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Paris Gossip: Is Boeing 777X a Paper Airplane? Is A350 an Orphan?

Tickers in this article: BA UAL

PARIS ( TheStreet) -- The duopoly aircraft makers, both sporting year-to-date stock price gains in the 35% range, will flaunt their latest wide-body offerings and taunt their competitors at the Paris Air Show, which opens Monday.

The first flight of the A350 is scheduled for Friday in Toulouse, France, Airbus' headquarters, guaranteeing that the new aircraft and the possibility of an appearance will consume the air show. Meanwhile, Boeing said its featured products will be two 787s, a show of confidence after the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the aircraft for four months, which ended May 20, due to the danger of battery fires.

"We are all children when we go to the air show," said Damien Lasou, global managing director, Accenture's aerospace & defense practice. "We like to see these airplanes fly. I would be keen to see the 350 flying. I would love to see the 787 too. This is what makes the show attractive."

In addition to showing the 787, Boeing is also expected to launch its 787-10, a stretched 787, and to announce commitments for the 777X, offering options for either more capacity or more range than the existing 777-300ER offers.

"By having both the 787-10 and the 777X available for sale, Boeing makes a strong argument that it has, or will have the next several years, a next generation platform for the entire widebody spectrum," said Carter Leake of BB&T Capital Market's aerospace and defense investment banking group.

"Boeing is looking to frame the A350-1000 as a capable but unnecessary 'orphan aircraft' for current operators of the 777," Leake said. "Airbus will counter that the 777X an unproven 'paper airplane,' but Boeing's goal at this point is to muddy the waters for all A350 sales campaigns. We think the 787-10 and 777X combination achieves that goal." Orphan aircraft lack variants, while paper airplanes don't yet operate commercially.

Two 787s flown by Japanese carriers had unrelated minor problems this week. Nevertheless, most recent news concerning the 787 has been good. On Monday, United celebrated the inauguration of its 787 Denver-Tokyo service. On Wednesday, a Boeing executive spoke to a Congressional committee about lessons learned from the 787's battery problems .

Investors have chosen to look at the worldwide demand for aircraft, rather than the problems. Boeing shares are up 32% this year and are trading above $100 for the first time since 2007. Meanwhile, shares in Airbus parent EADS are up 43% year to date.

Lasou said that while he hopes to see the A350 fly next week, the timing of incremental steps in the A350's impending introduction, as well as the 787's setbacks, are not important to the overall success of either aircraft.

"I do not measure the success of these programs by the last few months," Lasou said. "They are 20-year programs, at a minimum. Looking back, the 787 was more ambitious from a technology standpoint. It was done with the technologies not of tomorrow, but of after-tomorrow. They felt some pain from including things that did not yet exist.