The first dedicated Paris air show took place soon after Bleriot flew across the Channel and interest in this new mode of transport was at fever pitch. As this year again promises to be one of the most exciting ever, we look back at some of the event's memorable moments
History has often been made at the Paris air show. And with the world's biggest airliner – the Airbus A380 – and the first fly-by-wire business jet – the Dassault Falcon 7X – due to make their air-show debuts, this year ranks among the best.
Looking back, the show has regularly hosted major aviation events. Who could forget the appearance in 1989 of the extraordinary, six-engined Russian heavylift Antonov An-225 Mirya carrying the Buran shuttle? The combination had flown from Kiev after taking off at the heaviest weight ever recorded, 561,181kg (1,234,600lb). Visitors were also impressed by the Sukhoi Su-27 multirole fighter – Russia's answer to the US McDonnell Douglas F-15 – which astonished onlookers with the "Cobra" manoeuvre, briefly exceeding a 90° angle of attack – something no Western fighter had achieved.
Two decades earlier, a vintage Le Bourget hosted the first two prototype Concordes, along with the inaugural Airbus A300B and Boeing 747. Although Concorde is no more, the 2005 show continues the tradition of being a battleground for the European and US giants.
The Paris air show was launched in September 1908 as an annexe to the annual Paris motor show at the Grand Palais in the city. In 1909, the first show dedicated to aviation followed the first crossing of the English Channel by Louis Bleriot and hosted 380 exhibitors displaying the latest innovations in aviation. The event did not take place at Le Bourget until 1953, by which time it had been through two world wars and a spell at Paris Orly airport to cater for the growing popularity of aerial demonstrations.
Once established at Le Bourget, the show took on its present-day feel as a major international event. The Soviet Union first exhibited in 1957, the year Boeing unveiled its B-47 swept-wing bomber. Ten years later, a pair of Sikorsky HH-3E "Jolly Green Giants" completed the first transatlantic non-stop helicopter flight, refuelling nine times by tanker aircraft during the journey from New York.
Stealth technology, now common in military aircraft, was seen in public for the first time in 1991 when the F-117 stealth fighter, fresh from the first Gulf War, was presented. The emphasis returned to civil aircraft in 1993, the year in which an Airbus A340 took off from Le Bourget on a record non-stop flight to Auckland, New Zealand. Then, in 1995, visitors were treated to the first international displays of the Northrop Grumman B-2 stealth bomber, Boeing 777 and Rockwell/MBB X-31 high-angle-of-attack demonstrator. Today the show continues with its unrelenting emphasis on man's continuing conquest of the air. There are fewer new aircraft, but the technology bandwagon rolls on.
Source: Flight International