How France supports its helicopter industry, with pictures

Tomorrow morning I’m off to the Paris Airshow where I may or may not have a good time. But I doubt I’ll have as good as a time as I just did in France when I was on the end of the full fiery breath of France Inc’s marketing machine in all its glory.

Like other nations, France has a plan to look after its key industries for the duration of the current crisis, and normal rules are pretty much suspended. And so I, and a large group of competitors, found ourselves on a seriously full-on tour of everything that is rotary in the French military and paramilitary over three days.

Here’s a quick run-through of how it went. I’ve written about it some of it here and here already, and we’re publishing more of that kind of thing during the show.

Day one and we’re at Villacoublay just outside Paris, first with the Gendarmerie and their Ecureuils.

Gendarmerie Ecureuil.JPG

With rappelling personnel – the first of many of France’s finest that we will encounter over the trip.

Gendarmerie rappelling.JPG

Next it’s on to the French air force’s Parisis squadron which uses Fennecs to stop lunatics, demonstrators and terrorists from dealing destruction to the capital using light aircraft.

Parisis Fennec.JPG

They fly alongside you, if necessary with a notice as you can see above, politely telling you what to do. Then things escalate until finally the gentlemen below resort to the on-board hunting rifle. Happily that has yet to happen, but they practice on aerial targets and so are unlikely to miss.

Fennec crew.JPG

These guys are known as ‘commandos de l’air’ and obviously are not to be missed with. However, they are the very model of the modern trained killer and so naturally are into social media. Here’s their Facebook site God knows what happens if you invite them to be your friend. If you try, do tell me how you get on.

Then it’s over to the terminal at Villacoublay to leave for the next leg of the trip, which is with the French navy at Hyeres on the south coast.

The ramp at Villacoublay proves interesting. Some very important Pakistani gentlemen are in town it would appear.


And France’s own state-A318 is based there, with a snappy looking TBM700 tucked alongside.


We’re dining like kings of course, but it turns out that a Fench air force packed lunch is much as it is anywhere else. Even if the crisps/chips are not merely ready-salted but come with ‘marine salt from the Camargue’. Well, what else…??? I think this post is getting a bit long, so I’m going to move off into part 2.


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One Response to How France supports its helicopter industry, with pictures

  1. Mutuelle santé October 4, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    Very interesting as pictures and industries, The airshows seem to have a brief presentation of the armies training process.

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