(AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Airline Flights Without Pilots?

The Latest: Airbus is ready for autonomous planes; are you?

June 17, 2019 - 1:35 pm
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LE BOURGET, France (AP) — The Latest on the Paris Air Show (all times local):

7 p.m.

The chief salesman for Airbus says his company already has the technology to fly passenger planes without pilots at all — and is working on winning over regulators and travelers to the idea.

Christian Scherer also said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday that Airbus hopes to be selling hybrid or electric passenger jets by around 2035.

While the company is still far from ready to churn out battery-operated jumbo jets, Scherer said Airbus already has "the technology for autonomous flying" and for planes flown by just one pilot.

He told The Associated Press: "When can we introduce it in large commercial aircraft? That is a matter we are discussing with regulators and customers, but technology-wise, we don't see a hurdle."

Safety is an obvious concern — and that's an issue that is on many minds after two deadly crashes of the Boeing 737 Max jet.

Scherer said the crashes "highlighted and underlined the need for absolute, uncompromising safety in this industry, whether from Airbus, Boeing or any other plane."

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3:50 p.m.

Boeing is seeing lackluster contracts at the Paris Air Show so far as it tries to win back trust from customers after the crashes of two 737 Max jets.

The company announced a deal Monday to provide services and parts for British Airways via its owner International Airlines Group, and another to provide technology to help United Airlines set pilot schedules. Boeing also struck a deal for freighter jets with leasing company GECAS.

Asked whether the Max crashes affected its trust in Boeing, British Airways Chief Financial Officer Steve Gunning said, "We're confident that Boeing will solve those issues and will get these issues behind them." His airline did not announce any new plane purchases from Boeing.

In contrast, rival Airbus announced a string of plane sales on the first day of the Paris Air Show worth several billion dollars.

Boeing's CEO said the company came to the air show with a tone of humility after the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, which killed 346 people.

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3:10 p.m.

Families of victims, regulators and airlines have mixed feelings about Boeing's apology for 737 Max crashes that killed 346 people.

Ningsi Ayorbaba told The Associated Press: "I hope this is a good signal for the victims to have compensation rights that we have not yet received."

Her husband Paul Ferdinand Ayorbaba died in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October. She is among dozens of families who have filed lawsuits against Boeing.

Indonesia's transportation ministry said the government is still waiting for "transparent work of the aircraft maker to fix the problem" that led to the crashes. Investigations are underway.

An Ethiopian who lost her younger brother in an Ethiopian Airlines crash in March said Boeing's apology is not enough, and expressed concern about Boeing's push to re-certify the 737 Max.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said Boeing's apology Monday at the Paris Air Show "is consistent with our opinion."

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12:20 p.m.

France, Germany and Spain have agreed to develop a joint European fighter jet and air combat system that could also control drones and satellites.

With a model of the jet as a backdrop, defense ministers from the three countries signed an agreement Monday at the Paris Air Show that lays out how the countries will cooperate on the project, which would include a new-generation combat aircraft. French President Emmanuel Macron presided over the signing.

The Future Combat Air System is expected to be operational by 2040.

France sees it as a key step in its push for more European defense efforts, given U.S. President Donald Trump's apparent lack of enthusiasm for supporting Europe militarily.

Authorities have not said how much it would cost but the dpa news agency estimates it could be 100 billion euros ($112 billion).