A hundred years of aeronautics at Le Bourget
The world’s biggest civil and military, commercial and tourist aviation event, is creating ever-growing interest among professionals from all over the world and among the general public. Despite the recent tragic loss suffered by the aeronautics industry, the success of this event is already assured. For its centenary year the International Paris Air Show, held at the Paris-Le Bourget exhibition park from 15 to 21 June, is promising to be an exceptional event.
For its 100th birthday, the oldest event in the aeronautics sector has full billing. It was back in 1909 that the genius manufacturers and inventors, Blériot, Breguet and Voisin, arranged the first air show at the Grand Palais in Paris, where it continued to be held from 1909 to 1949. From 1924, it made clear its international approach by opening up to foreign manufacturers. The first flying displays were held at Orly in 1949, and then at Le Bourget in 1951. In 1953, the Exhibition moved permanently to Le Bourget.
Since then, what has become the essential International Air Show has expanded enormously. It has been witness to and a showcase for incessant innovations and the mastery of cutting-edge technologies. For this centenary year, the fly over of 30 historic aeroplanes dating from 1909 to 1970, from France, Europe and the United States, will allow the public to gauge the extraordinary progress achieved from the first hesitant flights of the pioneers to the Airbus A380.
Other stars of the show this year are previews of two world firsts: the Sukhoi Superjet 100, the new Russian regional transport twin-engined jet, and the Camcopter helicopter drone made by the Austrian company Schiebel, the first drone ever shown in flight at an air show.
Held every two years, the event always emphasises the international sphere, offering manufacturers and subcontractors from all over the world an invaluable opportunity to showcase their latest innovations. The Russian Federation and China have chosen this event to exhibit their equipment in the West for the first time. Out of the record number of exhibitors, with over 2,000 expected for this 48th event, 60% are foreign. 48 countries are represented including, for the first time, Australia, Lithuania, Libya, Mexico and Tunisia.
The success of the Paris Air Show is due in large part to the diversity of its exhibitors. Its organiser, GIFAS, the French aerospace industries association, which includes over 240 companies, is keen to ensure that all sectors of aviation are represented at the event. All sizes of company are in attendance, from major contractors to small and medium-sized enterprises, covering research, development, construction, marketing and maintenance of all aerospace programmes, civil and military, aeroplanes, helicopters, engines, spacecraft and missiles, space vehicles and their launch gear, equipment, electronic defence and security systems, etc.
So as you pass from one stand to the next you travel from the aircraft construction to satellites, from power units for engines to airborne weaponry, from piloting aids to cabin design, from composite materials and surface treatment to airport equipment and services, and from mechanical and metallurgical subcontracting to maintenance, after sales and spare parts.
Aeronautical medicine also features in the programme. It takes the form of a seminar with leading specialists, which will this year focus on pre-flight consultations, the traveller’s first-aid kit, the accessibility of air travel to people with respiratory problems and passengers with restricted mobility.
Recruitment has not been forgotten either. The jobs and training area gives full information on how to get into an industry that still attracts young people. Another opportunity to dream, the Air and Space Forum, which will be held from Friday 19 to 21 June.
The facilities are fully in keeping with the quality of the event. The exhibitors have an area entirely devoted to business and technology meetings, successfully inaugurated in 2007, with themed seminars, purchasing seminars and individual meetings organised in advance - an excellent opportunity to set up commercial links, put forward future programmes, present equipment, and broker contracts and partnership projects. An area is also set aside for small and medium-sized European enterprises, which have a growing presence.
The exhibition comprises a total of 128,000 m2 of indoor exhibition space (halls, villages and 361 chalets where companies can host their distinguished guests), 192,000 m2 of outdoor exhibition space and for the general public, a large grandstand, an immense lawn and giant screens.
It must be said that unprecedented numbers are expected this year. In addition to the exhibitors, 150 official delegations will be coming from 20 different countries, plus 155,000 trade visitors (a constantly growing figure), over 3,500 journalists and approximately 157,000 members of the general public (for whom the show is open on 19, 20 and 21 June). As well as the 140 aircraft on show and the four hours per day of flying displays, a terrific bonus is planned for this centenary year - the Patrouille de France will be putting on a display. Because the Paris Air Show is also a great spectacle!
Sylvie Thomas - Actualité en France No. 21 - June 2009