Mike Martin

Readers of the runes might have read much into the weather at this year's show. A colossal electric storm lashed Le Bourget for hours, only to give way to gorgeous sunshine for the rest of the week.

Would that the industry had seen a similar shifting of the celestial furniture in which the great restructuring saga had been resolved, leaving the industry to bask in the glow of a more settled future.

Not this air show.

Yet there is progress and a mood that the issues are coming to a head in Europe. The continent is now left with three aerospace centres of gravity, in France, Germany and the UK, each apparently drawing the smaller players into its orbit.

British Aerospace taking over Marconi seems to have galvanised the Germans, particularly. DaimlerChrysler Aerospace has taken over Casa of Spain and is showing interest in taking a stake in Romanian aircraft maker Aerostar. In France, Aerospatiale and Matra are under the same roof.

The process of transforming Airbus Industrie into a single corporate entity is stalled, but the German government warned at the show that it won't help finance the A3XX megajumbo programme until it is.


The speed with which the German industry and government is driving things - since it was left in the lurch by BAe over the Marconi takeover - is leaving some a little nervous.

Away from the endless debate there was much to delight the eye.

If there was less military hardware than usual, no matter. There was the Boeing 717, the bizarre and beautiful Scaled Composites Proteus and the mighty Antonov An-124.

But the star turn was undoubtedly the fly-past by eight Airbus Industrie aircraft, a one-off which became a "two-off" due to public demand.

Another talking point was the crash on day one of the Sukhoi Su-30 during the flying display. The pilots banged out and walked away from the blazing wreckage.

And sales like no other show has ever had. The clock was still ticking as the figure moved past $20 billion. Between them Airbus, Boeing and Rolls-Royce chalked up billion dollar deals daily.

The Raytheon team walked off with the UK's $1.3 billion airborne stand-off radar (ASTOR) deal.

But the company that walked away with the biggest tally of orders - $7 billion worth - was regional aircraft maker Embraer. Such was the intense interest in the Brazilian manufacturer's announcements that they could not fit all the journalists into the press conference room.

Looks like Embraer will have to book the much larger auditorium, a place only ever used for the big Airbus and Boeing events.


At the end of last Farnborough - itself the venue of record orders - there was a view that the industry could be heading for a downturn. Similar views were expressed at Paris, but the orders poured in.

So, is the industry defying gravity or is it just a case of the prediction business being notoriously difficult?

Who can be sure, but no doubt we will be talking about it, when we all meet again.

Source: Flight Daily News