Paris Air Show 2013 Preview: Improved Show Boasts More Diverse Exhibitors

 - June 2, 2013, 1:10 AM

Paris Air Show organizers have introduced a range of improvements aimed at making the huge biennial trade fair a more user-friendly proposition when it is staged at Le Bourget Airport from June 17 to 23. At an April 30 press conference in London, Emeric d’Arcimoles, chairman and CEO of show organizer SIAE, said that the show has been sold out for several months and that organizer SIAE has two main aims this year: providing more services for exhibitors and an improved experience for visitors.

Some 581,000 sq ft of exhibit stand space will be occupied for this year’s show. The structures will include a new temporary hall and 27 national pavilions (up 10 percent from 2011)–one of them a French enclave housing approximately 400 companies. The U.S. pavilion will be 10 percent larger than in 2011. Overall there will be some 2,200 companies from 144 countries exhibiting. “We’ve seen a 30-percent increase [in exhibitor numbers] over the past 10 years,” said d’Arcimoles. More than 350,000 visitors are expected over the course of the trade and public days.

The trend behind the figures is that, like its friendly rival Farnborough International, the Paris Air Show has done a good job of increasing the diversity of exhibiting companies–drawing them from new parts of the aerospace world and attracting different industry sectors. This has compensated for the reduced presence that some Western companies have settled for over the past decade. U.S. defense group Northrop Grumman will once again be absent from Le Bourget, having convinced itself that its industry profile is undiminished by leaving the stage to its rivals.

Business aircraft manufacturers have also had a reduced presence in Paris, at least since the advent of the successful EBACE show, held in Geneva barely one month earlier. However, SIAE pointed out that Dassault, Gulfstream, Bombardier and Embraer will all occupy chalets at this year’s show. It remains to be seen whether they will focus on their bizav portfolio as much as their various regional airline and special-missions products. In total, seven regional airliner manufacturers will be at the show, including newcomers such as China’s Comac (with its delayed ARJ21 development), Russia’s Irkut (MS-21) and Mitsubishi (MRJ).

The vast static display at Le Bourget is due to be occupied by no fewer than 130 different aircraft. SIAE has played down expectations that the Airbus A350XWB could make its world debut at this year’s show. The latest intelligence from Airbus is that the aircraft could make its maiden flight from the consortium’s headquarters in Toulouse, France before the show. However, it appears highly unlikely that Airbus will risk compromising an already delayed certification program with the inevitable complications associated with the airshow circuit. Even a fly-by over Paris now seems a long shot.

Crowds will have to make do with a pair of Boeing 787s–one being provided by Qatar Airways and the other expected to be the first for British Airways. The duo should give Boeing a boost as it continues to get the 787 fleet back in commercial service after a prolonged grounding while serious problems with the aircraft’s lithium-ion batteries are sleuthed and fixed.

Another debutante that SIAE had hoped to lure to Le Bourget is Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The aircraft now seems more likely to enter the world stage at the 2014 Farnborough show in the UK. Nonetheless, military highlights of Paris 2013 will include Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35 and Europe’s long-awaited A400M troop carrier.

Between 20 and 25 aircraft are expected to appear in the daily flying display, which will run as usual from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Still unconfirmed is whether Boeing will clear the 787 to participate in the aerial performance.

Added Value

SIAE has expanded the program for business-to-business meeting arrangements that it pioneered at the 2011 Paris Air Show, when it arranged more than 4,500 meetings. This year the service will run from Tuesday through Thursday of show week and will be supplemented by a special conference focused on purchasing policies in the supply chain.

This year there are set to be 50 more official delegations (representing both military and civil buyers), taking the total number of individual official delegates to 54,000. “This comes from our efforts to bring more high-quality visitors to our exhibitors,” said SIAE marketing director Nicolas Tran.

Organizers have also extended show hours so that exhibitors can enter the Le Bourget site from 6:30 a.m. and trade visitors from 8:30 a.m. (an hour earlier than the 9:30 a.m. start at previous shows).

SIAE says it has invested around $70 million upgrading the show site since the 2003 event. This year the main new addition in terms of technology is an application for smartphones and other mobile devices that includes a geolocation function to help visitors find their way to specific exhibits and show locations, increasing the number of meetings they can achieve in a day. New QR codes on visitor badges will make it easier for exhibitors to capture information about them. There will also be free Wi-Fi connection throughout the show site.

In a bid to help visitors deal with the legendary traffic jams that blight the travel experience to and from Le Bourget during the show, a new temporary radio station will broadcast to listeners within a 10-mile radius of the site, giving advice on how to bypass the bottlenecks. There will also be two additional taxi stands at the show site, and staff to assist visitors at rail stations and airports.

To reduce the show’s environmental footprint, SIAE has adopted the new ISO 20121 standard requiring, for example, the use of sustainable construction materials for exhibition stands. The Le Bourget show will be only the second global event after the 2012 London Olympic Games to achieve these green credentials. The show will once again feature an alternative-fuels section, this time with 15 exhibitors.