PARIS AIR SHOW: 100 years of Paris air show highlights

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PARIS AIR SHOW - SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

First 25 years

1908 - The first real exhibition of practical flying machines took place at the Grand Palais, close to the Champs-Élysées, where they became the main attraction for visitors to the second annual Automobile Salon. They were sufficiently in evidence among the industrial and pleasure cars to justify the use of the title Premier Salon de l'Aéronautique. Flight wrote: "It is an event sure to be of historic interest in the future - even in the very near future, if the progress of flight continues as rapidly as it is doing at present - and as such, it must form the basis of comparison for all time."

1909 - It took less than a year for the Grand Palais to host the very first show devoted entirely to lighter- and heavier-than-aircraft. It was organised by André Granet and Robert Esnault-Pelterie, whose REP tractor monoplane was the first to be seen on entering the exhibition. Centrepiece of the exhibition, however, was the oil-stained Blériot XI cross-Channel flyer, with Ader's famous Avion also prominently displayed. Few would have discovered the Wright Flyer, which, inexplicably, was tucked away so efficiently that little could be seen of it. "As the first machine to achieve motor-propelled flight with a pilot on board and a voluntary conclusion", it should have been placed under the vast dome beside the Blériot.

1910 - The brothers Gabriel and Charles Voisin displayed their new box-kite-type, which was one of a proliferation of classic biplanes that dominated the show. There was still space for the unusual contraptions, none more so than that displayed on the stand of Messrs. Sloan and Co, whose braced wing configuration combined a lower gull with an upper curved wing. In general, however, the exhibition reflected the improvements in the design of engines, with few modifications to the machines themselves.

1911 - The third exhibition was opened by French president Armand Fallières. For the first time at the show, monoplanes outnumbered biplanes by 29-14. Nine aircraft featured enclosed cabins and another discernible new trend was the move towards all-metal airframes, with the Ponche and Primard monoplanes built almost entirely of metal.

1912 - The fourth exhibition provided a showcase for the latest French technology and in numbers alone, it was almost double that of the year before, with 77 aircraft of all types vying for space. Of particular interest was the continued trend towards monoplanes, and a first view of a monocoque fuselage made from laminated paper, cork and fabric, an early composite structure, on the Blériot stand. Absent was the plethora of lighter-than-air craft hanging from the ceiling, a feature so prevalent in previous years.

1913 - The Nieuport company made an impressive show with four monoplanes and the Dunne biplane, including Helen's machine, which had covered a distance of about 20,000km (10,800nm), and a tandem-seat military monoplane. Deperdussin exhibited three aircraft, all of monocoque type, confirming that this construction has been found satisfactory.

1919 - The sixth show and the first since the end of the First World War, was opened by President Poincaré and Marshals Foch and Pétain. There was a veritable collection of military aircraft that had become famous during the war, but the emphasis was clearly on passenger comfort. Standing out were the 28-seat, four-engined Blériot Mammoth, the luxurious Caudron biplane fitted with velvet cushioning and blue silk curtains, the Farman Goliath, Handley Page O/400, and the Vickers Vimy Commercial. Exhibits were predominantly French, but England and Italy were well represented. American aircraft were absent.

1920 - Like its predecessors, the show was dominated by the French, although several manufacturers from Italy and the UK were also present. For the first time, aircraft carried national registrations, with prefixes F for France, G for Great Britain and I for Italy.

1921-  Flight reported that aviation had taken on a more serious note, with practical construction having taken over from freak designs and artistic daydreams. The Potex XV two-seat observation biplane, which had made its first flight only two months before, was one of the attractions, as was Fokker's participation for the first time at Paris with the five-seat F.III, which had already performed reliably on the London route for some months. As Anthony Fokker wanted to avoid the connection with the First World War, he presented himself under the official name of the Nederlandsche Vliegtuigenfabriek, but was still hounded by the press, which regarded him as being German. As a cheeky farewell gesture to the French, the English pilot of the F.III performed some daring and strictly forbidden stunts over Le Bourget.

1924 - With aircraft manufacturing restriction having finally eased, German aircraft were exhibited for the first time and, together with the British machines, formed the largest international element of the show. The Armstrong-Whitworth Siskin 5 was the only British aircraft at the show, although many new engines from Armstrong-Siddeley, Bristol and Wolseley took pride of place. The C.A.M.S. 33 B flying boat attracted much interest, as did Koolhoven's F.K.31 two-seat fighter monoplane. A most unusual presence was the underpowered Pescara helicopter from Spain, whose co-axial rotors were made up of four biplane pairs of blades, turning around a "totem pole" rotor mast. The show became a biennial event thereafter.

1926 - Armstrong-Whitworth, still the only British company to exhibit aircraft, attracted much attention with its two-seat Ajax general-purpose biplane with a single Jaguar engine, and with the Mongoose engine, an entirely new type, which made its public debut in Paris. Blériot-Aéronautique impressed with the Spad-61, which had established a new altitude record of 40,793ft (12,442m) a few months before the show, and the new Model 165, a 16-passenger transport aircraft powered by twin Gnôme-Rhóne Jupiter engines. The many other French manufacturers were also there in force with existing and new models.

1928 - The growing popularity of private flying was evident in that year, with the German Klemm-Daimler, Peyret tandem monoplane, Liore and Olivier LeO H.18 flying boat and newcomer Bourgois with his parasol monoplane all prominent. The twin-floated Mureaux M.B.35 submarine scout and the Avia B.H.33 single-seat fighter from Czechoslovakia were also of interest, but perhaps the most talked-about was the new Fokker C.VIII strut-braced parasol monoplane designed for long-distance photo reconnaissance.

1930 - Three impressions were gained at the twelfth show. The first was that civil aircraft outnumbered military types for the first time, second was a marked increase in size, and third was a lack of original designs. The absence of impractical and fanciful machines, such a prominent feature of previous shows, was a positive move. Clean cantilever monoplanes, such as the Fokkers, dominated and, although metal construction has been gaining favour, it appeared to have made more headway in fuselages, metal bodies with wooden wings still having been very popular. Of note was a large Blériot cantilever monoplane with twin fuselages. On the engine side, the radial air-cooled type was the most favoured design. Although there were a few exhibitors from Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the UK and the USA, it was still almost entirely a French show.

1932 - The show proved somewhat disappointing, although few lamented the disappearance of freakish aircraft. Of corrugated sheet metal coverings, as exemplified by the Junkers types and previously used extensively, not a single example of this type of skin was to be seen. Out of a total of 46 aircraft, 33 were civil types, among which the biplane had all but disappeared. The UK was strongly represented by the Bristol Bulldog, Hawker Hart, the Fairey Fox II and a Firefly II, together with many engines from Bristol, Armstrong-Siddeley and Rolls-Royce. Morane-Saulnier exhibited its parasol monoplanes with their characteristic swept wings, and the Latécoère Lat.290 twin floatplane also attracted attention.

Second 25 years

1934 - Opened by President Albert Lebrun, the fourteenth show presented a diversity of 70 inventive types, with all-metal cantilever monoplanes favoured for large twin-engined aircraft, while the high-wing strut-braced monoplane was in favour for single- and two-seater classes. Retractable undercarriages were also gaining in popularity. Civil aircraft again out-numbered military types. The most prominent among the civil machines was the Breguet 46T, a large all-metal Mistral Major-powered twin with seating for up to 14 passengers, and worthy of note of the smaller types were the German-built Fieseler and Messerschmitt Me 108 touring aircraft, and the open cockpit Caudron Aiglon two-seater. France's latest and fastest fighter, the Dewoitine D.511 also caught the eye.

1936 - "Never in the history of flying has the technique of aircraft construction stood so high; the days of stick-and-string contraptions are over, and real engineering has taken their place. The art of designing aero engines has also improved very materially, with the result that power has gone up and weight down. Reliability, once a doubtful quantity, is now taken for granted", so wrote the Flight correspondent on the eve of the show. Notable was the absence of Germany and Italy, due no doubt to the political situation. The refusal of the Air Ministry to show the UK's new Hawker Hurricane was also much regretted, but the Bristol Blenheim and Rolls-Royce engines carried the flag. An interesting exhibit was the new Amiot 341 long-range postal aircraft, and several full-size aircraft were backed up by a myriad of scale models of new types. Civil aircraft outnumbered military types.

1938 - The fastest aircraft on display were the Supermarine Spitfire, although performance figures were then still secret, and the 291kt (538km/h) Hawker Hurricane. Both claimed the attention of visitors, few of whom could then have foreseen that these two British types were destined to play such a decisive role in the Battle of Britain two years later. Both were powered by the 1,000hp (745kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin II, but the most powerful engine at the show was the 2,000hp Hispano-Suiza. Germany's only full-size aircraft was the Dornier Do.17.

1946 - The seventeenth edition so soon after the end of the Second World War was chiefly one of technical and scientific value, with manufacturers displaying new products, either in mock-up or model form. The four French nationalised companies - Société Nationale Compagnie Aériennes du Centre, Sud-Est, Sud-Ouest and Nord - represented a renaissance of France's aircraft industry, and the UK was also to the fore. The US contribution was sparse. On the military front, the Gloster Meteor IV stole the limelight, while great enterprise and ingenuity was shown by the French in the light aircraft classes. Interesting displays in model form included the 100-seat Bristol Brabazon I airliner, the SE 1010 four-engined high-altitude photographic reconnaissance machine, the N.C.1070, intended for dive-bombing and anti-submarine attack, and the Fokker F.26 17-passenger transport.

1949 - No fewer than 26 French aircraft from almost every class, the majority entirely new and several too large for exhibiting at the Salon, took part in a most impressive flying display at Paris Orly. Of particular interest, and amply demonstrating the capabilities of the French manufacturers, were the prototype SE.2010 Armagnac 80-seat long-rage airliner, and the Nene turbojet-powered Dassault MD.450 Ouragan interceptor, the country's most promising jet fighter to date. In spite of poor weather conditions, the British Vampire aerobatic team, a Meteor formation and the Hawker P.1052 acquitted themselves well. Also of note was the record-breaking Lockheed P2V The Turtle, which demonstrated its impressive rocket-assisted take-off.

1951 - The exhibits at the Grand Palais represented only a small proportion of the nineteenth show, with a far more impressive showing at the Le Bourget airfield, styled the Grande Fête Aérienne Internationale, a recognition by the organisers that the Grand Palais no longer met the needs of the industry. Notable aircraft in the air included the four-engined French S.E.2010 Armagnac, the UK's biggest, the Bristol Brabazon, the heavyweight Breguet Bretagne freighters, the de Havilland Venom night fighter, and the S.O.6021 Espadon fighter. More secrecy surrounded the swept-wing Dassault's Mystère.

1953 - Having been staged at the Grand Palais by the Seine since 1909, the 20th air show moved into a new and permanent building on the historic airfield of Le Bourget, where it was to remain. The new building accommodated some 150 exhibitors and an open-air park provided ample space for aircraft from France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA. Highlights included the Dassault Mystère IV, which had made its first flight only a few months before, the Boeing B-47B Stratojet, and a spectacular display by 24 B-26 tactical bombers painted in black and yellow. Another star at the show was the little speedy S.O.9000 Trident interceptor/research aircraft, which provided a glimpse into the future.

1955 - Excited experts quickly realised that when test pilot Jean Sarrail was carried aloft in his Leduc aircraft on the back of a Languedoc turboprop aircraft that they were about to witness the first public flight of an aircraft powered by a new type of jet engine referred to in French as a statoréacteur, more widely known today as a ramjet. The prototype Sud S.E.210 Caravelle, the world's first rear twinjet airliner, excited the crowd with its aerial demonstration, but did not land at Le Bourget. Helicopters and missiles also came to the fore.

1957 - For the first time, US representation, claimed as marking the golden jubilee of the US Air Force, was dominant, indoors and out. Heading the American parade were the F-100 Super Sabre, Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber, Martin B-57 Canberra and the C-130 Hercules tactical transport among others, and the fearsome Northrop Snark strategic missile. The experimental SNCASE SE-212 Durandal jet/rocket fighter made its debut, as did the Anglo-French H.D.M. 105 prototype. Two S.O.4050 Vautour attack aircraft with attendant weapons, which had yet to enter service, and the new Dornier Do 27 light utility aircraft also drew large crowds. Helicopters from Italy and the UK were on show, some of which participated in the flying display.

Third 25 years

1959 - First international public appearances were recorded, among others, of the Armstrong Whitworth Argosy freighter, the Vickers Vanguard and Boeing-Vertol 107 turbine helicopter. But no-one could miss the giant Tupolev Tu-114 long-range airliner powered by four Kuznetsov turboprop engines driving massive contra-rotating propellers. A surprise was the first public appearance of the Austrian Simmering-Graz-Pauker M.222 Flamingo, a four/five-seat business aircraft powered by two 150hp Lycoming O-320-A engines, and the eight-seat Agusta A.102 helicopter, which had flown only a few months before the show.

1961 - This has aptly been described as the Salon Extraordinaire, with the Americans vying with the Soviets for international prestige, and the French still strong. The Convair B-58A Hustler, which had flown across the Atlantic in just three-and-a-half hours, stood wing-to-wing with the giant Tupolev Tu-114 long-range airliner. Other supersonic US war machines such as the Phantom, Crusader, Thunderchief, Starfighter and Vigilante were emblazoned with stripes, diamonds, lightning flashes and badges, in contrast to the more restrained paintjobs of the Royal Air Force's Victor and Vulcan bombers. The Dassault Spirale III light transport project and mock-up of the Max Holste 350 Broussard Major were complete surprises, but the eye was drawn first of all to the model of Sud-Aviation's supersonic airliner. The keen edge of the exciting weekend-long flying display was taken off by the unfortunate loss of the Hustler.

1963 - The first member of the Dassault Mystère, later Falcon, business jet dynasty made its appearance. Seen for the first time outside Yugoslavia was the Galeb jet trainer. The UK displayed in model form a TSR.2-type aircraft, promoting the use of variable-sweep, and there were many VTOL studies from both Germany and Italy, including the Fiat G.222 Cervino and the Dornier Do31 military tactical freighter and Hawker test pilot Bill Bedford crashed an experimental prototype of what was to become the Harrier, the world's first successful VTOL aircraft. A model of the North American variable-geometry supersonic transport also caught the attention.

1965 - The Soviets scored a publicity coup with the first appearance of the heavy An-22 heavy turboprop aircraft, which made up for the lack of beauty by its sheer size, although its pre-eminence in that department was not to last too long. Although the An-22 spearheaded the Soviet collection, there were several other types, which made their first appearance in the West, including the Ilyushin Il-62 four-engined airliner, Tupolev Tu-134 short-haul twin-jet, and three giant helicopters from Mil, the Mi-6, Mi-8 and Mi-10.

1967 - The full-scale aluminium-skinned Concorde mock-up, described as a thing of gleaming grace and beauty, deservedly dominated the static park, where it was joined by lath-and-plaster X-15, and Russia's Vostok space vehicle. These were the only noteworthy exhibits of an otherwise intensely nationalistic air show, dominated by the Americans, who mounted an integrated national display for the first time, and the Soviets, with very little entirely new to excite the visitor.

1969 - The diamond jubilee show could not have occurred at a better time for the French, British and the Americans. One aircraft stole the show and justified the organiser's claim that it was the best-ever. The sleek Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliner had taken to the air earlier that year with effortless ease to usher in a new era in air transport, with the prospect of carrying 100 passengers across the Atlantic in just over 3h. Both French and UK prototypes flew to the show, where they attracted the largest crowds. Boeing brought its new 747, which exchanged speed for sheer size, but the USA's focus on the space programme following the success of Apollo 11 had the public enthralled. A month later, Apollo 11 carried the first men to touch down on the Moon. The Soviets displayed the Proton 4, the largest unmanned spacecraft to have flown. Also on show for the first time in the West was the Tupolev Tu-154 trijet.

1971 - Opened by President Pompidou, the show was considerably enlarged, both in size and number of aircraft and missiles. The participation of some 20 nations also added a greater international flavour, with Israel and Japan participating for the first time. Three aircraft drew large crowds, two real machines, the other a mock-up. The Tupolev Tu-144 supersonic airliner made two impressive and quiet passes before it landed, while the Americans flew in the McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 trijet, which entered airline service soon after the show. The Airbus A300 twin had yet to fly and was displayed in mock-up form, as was the General Electric CF-6 engine. Few would have predicted when examining the A300 that the European consortium would become the world's leading aircraft manufacturers by the turn of the century.

1973 - That show is largely remembered for the spectacular crash of the first production Tupolev Tu-144 supersonic transport. After a violent downward manoeuvre the aircraft broke up and dived into the ground, destroyed 15 houses and killed all six persons on board, as well as eight on the ground. Not unnoticed, however, were the first appearance and demonstration of the new Lockheed L-1011 TriStar widebody airliner. A focal point was a full-scale representation of the Apollo command and service module and docking module joined with a Soyuz spacecraft.

1975 - A few months after the US Air Force selected the F-16, later given the name Fighting Falcon, as its air combat fighter, the second prototype YF-16 made its first transatlantic flight to attend the air show. For once, the visitors's attention was drawn away from the technology on view to the USA's famous artists, Alexander Calder, who painted a fish onto a Braniff Airways McDonnell Douglas DC-8 as part of his Flying Colours series. Calder died the following year.

1977 - Czechoslovakia chose Paris for the first glimpse in the West of its L-39 advanced jet trainer, and Canadair showed up with a mock-up of its Challenger business jet, which was to become a highly successful line. Much excitement was generated by a full-size plexiglass model of the Mirage F 1.

1979 - Dassault Mirages 2000 and 4000 made their debuts, as did the Ariane rocket, although only in replica form. Antonov introduced the An-72 STOL with overwing-mounted engines using the Coandă effect for increased lift. General Electric and Snecma launched the CFM56 turbofan engine, which was destined to become one of the biggest-selling engines of all time. Very much in evidence was Airbus, with two A300s participating in the flying display.

1981 - The 34th show was opened by President François Mitterand. The McDonnell Douglas KC-10 aerial tanker and the giant Mil Mi-26 helicopter overshadowed the static park, which was also graced by Bell Helicopter's XV-15 tiltrotor technology demonstrator, and the new Siai-Marchetti S.211 lightweight turbofan trainer and SF.260 turboprop. McDonnell Douglas/Fokker presented a model of their MDF 100 150-seater twinjet, while Boeing showed a model of its 7-7 project. More than 20 general aviation types made their debut.

Final 25 years

1983 - The physical bulk of the space shuttle Enterprise atop a Boeing 747 dominated the show, but the public's imagination and professional interest was excited by Europe's new fighter technology demonstrators - the almost identical high-agility British Aerospace ACA (Agile Combat Aircraft) and Dassault ACX (Avion de Combat Experimental) mock-ups. Cessna was prominent with the twin-engined Caravan II prototype and a new speed record for the Citation III, set on the flight to Le Bourget. Demonstrated were a number of new jet trainers.

1985 - Undoubtedly the main attraction for the professional and public alike was the four-engined Antonov An-124 freighter, named Ruslan, a character from Pushkin, meaning "a very big man". Also causing excitement was China's participation for the very first time, and the progress on the propfan engine. The Kamov Ka-32 made its first appearance in the West, and Argentina introduced for the first time its Condor C1-AIII single-stage rocket.

1987 - Among the main attractions were the new Airbus A320 single-aisle commercial airliner and the Dassault Rafale fighter. McDonnell Douglas revealed its work on the twin-engined MD-11 airliner, and British Aerospace, McDonnell Douglas and Rolls-Royce announced a new and advanced, multi-mission Harrier II. The composites Beech Starship I prototype, which participated daily in the flight display, captured the public's attention. Israeli company Rafael displayed its new Pyramid low-cost TV-guided bomb.

1989 - The 38th air show could be described, with some justification, as the year of the Soviets, with agile types and aircraft of leviathan proportions vying for the visitors's attention in equal measure. While the first public display outside Russia of the giant Antonov An-225 Mriya (Inspiration) and the piggy-backing space shuttle Buran caused a great deal of excitement, the crowd was reduced to stunned silence when the Sukhoi Su-27 performed its now famous Cobra manoeuvre, which allows the aircraft to transfer from level flight to a vertical attitude and back with negligible changes in altitude. Another Soviet type, however, had come to grief on the opening day, when the MiG-29 crashed near the end of its display. Its pilot Anatoly Kvotchur escaped with minor injuries.

1991 - Several new aircraft made their public debuts or first international appearance, including the Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter, the Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound with its formidable armament of missiles and guns, the Franco-German Tiger attack helicopter, and the newest aircraft on show, the Yak-112 light utility machine, which had been rolled out in Moscow earlier that month. The Soviets also brought the Ilyushin Il-114 regional turboprop and its widebody stablemate, the Il-96. Embraer brought its two CBA 123 Vector prototypes, while the US Army's advanced AH-66 Comanche helicopter was displayed in mock-up form. The spotlight was also on the aircraft that had been involved in the recently ended Gulf War.

1993 - The world recession had a marked effect on the show, which turned out to be a rather muted affair, lacking the presentation of new aircraft. Of note, however, was the emergence on the world market of Russian- and eastern European-built airframes sporting Western avionics and engines, in particular the Il-96M with Pratt & Whitney engines and Rockwell Collins avionics, and the Tupolev Tu-204 with Rolls-Royce powerplants. European manufacturers were promoting the Euroflag tactical transport aircraft, much later to emerge as the Airbus A400M, and Mil unveiled plans to develop five new helicopters. The Airbus A340 took off from the show and set a new world distance record for flying from Paris to Auckland in New Zealand.

1995 - A returning confidence of the industry was noted, with a resurgence of the airliner market and new projects revealed. Boeing brought its Model 777 twin for the first time, cheekily displayed alongside the rival Airbus A330. Other show debutantes were the Northrop Grumman B-2 and the Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack bombers, and the Sukhoi Su-32 two-seat fighter-bomber. Bombardier announced a stretch of the Dash 8-400 regional turboprop for 70 passengers and Pratt & Whitney demonstrated a working thrust-vectoring pitch yaw balanced beam nozzle, which was due to make its first flight the following September. Israeli company Silver Arrow unveiled the Darter and Colibri unmanned air vehicle systems, while McDonnell Douglas announced a combat version of its Explorer commercial helicopter. Flown for the first time at an international aerospace show was the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey military tiltrotor, one of two full-scale development aircraft.

1997 - A record number of exhibitors from 46 countries displayed their wares including, for the first time, South Korea, Georgia, Lebanon, Lithuania, New Zealand, Moldova and Thailand. The Bell/Agusta BA-609 civil tiltrotor impressed the crowds during its flying display.

1999 - The impressive display of the Eurofighter Typhoon had the crowd enthralled, but the fiery crash of Sukhoi's Su-30MKI rather marred that show. At least the pilot ejected safely and no-one on the ground was hurt. Boeing introduced the 717-200 to Europe.

2001 - The winglet-equipped Boeing Business jet was open to customers for the first time at the show. Grob surprised with its G140TP single-turboprop four-seater.

2003 - The Bush administration's displeasure with the French opposition to the war in Iraq was evident by the scaled-back US presence and the absence of flight demonstrations of US military aircraft. India's HAL brought its Dhruv helicopter.

2005 - The first public flight display in the presence of President Jacques Chirac of the huge, double-deck Airbus A380, impressed with its quietness and agility. Dassault's Rafale combat jet also provided an exciting exhibition in the air, while the company showed off its newest corporate jet, the Falcon 7X, in its first public flight. Among a total of 19 aircraft making their first public appearance were also the Aermacchi M-346, Gulfstream's G550, Boeing 777-200LR and the Embraer 195. Grob launched the G180 SPn business jet. Also making its debut was the Dassault-led Neuron UCAV, albeit only in full-scale mock-up form. Supersonic business jet proposals were revealed. US companies returned in large numbers.

2007 - Aircraft presented for the first time included the Airbus A330 MRTT tanker transport, Antonov An-148 regional jet, and the Socata TBM 850 light single turboprop aircraft. Apart from the stunning aerial demonstration of the MiG-29OVT, Russian military hardware was limited to a number of models. The long-awaited Sukhoi Su-35 was left at home. Italy's Alenia took the wraps off its Sky-Y and Israel's Elbit Systems unveiled its Hermes 900, both medium-altitude long-endurance UAVs, confirming that the show was no longer exclusively for manned flight.