July 24 ’07
Paris Air Show is the place to be if you want to be considered a part of the aviation industry. From rivet manufacturer to interior refurbusher, drones to rockets, from Cirrus to Sukhoi, Caravans to Sonic Cruisers. Everything that flies and makes things fly, everyone who has interest in flying will be and should be in Paris for the show.
This year, the two giants Airbus and Boeing has staged a dogfight in the air show. Airbus has announced the A380, which is a giant new 550-seat jet. Boeing has announced that it is building the new Sonic Cruiser that would fly just under the speed of sound and would carry up to 250 passengers on routes of 10,000 miles or more.
The helicopter manufacturers were competing as well. Sikorsky is proud and confident of their S92 18-seat commuter helibus and their attack RAH 66 Commanche helicopter which they have shown as early as the 43th Paris Airshow. Eurocopter showed their NH90 and was trying to catch up with EH101 multi role heavy lift European machine. Agusta Westland had a long line of buyers and onlookers at their A109 Power. It is one of the most popular twins in the market now. All they can say is “wait till you see our big brother, the AB139”.
The military heavy lifts were present as well. The Russian products were not to be taken for granted and will always be tough competition for the American products specially when it comes to operational costing and initial investment.
In the air, fighters doing aerobatics and dogfight maneuvers always stopped everyone from what they were doing. Everyone walking was looking up, the roof decks in the chalets were all filled up and fortunately the weather had cooperated. The flying display part of the show is what first timers should not miss. The pilot’s make it look very easy and the viewers feel they can surely do these maneuvers even with the joystick in the computers at home.
The regional airliner jets were all lined up in the ramp but really, all that matters were really cost per seat mile, 31” or 32” pitch seats, financial or operational lease, product and spares support, and delivery date. Their sales people were busy plugging in route samples and costs in their computers. At the end of the day, end users make their decisions on the economics of the airplane and financial ease of getting it. It is a tough competition and each manufacturer is trying to give a better and more comprehensive information package to the buyer.
The bizjets were all nice and shiny. Bombardier, Dassualt, Cessna, and Gulfstream marketing people try to please and entertain customers who show up in their chalets and would wish to take a peep at the next higher model.
While in Le Bourget I always find time to visit the Air museum. It is always the best place to rest your tired feet. My favorite place is the bench near the spitfire. While my feet rested, my imagination would be worked out and I dream of flying these exotic airplanes with my leather jacket and silk scarf. Unfortunately, T 34s and T28s were as far as I could go in terms of war birds. I always feel that one whole day is not enough to enable one to appreciate the spirit of adventure the early aviators had. One would have to go to all the halls and look very closely to how they have painstakingly crafted these flying machines. The short history and notation beside the displays were always a drag but surprisingly will give one a better insight of the circumstances of how the machine was made. Being around the museum for a while will let you walk away acquiring a different outlook on aviation. Don’t forget to make a full stop landing at the museum store. Old Air France posters are always my weakness but I’m sure that you will find something that will satisfy you’re your hunger for aviation memorabilia.
Paris is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world and the show rightfully belongs here. The set up is very well organized because of experience. The display area, chalets, and ramp continue to improve every year and are all done in style and with class. Most of the Americans and Asians were not too happy though, taking the train and bus – but excuse me sir, this is Europe! The limousine service and all the five star hotels were fully booked. The most romantic and historical places in town were booked by aviation manufacturers for their chairman’s cocktail or reception every night. The most popular French caterers will cost a fortune during the air show week if you can even get them. The most expensive wines are taken out of the wine cellars. The cafés get busy as well for those meetings that were not completed during the day or for entertaining a guest and making them feel the ambiance of Paris. The French boutiques are full in the morning with aviation wives trying to get even with their husbands who never spends time with them.
Paris indeed is not the regular Air show. Mr. Armani and Mr. Zegna are happy with their sales because of shows like this. Everyone had to be in his or her best outfit. Everyone looked like they have walked out of fashion magazines. It is a totally different set up from Oshkosh or Sun and Fun.
I have been attending the show for the last fifteen years in alternate to Farnborough in England. The issues change and the airplane technology continue to improve beyond imagination. The new industry people show up. New and daring manufacturers attend to show their goods. Paris, however, remains the same and will always be the good host not only to aviation enthusiasts but to anyone who appreciates history, culture, good food, good wine, and good life.