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Industry Gathers for Paris Air Show at a Rough Time

Airlines are under pressure from the recession, higher oil prices and other issues. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Next week is the one hundredth anniversary of the Paris Air Show, the biggest in the world. It takes place every two years, and organizers say even with the economic downturn they expect a "full house." Airbus, Boeing and other manufacturers will be there to sell aircraft.

But observers are not expecting any major signs of a recovery for the airline industry.

Industry leaders, meeting this week in Malaysia, were told that their industry faces its most difficult situation ever. Airlines are worried not just about the recession but also about higher oil prices.

And now comes the new H1N1 flu virus. The World Health Organization this week declared the first pandemic, or worldwide spread, of influenza in forty-one years. But countries are being urged not to restrict travel.

The air show also follows the crash last week of an Air France jet in the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil. All two hundred twenty-eight people on the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris were killed.

Before the flight went down, sensors gave conflicting information on air speed to the plane's computers, possibly because of ice. Such problems had led Air France to begin replacing older sensors on some of its Airbus planes, but not the one that crashed.

Air France is now moving quickly to put in newer versions of the speed sensors. But the cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Bodies and wreckage have been found over a wide area. The plane hit storms before the crash. Incorrect air speed readings could have led the pilots to fly so fast that the plane broke apart. Wrong data can also cause pilots to fly too slow and lose lift.

In the United States, officials are investigating a different safety issue -- the safety of regional airlines. These smaller carriers now operate about half the airline flights within the United States. They carry one in four passengers.

They have grown as major airlines have cut or changed their service. In fact, the big airlines often save money by using smaller ones to carry passengers. The pilots are paid less, and there are questions about whether they get enough training or rest.

The Federal Aviation Administration plans an industry safety meeting next week. And new legislation could be coming.

Congress is holding hearings into a crash in February near Buffalo, New York. The flight was operated for Continental Airlines by another company, Colgan Air. Fifty people died.

Deadly airline crashes are increasingly rare. But regional carriers have had four in the last five years, while major airlines have had one.

Transportation safety investigators held hearings this week into an accident that involved a major airline. Everyone survived the water landing of a US Airways jet on the Hudson River in New York in January. Birds disabled both engines. At the hearings, one of the subjects discussed was the increase in populations of large birds in North America that could threaten other planes.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Mario Ritter.