Paris Air Show

Le Bourget ushers in latest recovery

 - December 12, 2006, 8:47 AM

An optimistic Louis Le Portz flashed a broad smile as he contemplated the opening of this week’s Le Bourget salon just a few weeks prior to the event. He knows that his first stab as commissaire général, or commissioner, of the biennial Paris Air Show marks a recovery from four gloomy years of aerospace industry decline and a return to something resembling the conditions exhibitors enjoyed prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“Despite the weakness of the dollar, the Americans are back. We have more exhibitors and better facilities than in 2003 and the world’s newest and most prestigious aircraft are on display here, including the Airbus A380,” he said.

In reply to the challenge to keep exhibitors’ costs down, the Le Bourget event has been reduced from nine to seven days. The traditional opening weekend has been scrapped and the show begins officially with its inauguration today  by French President Jacques Chirac. The first four days are dedicated to the professionals and the public days run from Friday to Sunday.

Le Portz has been head of Paris show organizer SIAE since July 2003. Until Dec. 31, 2004, he was also president and CEO of landing gear specialist Messier-Dowty. He told Aviation International News that SIAE, a 100 percent subsidiary of French aerospace industries association GIFAS, has adopted a “new strategy to work more closely with its customers to alleviate the difference in value between the U.S. dollar and the euro.” SIAE carried out a survey among the industry players and spoke with similar organizations in Europe and North America to examine complaints regarding Le Bourget 2003 and consider suggested improvements.

Le Portz’s wants to give international trade visitors more comprehensive information and a better welcome. “We have stepped up our marketing efforts and are keeping down fixed costs, such as stand and chalet rental and static display areas, by limiting increases to three percent in line with France’s inflation rate since 2003,” he said. “We have simplified procedures, including in billing, providing exhibitors with a single point of contact in their administrative dealings. And we have reduced the show’s length from its traditional nine days to seven.”

SIAE has secured arrangements with several Paris hotels for 20- to 30-percent reductions and an exclusive deal with Air France for air fare discounts of up to 45 percent for Paris Air Show attendees. New business methods include setting up customer care and technical issues divisions and the appointment of four sales directors with geographical responsibility to assist customers.

The police are cooperating with SIAE on security within the show site, including providing uniformed police officers.

The organizers also have made efforts to improve transportation access to Le Bourget, something that has always been a problem. In addition dedicated shuttles from several Paris hotels, a shuttle and bus route (No. 152) link the show to the Le Bourget RER suburban rail station, which has direct lines to both central Paris and Charles de Gaulle Airport. The No. 350 bus from Paris stops at the exhibition entrance. And Helifrance is offering a VIP rotorcraft service that takes 15 minutes from Paris’ downtown heliport to the show site and includes chauffeured transfer to the chalet areas.

While the 2003 show suffered from the effects of the downturn in the aerospace sector, the absence of U.S. and Russian military aircraft and the consequences of the SARS epidemic on Asian visitors, Le Portz exuded optimism about for this year’s show. “Like a vintage year for French wine, everything points to an exceptional Paris Air Show in 2005,” Le Portz said.

The U.S. aerospace industry is back in force at the U.S. pavilion in Hall 3, including Bell Helicopter, Gulfstream Aerospace, the Department of Defense, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. More than 1,860 exhibitors have registered, compared to 1,733 in 2003. A new 32,000-sq-ft Hall 6 has been built to help accommodate them. In addition to a larger number of U.S. companies attending, China, Turkey and the Ukraine have increased their industry presence. The number of countries represented here is 42–one more than in 2003, with Qatar, Morocco, Slovakia and Pakistan attending for the first time.

Hall 1/2, as usual, accommodates the national stands of Western European countries. An old temporary building has been replaced by a new, bigger and better lit Hall 4/5, which for the first time is housing major international groups such as Rolls-Royce, UTC and Goodrich. It also features a dedicated area for UAV-drones and small and medium-sized European companies arranged by region.