(AP) Boeing's CEO says Gulf companies have placed orders for at least 225 of its new long-haul 777X planes, in what he called the biggest purchase of a planned aircraft in airline history.
The orders announced Sunday kicked off the Dubai Airshow, which is also brought major deals for Boeing rival Airbus with its A380.
Boeing said it received orders for 150 777X planes from Dubai-based Emirates, 50 from Qatar Airways and 25 from Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways. No total price tag was announced, but it is believed to exceed $100 billion.
Boeing COE James McNerney Jr. called it the "largest commercial launch in aviation history."
The planned 777X is a bigger and more fuel-efficient upgrade of its 777 line. Boeing also inked deals for 30 of its 787-10 Dreamliners and 111 737 models.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
Abu Dhabi's fast-expanding carrier Etihad Airways said Sunday it will add at least 56 new Boeing planes in a $25.2 billion order that kicked off the Middle East's main aviation fair that is expected to bring a host of major deals by Gulf airlines.
The five-day Dubai Airshow is seen as an increasingly important barometer on the state of the industry and the rising roles of the big-spending Gulf carriers Etihad, Qatar Airways and Dubai-based Emirates as they compete for routes and critical stopover traffic between Asia and Europe and the Americas. This year's airshow is expected to further display the Gulf carriers' rebounds from the global economic slump and could surpass the record $155 billion in deals in the 2007 edition at the peak of the region's boom years.
For Boeing Co. and European rival Airbus, the Dubai event has become a key battleground for new aircraft and big-ticket orders that can shape the companies' outlooks for years.
The Etihad contract includes 30 787-10 Dreamliners and 25 of Boeing's popular new 777X airplanes. The additional aircraft will be used for cargo service.
The deal is an important nod of support for the Dreamliner, which has suffered groundings over battery problems. It also marks the first order for the next generation 777X, which is expected to be in service by the end of the decade. Boeing's wide-body 777X is meant to compete with the new Airbus A350 on long-haul routes.
Etihad has the option to buy 26 additional Boeing aircraft.
The airshow is also giving Dubai a chance to display its huge new airport south of the city, which officially opened last month but is still under construction in some areas. Plans calls for some of the traffic from Dubai's current airport to be eventually shifted to the new Maktoum International facility, which officials say could one day handle 160 million passengers a year as part of the region's growing profile as a global aviation hub.
In the Middle East, 40,000 pilots and 53,000 technicians will be needed in the next two decades to keep up with demand, according to a Boeing forecast.