Paris is the undisputed queen of the air shows. The most venerable – the first was staged in 1909 – it is also by far the largest, with over 2,200 exhibitors and almost 140,000 professional visitors turning up to the 2013 event. The week-long bonanza – with four trade days – is not to everyone’s taste. Its sheer scale and location – on a business airfield in a down-at-heel suburb north of the city, often gridlocked during the week – mean getting into and around the show can be difficult. Humidity and frequent downpours can add to the discomfort. However, there is no doubt that the biennial event remains the place to meet and be seen for anyone in the aerospace industry.
Any air show will have several success criteria. First is the number of high profile aircraft, both flying and on the ground. On this count, visitors this year will have plenty to write home about, on the civil side at least, with debuts from the two variants of Bombardier’s CSeries, a first Paris flying display from the Airbus A350 and a probable maiden appearance in the skies from Dassault’s new flagship business jet, the Falcon 8X. While US military aircraft programmes – including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II – will be absent from the flying display, this year’s show will mark a return, to the static exhibition area at least, by the US Air Force, with a contingent of up to a dozen types.
A second factor – not so high profile – is the number of exhibitors. The extensive halls of the Paris air show are where the world’s suppliers – from technology giants such as the engine makers and aircraft systems integrators to third- and fourth-tier small and medium-sized enterprises – come to show their wares and establish contacts. The increasing globalisation of the industry, where an aircraft such as the Boeing 787 will have a supply chain extending into dozens of countries, means these covered bazaars of component manufacturers and equipment vendors are arguably a more important aspect of the show than the gleaming metal on display outside.
Thirdly, there are the deals. Most business transacted at Paris is, of course, out of sight – over coffee or fine wine in the hospitality suites of the chalets, or round the desk in the more modest environs of the hall stands. However, big orders of airliners are what make the headlines. It is difficult to call what might happen this year. One possible big show story – a launch customer for the CSeries – was confirmed (as Swiss International Air Lines) earlier this month. The big Gulf carriers have used Paris for major announcements in the past, but Emirates, at least, often opts for its home show, later this year in Dubai, as its big publicity platform.
There is always an element of artifice to the so-called orders battle. Airbus, which also will have its A380 on display again, works with its customers to time announcements during both Paris and Farnborough in particular. Boeing insists it refuses to play the count-the-tally game, opting only to participate in announcements if its airline clients specifically wish. While there will doutless be confirmed orders for both of the big two during the week, Paris could also present an opportunity for some of the other airframers to help drive the news agenda. Aside from Bombardier, ATR, Embraer and Sukhoi Civil Aircraft will be present. The show also gives the manufacturers an opportunity to provide programme updates.
Bombardier will be very much in the spotlight – and not only for the reason it might have hoped. The Canadian manufacturer – which will debut the CS100 and CS300 at Paris ahead of the CS100’s planned year-end certification – will be able to thrust its troubled narrowbody programme centre stage. However, unless the airframer – which is also showing its CRJ1000 regional jet and Q400 turboprop – has a major order up its sleeve, executives will be bombarded with two questions: where the next customers for the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G-powered CSeries are going to come from, and the future of the entire Bombardier business, hit financially by the cost of the programme.
Embraer – which chose Paris 2013 to launch its re-engined and re-winged E2 E-Jet family – will have only an ERJ-135 on show. However, after a flurry of commitments two years ago, it could announce further E2 orders. The only other new regional jet contender to have an aircraft in service, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, will again display its Superjet 100 with partner Alenia Aermacchi. The Italian company’s other co-venture, ATR – which it owns with Airbus – will have an ATR 72-600 at Paris. However, any hoped-for announcement about a stretch version of the turboprop is highly unlikely. Japan’s Mitsubishi has a chalet presence, but its Mitsubish Regional Jet is not due to fly until later this year.
On the military side, air show chief executive Emeric d’Arcimoles is claiming some credit for the return of the US military, stopped by the sequestration crisis from attending last time. He says he “lobbied heavily” in Washington DC to bring the Americans back. However, while the world’s biggest military customer will be at Paris, many contractors, including Northrop Grumman, will not – or will have a diminished presence. Paris has been out of favour with US defence firms for years, partly as a result of France’s policy to the Iraq war over a decade ago. An exception is Textron AirLand, which will be exhibiting its Scorpion low-cost close air support aircraft that has still to find a buyer.
Not that US industry will be un-represented. Kallman Worldwide is again organising the US pavillion, which will feature 220 exhibitors, the largest representation after France. The fact that seven state governors will attend the pavillion during the week is evidence that, while many of the major US contractors may be lukewarm towards the show, Paris is still seen as a major opportunity for smaller suppliers to attract the attention of buyers in Europe and beyond. The USA will be one of 26 national pavillions at this year’s event, with others ranging from Brazil and Belgium to Taiwan and Ukraine. Israel, traditionally one of the biggest supporters of Paris, will again have its dedicated outdoor hub.
Back on the military front, France’s flagship fighter naturally will play a prominent role. Fresh from its latest export success in Qatar, Dassault will display the Rafale in both its C and M variants. The French military will show two of its Rafales, as well as a Dassault Mirage 2000. After a fatal crash on 9 May in Seville, there are question marks over the Airbus A400M, also scheduled to be there. Other military aircraft are few and far between, with the Pilatus PC-21 single-engined turboprop trainer an exception. A rare highlight could be the JF-17 fighter, developed jointly between China’s Chengdu and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, making its first appearance at Paris.
Although the organisers say “all the Russian companies” have booked chalets or exhibition stands, this year’s show is unlikely to see a repeat of 2013, which featured the first Western appearance of the thrust-vectoring Sukhoi Su-35. Political tensions over the Ukraine situation could also play a part. Many Russian aerospace executives stayed away from last year’s Farnborough air show, either through choice or because their UK visas were denied or delayed, leaving chalets oddly half-full. Ironically, other than the Sukhoi Superjet, the type from the former Soviet Union likely to get most attention could be the newly-flown Antonov An-178 military and civil transporter from Ukraine.
Although the main forum for the sector happens a month earlier, at EBACE in Geneva, business aviation has a presence at Paris, mainly courtesy of national champion Dassault. As well as the probable debut of its Falcon 8X, the St Cloud-based firm will show its other three in-service jets, the 900LX, 2000S, and the 7X. General aviation, multimission and utility aircraft also make a strong showing, with three aircraft from Austrian airframer Diamond, including its new DA62, as well as the Pilatus PC-12 and RUAG Aviation’s Dornier 228. France’s Daher will be displaying its TBM 900 single turboprop for the first time at Paris.
As at every Paris air show, the organisers are promising innovations to enhance visitors’ experience. This year’s include a mobile app with the schedule of flying displays and exhibitor list. It also includes the ability for up to 25 people to create a private group that can message and find each other during the event. A “speed dating” service, introduced in 2007, will again be available. Last show, 610 participants held over 7,000 business-to-business meetings in the Concorde hall. The show infrastructure has also been updated, say the organisers, with better access for the disabled, a new taxi station at gate L3 and air conditioning in hall 3.
Flightglobal, as ever, will have a weighty presence at the show. Here are the highlights:
FLIGHT INTERNATIONAL: Following our bumper Paris air show scene-setter issue on 9 June, the Flight International 23 June issue, available digitally on 20 June, will contain a full show report.
FLIGHT DAILY NEWS: The liveliest, most colourful and most informative show daily at Paris will be distributed by our red-flight-suited distributors as visitors arrive at the show from Monday to Thursday.
INTERACTIVE: Not a Flight International subscriber? We will be previewing the show with a special free interactive magazine available on the Flight International app and flightglobal.com. Our review issue will be out on the last day of the show.
PREMIUM SERVICES: Flightglobal’s marketing message around the show will highlight our range of high-value information and analysis services around the line: “Your global partner for expert aviation data, news and insight.”