Paris in springtime is always something special, but for one week in June every two years, passion in the city is reserved for aviation and defence as the world’s biggest aerospace event, Paris Air Show, opens its doors.
Certainly, Parisians will be hoping the Paris Air Show will offer some relief from politics. Newly elected President Emmanuel Macron will formally open the 52nd edition of the world-famous event at Le Bourget on Monday morning, just hours after the country goes to the polls for a second time in seven days.
After a landslide victory for his fledgling party in the first-round last Sunday, voter apathy was apparent.
The bad news for show-goers is that the politics will not go away. The UK is reeling from the double whammy of an indecisive general election and division over Brexit; the US is facing challenging questions about its appetite for international cooperation and foreign trade; and the diplomatic spat between the Gulf nations could be putting at risk the order backlog for the major aviation manufacturers.
In any case, nobody was expecting to see a show dominated by mega-orders of the kind we became used to even two years ago.
At a pre-Paris event in Toulouse last week, Airbus’ John Leahy put the marker down when he said that with record backlogs in hand, a slowdown would be no bad thing.
There will be an abundance of “new metal” (or carbon fibre) making debut appearances at Le Bourget, and inside the exhibition there will be a lot of innovative products being aired for the first time. It is here that we get to see the latest disruptive technologies or safety systems that will become big news in a year or two.
The halls will be packed. This year’s show has broken all records, having sold out last October – a remarkable eight months ahead of its opening.
The show is truly international with half the 2,300 exhibitors French and half international. The USA is the second largest grouping, while the UK, Italy and Germany play a major part with around 120 exhibitors each.
The numbers are impressive. There will 330 chalets on the 324,000sqm site. The Paris organisers are expecting around 150 aircraft in the static park and the daily flying display. They will be welcoming 150,000 trade visitors for the four trade days and 200,000 public visitors on the three public days. The show boasts that trade visitor numbers are double that of any other show.
The big noise
The biggest noise (literally) will be around the debut Paris appearance for Lockheed Martin’s F-35A, which will be on the static park as well as flying with the US Air Force in the display. But other first-time Le Bourget appearances will be made by types including the Airbus A350-1000, Boeing 737 Max 8 and Mitsubishi MRJ, all of which will be seeking further buyers. Lockheed’s LM-100J commercial freighter will also be on view, with Embraer’s KC-390 and the Kawasaki P-1.
Indications are that Boeing may also use the event to officially launch its doubled-stretched 737 Max 10X, and perhaps lift first orders from Asia for the type.
Boeing has also confirmed that a 737 MAX 9 flight test airplane alongside the 787-10 Dreamliner will be flying and just to show that there is excitement in business aviation too, Dassault’s pilots are promising a graceful and exciting display with its new flagship, the Falcon 8X.
Of course, there will be the usual frustrations shared by all the major shows: traffic, bureaucracy and security.
With the latest terrorism threats, security is to be stepped up, with almost 1,000 police, soldiers and private security officers ensuring the event remains safe. Good news is that the long-term weather forecast predicts warm sunny conditions, a change from the recent spate of freak monsoon weather that has hit all of the major shows.
Innovation on show
Fast, free wifi is promised by the organisers – part of a whole theme of digital progress that runs throughout the event. Indeed, Innovation is at the heart of this year’s Le Bourget, with an area called the Paris Air Lab located in the centre of the show in the Concorde Hall.
This 2,000sqm area, alongside the iconic Anglo-French supersonic jet, will be entirely dedicated to the innovations of the major players in the aerospace industry, as well of those of the start-ups in the sector.
The ‘lab’ will also be an area for exploring ideas and the location of immersive experiences using virtual and augmented reality.
FINN will be seeking out the best of the innovative ideas and products, and talking to leaders at the show about their views on the industry … and most likely there will be a few political remarks too.
See you there?
- The Paris International Air Show takes place at Le Bourget June 18-21 for trade and 22-24 for public days.