Eighteen months ago, an Airbus A380 swooping low over "home turf" at Le Bourget was the highlight of a Paris show that marked a return to the good times for the civil aerospace industry. Orderbooks are still healthy, but last year's derailing of the A380 schedule after the discovery of serious wiring problems will mean a lot less self-satisfaction from Toulouse when the ultra-large airliner appears this June, even though first delivery to Singapore Airlines should be just months away.

Airbus will be keeping its fingers crossed that its other major new programme in build, the Airbus Military A400M, can stay on track for planned first flight early in 2008, and that Paris will provide a kick-start to the airlifter's export prospects.

The heavyweight bout between the industry's giants is likely to remain the main attraction of Le Bourget, with Boeing set to roll out its fast-selling 787 around the time of the show. With first flight slated for August, it will be too early for the Dreamliner to make its debut. However, Seattle will be counting on increasing stir around its stretch 747-8I to spoil Airbus's party even more.

Paris, of course, remains the industry gathering - a shop window for France's aerospace sector, but seen by the USA and the rest of the world as the big marketing opportunity in the two-year cycle. Any suggestion a few years back that American anti-French feeling over Iraq and the proliferation of smaller, specialist air shows would eat into Paris's hegemony has been quashed and Le Bourget remains as strong as ever.

This year's air show calendar will see the arrival of an old name in a new guise. Asian Aerospace - organised by Flight International's sister company Reed Exhibitions - has switched cities, from Singapore to Hong Kong, and dates, from February in even years to October every odd year. Its Chinese location prevents it from having a defence element, but the organisers are confident the booming Asian airline and business aviation markets, as well as an emerging manufacturing sector, will ensure a strong showing from the world's big players. The event will be an all-indoor expo and congress, rather than traditional airshow with static and flying display.

Also in Asia, Aero India in Bangalore has traditionally been a mainly defence show - and opportunity for Western manufacturers targeting New Delhi's defence ministry and a platform for the domestic industry. But the rapid growth of India's airline and business aviation sectors means that this year's show, in February, is likely to have a much stronger civil presence.

The other big show in the wider region is Dubai in November. Although its roots are also in the military market, the emergence of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways among the world's biggest buyers of airliners has switched the show's emphasis towards the commercial market. Although the United Arab Emirates and its neighbours remain strategically important defence partners for the USA and Europe, Dubai has been a must-attend show for the West's civil manufacturers who want to win friends in the region. It will also, as ever, be a podium for "Dubai plc".

This year, as well as the world's fastest-growing airline and what will become one of the world's biggest airports at Jebel Ali, the emirate will be waving the flag for Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, the new holding company for a series of aviation and aerospace businesses headquartered in Dubai. DAE has already launched an "aviation university" and has a large stake in Swiss maintenance, repair and overhaul specialist SR Technics. More multi-million-dollar acquisitions or start-ups are on the cards.

Elsewhere in Asia, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan hold their regional shows in, respectively, Langkawi, Seoul and Taipei.

In the business aviation sector, the annual National Business Aviation Association convention returns to Atlanta, while its European sibling, EBACE, continues to grow on the back of the region's flourishing corporate aviation market.


Other big regional shows include Brazil's LAAD in Rio de Janeiro in April and Australia's Avalon air show near Melbourne in March, where as ever the main drivers of attendance by global heavyweights will be local procurement contests. A number of acquisition and modernisation requirements in both these countries are likely to ensure lively events.

Despite it being in the hottest and most popular holiday month in Europe, Western manufacturers keen to tap into the opportunities of Russia's slowly restructuring aviation and aerospace sectors will make a beeline for Moscow's MAKS air show in August, where the Russian government is likely to put some flesh on its plans to consolidate the country's Soviet-era commercial aeropace industry under a new holding company, OAK, and attract more European and North American investment.

Russia's first home-grown airliner with serious export potential - the Sukhoi Superjet 100 - will be among the main talking points of the show, although, with its first flight set to be still some months off, an appearance by the regional jet is unlikely.

Source: Flight International