckle,” CEO Louis Gallois said, warning that the market is too small for so many airliners. That may be true, but it seems the sky has space for more than two.