ONCE every two years, Paris becomes the center of the world’s aerospace industry.
The International Paris Air Show, held at the Le Bourget airfield north of Paris, is a dream for anyone interested in aerospace. The latest passenger airplanes are seen side by side with fierce fighter planes, sleek private jets, and high-tech drones.
This year, the event ran from June 19 to 25, but only trade participants and the media are allowed during the first four days.
I, along with a group of journalists and bloggers, were invited by Philippines AirAsia to cover the air show. Our excitement was dampened a bit when we arrived to discover Paris, and most of Central Europe, was in the middle of a severe heatwave.
Imagine walking across an airfield under the scorching sun, with temperatures soaring to 37° Celsius and no shade in sight.
The air show can also be overwhelming, with over 2,300 exhibitors from 48 countries, and 140 aircraft occupying 192,000 square meters of exhibition space at Le Bourget.
Tickets for the public were also in high demand, with 180,000 sold to the public.
For a newbie, the first instinct is to visit the big names — Airbus and Boeing.
Being on home turf, France’s Airbus had the biggest display, where it showed off its A321neo, A350-1000 and A380plus, as well as its “combat-proven” attack helicopter Tigre HAD.
We took a peek inside the A380plus, an enhanced version of the world’s largest passenger airliner, although it was still empty with lots of wires.
Rival US planemaker Boeing tried to steal Airbus’ thunder by unveiling the longer version of the Dreamliner — the 787-10 — and launching the 737 MAX 10 and its new single-aisle plan.
But the real highlights of any air show are the aerial demonstrations. This year, there were 45 flying displays spread throughout the week.
When Lockheed Martin’s F-35 took to the skies, everyone stopped and jaws dropped as the fighter jet did vertical climbs, loops, and turns.
At an estimated cost $100 million, the F-35 is described by Lockheed Martin as the “next-generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, advanced mission systems, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and cutting-edge sustainment.”
PEEK INTO THE FUTURE
The air show is also a chance to get a glimpse of the future of the aviation industry.
The Workhorse Group came out with a drone-like SureFly helicopter concept. The SureFly has four propeller arms, and two fixed contra-rotating propellers on each arm, as well as a backup battery for the electric motors in case of engine failure.
Another US firm, Boom, is developing a supersonic passenger airliner, similar to the Concorde. Boom claims its jet, using its top speed of Mach 2.2, will be able to fly from Paris to New York in just three and a half hours compared to the current seven hour-flight of a regular plane.
A day is not enough to take in everything at the Paris Air Show, especially if you’re rushing from one end to the other to cover a press conference or attend an awards ceremony.
If you’re an aerospace nerd, it’s definitely an experience not to be missed. Paris alternates with England’s Farnborough in hosting the event, so the next air show in France will be held on June 17-23, 2019.
But if you’re in Paris before then, you can still check out Le Bourget’s Museum of Air and Space, considered one of the best aviation museums in the world. — CRAG