Paris Air Show 2011 preview

Added on 29 April 2011 by Tim Robinson

A preview of what to look forward to at this year’s Paris Air Show on 20-26 June

Will the deals on the ground match the action in the air? (SIAE).

Last week at the Royal Aeronautical Society’s HQ in London, the organisers of the Paris Air Show held a press conference to preview the 49th International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget – the highlight of the aviation year.

So what can we expect to look forward to? First – let’s start by what you won’t expect to see at Paris. The biggest non-news at Paris is that  Boeing has backed away from using the show to announce an all-new 737 replacement to leapfrog the Airbus A320neo. Instead it is expected to ‘clarify’ its thinking on a 737 successor. The company has had a lukewarm reception to the idea of a re-engined 737 as a me-too product – yet the timeline for next-generation engines remains stubbornly towards the end of this decade.

Static line at the 2009 Le Bourget exhibition.

However, while a 737 replacement reveal or product launch may be out of the question for Boeing – it will still be interesting to see its current concepts. Will any new aircraft be conventional in appearance? Single-or twin-aisle? Incorporate open–rotors? Expect much ‘Seattleology’ as reporters pore through clues looking for which way Boeing may move.

Second, despite new stealth fighters taking to the air in Russia and China, neither the Sukhoi PAK-FA nor the Chengdu J-20 will be making the trip to Le Bourget. Though the J-20 was extremely unlikely, an appearance by the PAK-FA would have counted as a major coup – and brought back memories of the first appearance by the MiG-29 at a major airshow at Farnborough in 1988. However, those wanting to take a closer look at the PAK-FA, should head for Moscow’s MAKS show in August, where it will make its first public appearance.

The Dreamliner and Intercontinental - heading to Paris in June. (Boeing).

However, while this year’s Paris may not have the cachet of a Dreamliner or A400M debut (though both will be there) there will be plenty to look forward to both in the flying display and on static. Boeing, for example, is planning to take its 747-8I to show it off at the show, although, as standard Boeing policy, neither it nor the Dreamliner will take part in the flying display. The appearance of the 787 and 747-8I is also dictated by the needs of Boeing’s flight test programme.

The A400M will be thrilling the crowds again.

The show though has scooped the first public appearance and flying display by the Solar Impulse solar-powered aircraft as its ‘special guest’. Its appearance at Le Bourget will be the first time the prototype, currently working up to a series of record-breaking flights, will make a public airshow appearance outside home country of Switzerland. The organisers say that the Solar Impulse is planned to make a 10-15min flight every day (bar one), weather conditions permitting.

Solar Impulse will demonstrate clean, green electric flight at Paris. (Solar Impulse/Jean Revillard).

Although this demonstrator is a one-off, this quiet, green aircraft will provide an excellent advertisement for the aviation industry in tackling the environmental challenge.

This green focus will also be enhanced with a special pavilion focused on alternative fuels – enabling visitors to quickly see the main players in one place and helping others to understand and measure the ‘patchwork’ approach of biofuel tests and demonstrations underway across the whole globe.

Eurocopters X3 compound helicopter prototype will take part in the flying display. (Eurocopter).

Another exciting demonstrator to appear at the show will be Eurocopter’s X3 compound helicopter. This, too, is expected to take part in the flying display which, say the organisers, will see more than 40 aircraft taking part.

More good news is that after a long absence due to a legal saga, a Russian military aircraft will now be attending the show – with Sukhoi bringing its Su-30 fighter to Paris. Though the Su-30 is highly unlikely to be allowed to perform the Russian Knights flare-popping MAKS air display routine – the appearance of this aircraft is much welcomed. The airframer will also bring its SuperJet 100 airliner along too – which has just entered revenue service.

Another fighter to appear will be the Sino-Pakistani JF-17 - which at paris this year will take part in the flying display - unlike last year’s Farnborough when it stayed on the ground in static area.

Sukhoi's Su-30 will be at the show. (Sukhoi).

One type of aircraft that won’t be appearing en masse in the flying display yet are UAVs, though the Schiebel Camcopter will return after making its flight debut in the 2009 Le Bourget. Though the organisers acknowledge this is a fast growing sector, they argue that the smaller UAVs do not make for an impressive flying display, being too tiny to awe the crowds stood behind any display line. An indoor flying display, in the halls, meanwhile would mean giving up valuable exhibitor space.

Model of Neuron UCAV on Dassault stand - but one day?

For the larger UAVs, too, there is a problem – that of air show restrictions. Though Gilles Fournier, MD SIAE, said he would like a Global Hawk to attend Le Bourget – the limited airspace and nearby urban areas means that at the moment it is a no-no. However, he did hold out hope that by the time the next generation of European UAVS and UCAVs appear (for example the Dassault Neuron), the show may be able to host unmanned air vehicles.  Watch this space.

A show for the recovery?

Could Paris see more orders for the A380?

However, while the flying display and static line-up is undoubtedly a great pull – more important is how the show acts as a bell weather for the industry as a whole. Increased confidence at Le Bourget in June will ripple through the aerospace industry as a whole and accelerate recovery.

So far the signs are good. The organisers report that exhibition space has been fully booked since the end of January – the first time this has happened in the show’s history, with some 2,000 exhibitors set to attend.  And the organisers say that the show will see some 340,000 visitors pass through the gates.

Will the 2011 show show the path to recovery?

Organiser SIAE says it has invested some €10m in refurbishing facilities at the exhibition centre for this year’s show – as well as €2m in upgrading the 350 corporate chalets.

For the chalets the organisers admit that while some bigger companies have not booked this year, their chalets have been snapped up by SMEs looking to boost their profile and entertain customers and clients.

The shows status will also be boosted with international participation – especially in the emerging countries. China’s COMAC, for example, will be making its debut and bringing its model of the C919 airliner to a Western air show for the first time. All in all some 200 international delegations are registered and expected to attend.

Meanwhile the organisers have launched a special ELITE programme for companies to host VIPs in extra style and comfort. The ELITE programme, which features limited availability, features a fast track entrance, lounge area, unlimited refreshments and a concierge service among other advantages.

For the rest of the visitors the organisers promise improved access at the event, including more shuttle bus services, free WiFi across the show (including a dedicated smartphone show site) and free entry to the Air and Space Museum at Le Bourget for visitors.

Finally,  they stressed that for the 3,000 press expected to attend there will be new ‘virtual pigeonholes’ allowing companies to deposit press packs, images and other material online for media.


All eyes on Le Bourget in June (SIAE/Alain Ernoult).

This year’s Paris is likely to be more optimistic than the 2009 Le Bourget, where the early effects of the financial crisis left many executives stumbling round in something like collective shock. Increased growth and emerging markets in China and India signal a return to better times – with some predicting that the ‘bounce back’ will be even stronger than the most optimistic observers predict.

Yet there still remain grounds for caution. One industry insider said that it may be another couple of years of treading water - with a full recovery not expected until 2014. It is also worth remembering that while the civil sector may be ramping up, the military side remains gloomy. Cut defence budgets in the UK, France and other European nations means that programme opportunities are getting fewer and fewer. Even in the US, traditionally a high spender, is now facing severe difficulties and may be cutting back. For defence firms the bright spot is Asia-Pacific and especially India, now involved in a major military procurement spend.

Whatever the wider economic picture though - there will be no shortage of aviation news to come out of the show.

To follow all the news at Paris don’t forget to bookmark For those on Twitter the hashtag is #PAS11 and the Editor Tim Robinson will be tweeting live from the show on @RAeSTimR

from the Royal Aeronautical Society

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2 Responses to “Paris Air Show 2011 preview”

  1. Peter Anderson says:

    Two aircraft to watch will be Eurofighter and Raffale.
    Both are competing for major orders with the French aircraft the front runner.

  2. JF-17 says:

    Wow! Nice to see JF-17 finally take it to the skies in the west.

    Hopefully it’ll beat the performance at Zhuhai.

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