Paris Show Promises to Show Industry in Recovery

 - June 1, 2011, 4:00 AM

The aerospace industry is in recovery, and if you don’t believe that come to this year’s Paris Air Show and see for yourself. That is the optimistic message from the organizers of the biennial event, which will be staged for the 49th time at Paris Le Bourget Airport from June 20 to 26.

SIAE, a subsidiary of French aerospace industry group Gifas, is expecting close to 2,000 exhibitors for the show.  Since the last show two years ago, the organizers have expanded exhibit space and invested almost $17 million in modernizing both the exhibition areas and chalets, including complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the site and key show information available via smartphones.

The trade-only days for Paris 2011–June 20-23–are expected to draw around 140,000 professionals. A further 340,000 will attend on the public days, and June 24 will be dedicated to highlighting career opportunities in aerospace for young people.

Among an anticipated 140 or so aircraft, foremost among the anticipated stars of the show is Boeing’s new 747-8 widebody airliner, which is set to make its international debut in Paris, alongside an example of its 787 stablemate, which itself debuted at last year’s Farnborough show. However, the appearance of both aircraft is strictly predicated on how well these delayed development programs are doing as the show approaches, with Boeing declining to guarantee that either aircraft will cross the Atlantic.

Airbus will once again display the now-operational A380 and will doubtless seek to counter the impact of the dual appearance by the 787 and 747-8 with more news from its next addition, the A350-XWB widebody. But the real battleground between Airbus and Boeing at the Paris show this year will be in the narrowbody arena, where airlines wait to learn how the U.S. airframer will respond to Airbus’s preemptive strike in launching the A320 Neo program earlier this year. The Neo is a plan to re-engine and breathe new life into the existing A320 dynasty, in anticipation of a subsequent launch for an all-new narrowbody.

Another long-awaited new aircraft is fully committed to making what will be its highest-profile appearance to date. The Airbus A400M military transport is due to fly for the Le Bourget crowds each day.

Sukhoi’s new Superjet SSJ100 narrowbody will raise its profile outside its native Russia as one of the highlights of the flying display. Also on show will be Antonov’s new An-158 regional airliner–a development that is benefitting from the recent resumption of harmonious cooperation between the aerospace industries of the Ukraine and Russia.

However, as of press time, Sukhoi seemed certain to disappoint fans of Russian air power by withdrawing the planned appearance of the latest version of its Su-30 fighter from the Le Bourget line-up. In the past, disputes over insurance costs and legal issues have prevented some Russian warplanes from participating in the international show circuit, but the reason for the Su-30’s no-show is unclear.

Eurocopter will display its new X3 rotorcraft, which is expected to be the foundation for an important part of its future offerings. Schiebel’s unmanned Camcopter surveillance helicopter will return to Paris, having made a big impression at the 2009 event.

But arguably the most eye-catching, and certainly the greenest, aircraft of this year’s Paris show week will be the Solar Impulse. Following many months of pain-staking negotiations with France’s conservative aviation authorities, the solar-powered aircraft is set to fly in from its home in Switzerland to appear in the flying display–as long as wind conditions do not exceed 10 knots.

The appearance in Paris of what is planned to be the first of a series of Superjet airliner variants shows Russia’s serious intent to break into the air transport market outside the confines of the former Soviet Union. With the SSJ100 at last entering service, Sukhoi and its partners can demonstrate that it is a viable alternative to Western airframers, but also that it is well ahead of its Chinese rivals, the Comac C-919 and ARJ-21, which will appear at Le Bourget only as scale models. Another challenger from the East will be Japan’s Mitsubishi with its own entrant into the somewhat crowded regional twinjet sector.

The leading players of the regional airliner sector–Embraer, Bombardier and ATR­–will all have a high profile in Paris. Bombardier will be eager to announce program-sustaining orders for its C-Series program and Embraer could have news of its plans to encroach still closer on the world of Airbus and Boeing, with plans for an A320/737 challenger.

For at least a decade, business aviation has not been a big feature of the Paris Air Show because it usually follows the annual European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition held in Geneva barely a month before the Le Bourget fair opens.

Embraer and Bombardier may or may not seek to promote their executive jet offerings alongside their airliners this year. So too might Airbus, Boeing and France’s Dassault, with the latter normally exploiting its home-field advantage by showcasing its military jets and planned array of unmanned air vehicles.

Cessna will be represented via its Textron group parent, as will sibling Bell Helicopter. Hawker Beechcraft is booked to exhibit, but may focus on its T-6B military trainer and special-mission versions of its venerable King Air line instead of members of its Hawker bizjet clan. In any case, Gulfstream will not be present, but business turboprop makers Piaggio Aero and Pilatus Aircraft both will be.

Among the innovations that could appeal to the bizav crowd this year at the Paris show is the event’s new Elite program. For a premium rate, exhibitors can pay to have their most-favored clients, and prospective customers, fast-tracked through the crowds, and given the use of special lounges, a business center, preferential parking, concierge services, extended opening hours and a free shuttle from the center of the French capital.

SIAE has expanded and refined its B2B meeting service, through which small- and medium-sized enterprises, in particular, can be sure of getting pre-arranged meetings with prospective buyers and suppliers. These will be available from June 21 to 23, and, working through coordinator BCI, the Paris show organizers have reduced the fee for this service by almost two-thirds to €350 ($497). For the 2009 show, 400 companies registered for this service and 5,000 meetings were arranged.

Paris Air Show managing director Gilles Fournier acknowledges that exhibitors’ marketing budgets have been cut by anything between 10 and 30 percent since the impact of the global financial crisis started to be felt, ahead of the 2009 show. However, while this has seen major players reduce their exhibit and chalet footprint at Le Bourget, it has also made more prominent space available to smaller firms.

The 2011 Le Bourget show is preparing to receive about 200 official national delegations. The show site will include national pavilions from almost 30 countries, coming from as close as France and as far afield as Korea. More information can be found at