Look to the skies (Paris Air Show)

The AEROSPACE magazine team preview the highlights for this year's Paris Air Show, held 15-21 June at Le Bourget. 

Mid-June and the world’s aviation and aerospace industry are set to descend on the northern Parisian suburb of Le Bourget, for the traditional biennial trade exhibition and showcase that is the Paris Air Show.

With more than 2,200 exhibitors and 140,000 visitors at the 2013 show, Paris remains a must-attend event for many in the global aerospace calendar – a place where products are unveiled, deals struck and business contacts forged. As well as the giant exhibition halls, chalets for VIPs and static line of around 150 aircraft to visit during the week (four trade days, plus public days), the show will also feature an air display of the latest and greatest aircraft.

This year, the theme is set to be programme execution and manufacturing ramp-up, rather than the giant orderbooks of previous shows, but who knows exactly what surprises or new concept aircraft could be revealed during the week?

Let’s take a look at some of the expected highlights.


Can the CSeries make up for lost time with a double debut at Paris? (Bombardier) 

With both Airbus and Boeing into production mode and busy working on derivatives, rather than new designs, the civil start of the show is set to be Canada’s CSeries airliner, making its international debut at Paris. The airliner has had a troubled gestation, with slow sales and a grounding due to engine issues last year. However, Bombardier will be in Paris this year with a revamped management team, and not one, but two CSeries – the smaller (108-125 seat) CS100 on static, while the larger (135-160-seat) CS300 will be taking part in the flying display. Whether new orders will be announced is unknown, but Le Bourget will be Bombardier's big chance to show the world its flagship product and make up for lost time. The air display should be particularly interesting - word on the street is that the CSeries is an extremely quiet performer.

A chance to see inside the flying luxury airliner that is Qatar Airways' A380. (Airbus)

Also set to make a splash on the civil side of aviation at Paris is not an manufacturer, but an airline. Qatar Airways will be bringing not one, or two airliners but five – an Airbus A380, A319, A320, Boeing 787 Dreamliner – and its latest widebody – the Airbus A350 XWB – which was delivered in December 2014. With Qatar (and other Gulf-based airlines) locked in a battle with US carriers over subsidies, this showcase of aircraft is a reminder of the Gulf’s buying power in the global aircraft marketplace. Qatar, too, is set to be the launch customer for the re-engined Airbus A320neo.

The A350 XWB will be on home turf at the show. (Airbus)

Meanwhile, after the Airbus A350 made a flying visit two years ago at Le Bourget soon after its first flight, this year show-goers will get a better view of it with prototype MSN2 – the A350 XWB in the ‘carbon’ livery which will be flying all week in the air display and wowing the crowds with its quiet flying. Joining it from Airbus will be an A380. With the A320neo still undergoing flight testing (and  the P&W powered version is temporarily grounded with an engine glitch), it would also not be beyond the bounds of possibility if a CFM LEAP-powered A320neo was to divert to Le Bourget to perform a flyby during the week – even if it won’t appear on static. Although, as noted above, the theme of the show will be production ramp-up, at its recent annual ‘Innovation Days’ Airbus hinted there could be ‘significant orders’ announced at the show. While a re-engined ‘A380neo’ has been much discussed and debated – if Airbus does decide to launch this one day, the ideal venue (with Emirates pushing hard for this) is Dubai Air Show, rather than Paris.

A Boeing 787-9 in Vietnam Airlines colours is set to take part in the flying display.  (Boeing)

From the US, arch-rival Boeing will be highlighting its Asia-Pacific customers. A 787-9 Dreamliner, set to be delivered to Vietnam Airlines will be taking part in the flying display. (Vietnam Airlines is also set to take delivery of its first A350 at that time too). Also set to be at the show will be a 777-300ER from China Airlines. Though the new 777X is expected to enter service at the end of the decade, Boeing is working hard at tweaking the ‘classic’ 777 to tide customers over until the new X is available.

Elsewhere on commercial aviation, expect to hear further updates from Brazil’s Embraer on its re-engined E2 family, which was launched two years ago at the 2013 show. It will also have an ERJ135 on display at the show. From Russia, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft will be bringing its Superjet 100, for which it is partnered with Alenia Aermacchi. Turboprop manufacturer ATR, too, is set to bring its ATR 72-600 to the show. Missing the show, but likely to provide a progress report on its MRJ airliner, is Mitsubishi Regional Aircraft.

Finally, as befits the international nature of the show, with exhibitors from China and Russia present – there could be more details about the proposed Chinese-Russian widebody airliner.


The Rafale team will be coming to Paris with three export wins under their belt this year (Dassault)

In defence, there are two big themes as the military aviation sector gets ready for Paris.

First, with no fewer than three export wins (Egypt, Qatar and India) this year, Dassault’s Rafale will be on a high this show – trumping rival fighter makers. While champagne will be flowing over these deals in securing orders and production for the Rafale, not all is rosy. It is still unclear whether the 126-aircraft MRCA Indian requirement is now completely dead or whether the order for 36 placed by India (over the heads, it seems, of its Defence Ministry) is an interim purchase or final one. If MRCA is indeed dead, that still leaves the Indian Air Force with a huge fighter gap. If there is a MRCA II, that will give a second chance to Western fighter manufacturers.

Submarines may be thin on the ground in northern Paris - but the P-8 will be hunting for customers.

Second – the 2015 show sees the return of the US military in force after the sequestration saw them sit out the 2013 air show. The increased tensions with a revanchist Russia, conflict in Ukraine and nervousness of NATO members (particularly on Russia’s borders) means that Washington is keen to project an image of its impressive military power. Noteworthy in the static display, for example, is the fearsome A-10 tankbuster – which is now deployed in Eastern Europe on exercises. Another counter to Russia’s intrusions (this time underwater) is the P-8 Poseidon sub-hunter – which will also be in the US Pentagon paddock. Bought by the US Navy, India and being acquired by Australia, the P-8 has been heavily tipped to be the eventual replacement for the RAF’s Nimrod MPAs.

One military aircraft set to miss Paris this year is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Last year an engine fire grounded the fleet ahead of a widely publicised appearance at Farnborough and RIAT. With France not buying the F-35, and obviously with last year’s no-show in mind - there is less need for the aircraft to debut at Le Bourget. However, this does not mean that the programme is still in the doldrums. The US Marine Corps recently wrapped up an initial operating capability test, which saw six F-35Bs deployed to the USS Wasp, racking up over 100 sorties. And, more importantly, for foreign customers, the US is considering authorising three-year block buy for as many as 450 jets. This is expected to bring significant procurement savings thanks to economies of scale and could prove extremely attractive for European (or other) customers yet to place firm orders.

While the Paris Air Show in 2013 saw the Sukhoi Su-35 and Kamov Ka-52 fly during the show, this year missing from the static and flying line-up will be any military aircraft from Russia – understandable given current tensions (although there will be Russian companies exhibiting at the show).

Like a cop in an 80s action movie, the A-10 is always about to turn in its badge on one last case. (USAF)

Ironically, while Russia is missing, one aircraft confirmed to attend is the new Ukrainian Antonov An-178 transporter, which recently made its first flight. This civil/military transport is a replacement for the ubiquitous turboprop An-32 transport.

Back in the air. (AirbusDS)

In some good news from Airbus Defence and Space, following the fatal crash of an A400M in May, the airlifter is now set to appear in the daily flying display at Paris, with its usual display routine - a sign of confidence that the cause of the crash (reported to be a faulty engine software upload) is not a critical design flaw. Though the incident has undoubtedly had an impact on delivery schedule, the appearance of the A400M at Paris will reassure customers (and potential customers) that Airbus are addressing the reasons behind the crash.     

Three JF-17s from the Pakistan Air Force will be at the show. 

Making its Paris debut this year is the Sino-Pakistan JF-17 light fighter with three aircraft set to attend from the Pakistan Air Force. Already fielded by Pakistan, the manufacturer is aiming the JF-17 at nations for whom the F-35, Eurofighter, or Rafale may be too complex, too expensive and potentially restricted.

Another type targeting air forces with a new vision of affordable air power is the TextronAirLand Scorpion Jet, a clean sheet patrol, light strike and ISR platform. The aircraft caused a stir when it appeared at Farnborough in 2013 – could Paris be the venue where orders are announced?

The Scorpion Jet will be making its way across the Altantic again to appear at Paris. (TextronAirLand)  

Also targeting the ‘low-cost A-10’ market is IOMAX, which will be bringing its Archangel – a heavily modified border patrol/close air support/ISR version of a rugged agricultural aircraft.

Meanwhile, Turkey will be showcasing its growing aerospace industry by bringing its Anka UAV and T129 ATAK – an upgraded version of the AgustaWestland A129 attack helicopter.

Not all big defence companies will be at Paris, however. US giant Northrop Grumman will be sitting it out as usual, as will the UK’s BAE Systems.

Business aviation and GA

Gulfstream will be bringing its Collier-winning G650 bizjet. (Gulfstream)

Despite the short time between the big European business aviation show and Le Bourget – Paris will also see a wide range of bizjets and GA aircraft on display. Bombardier, for example, will be bringing its Global 6000 bizjet. Home team, Dassault, will be at the show with a Falcon 2000 LXS, Falcon 900LX and Falcon 7X – and there could even be an appearance from the Falcon 8X – although its latest big-cabin 5X, having just rolled out, may not have flown before the show. Gulfstream, meanwhile will have two aircraft there – a G450 and its ultra-long range G650 – for which it recently picked up the US Collier Trophy for aeronautical excellence. Also set to appear is Piaggio’s Avanti Evo – an updated version of the company’s pusher turboprop.

Airbus Helicopters will have its latest H160 at the show. (Airbus Helicopters)

General aviation too, is expected to be well represented in both fixed wing and rotorcraft. Airbus Defence and Helicopters will have its new medium H160 helicopter at the show – which is on the cusp of its first flight as this is written. The company will also be bringing its H135 and two military helicopters - H145M and H2225M.

US rotorcraft manufacturer Bell, meanwhile, will be at the show with its Bell 407GX, along with the 429WLG – a wheeled landing gear variant of the 429. It’s latest 525 Relentless will not be at the show, but the recent updates indicates it is close to a first flight.

Diamond's turboprop-powered DA50 JP7 flew earlier this year in January. (Diamond Aircraft)  

In GA, Austria’s Diamond Aircraft will be showing off its new Diamond DA50-JP7 – which is fitted with a turboprop engine. It will also have a rugged DA40 Tundra Star on show – designed for rough or austere fields.


A new light aircraft from France will be revealed. (Elixr Aircraft)

Meanwhile a new a new two-seat GA aircraft from France is set to be unveiled on Monday 15 June from Elixir Aircraft. Coming with a Garmin glass cockpit, the aircraft comes with a ballistic parachute as standard and has EASA certicification.

Electric flight and jetpacks

A full-scale mock-up of a 'Tesla of the air', Airbus Group's E-Fan 2.0 electric aircraft is set to be on display. (Airbus)

There will no shortage of innovation in aviation and aerospace to see at Le Bourget during the week. The Airbus Group, for example, will be showcasing the future of green, quiet flight with its electric E-Fan prototype. The company also expect to have its production follow-on – the hybrid-electric E-Fan 2.0 on show as a full-scale mock-up.

Visitors may not see this futuristic jetpack fly at the show - but NZ's Martin Aircraft will be there in the halls. (Martin Aircraft Company)

From New Zealand, the Martin Aircraft Company will be in the exhibition halls with every boy's (and girl's) flying dream – a personal ‘jetpack’ – making its Paris Air Show debut. This uses two ducted fans to create the world’s first ‘practical personal jetpack’.

An EU-project has been exploring the potential of FanWing. (FanWing)

Meanwhile at the show, an EU project – SOAR - will be reporting on the unique STOL ‘FanWing’ concept – and its potential applications and feasibility.

Innovation will also be highlighted in the ‘The Sky of Tomorrow’ - a special exhibit from France’s Civil Aviation Research Council (CORAC) looking at the future of civil flight.


Making rockets more resuable is now a key technology trend. (ESA) 

It is also worth remembering that Le Bourget will also have a healthy space presence, with rocket builders, satellite manufacturers and space agencies being present.

The European Space Agency (ESA) will be on a roll after its historic Rosetta mission which captured the world’s attention. It is breaking new ground in human spaceflight too, with Italian ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti having won fans around the world during her record stay on the ISS. Later this year, British ESA astronaut Tim Peake is set to launch for the ISS for his mission.

In launchers, expect to hear more details from Airbus Defence and Space on its recently revealed Adeline project to put propellers on rockets. Not the result of smoking something exotic, this innovative concept is to return the first stage of Ariane 6 with its engines and avionics (the most expensive parts of the rocket) to the earth by flying it back to the ground with a winged section. This would recover the useful parts of the rocket and, say Airbus Defence & Space, provide a competitor to Space X’s plan to reuse the first stages of its Falcon rockets. With the new Vulcan heavy-lift launcher from US United Launch Alliance also promising recovery  

Other themes

The 'careers plane' will highlight the vast range of professions and jobs in the global aerospace industry. (Paris Air Show)

Running through many of these different sectors during the week, will be a number of underlying themes. The environment, for example, will be on the agenda during the week – especially since Solar Impulse 2’s round the world flight is highlighting sustainable aviation. The uses (and abuses) of ‘big data’ is also to be a hot topic at the show. More-connected aircraft promise to deliver savings and efficiencies through concepts like predictive maintenance – but the flip side is worries about cyber security and hackers.

Safety, too, may be a theme at the show. Although (as checking statistics will confirm) the air transport sector is still extremely safe – a recent spike of very rare and unusual accidents and incidents has raised the public's concern about aviation safety. MH370, followed by MH17 (on the next to final day of Farnborough last summer) and the latest tragedy of Germanwings may be argued, has caused a disconnect between the pilot community and passengers. While some of these issues defy ‘easy’ technological solutions, expect the issues of flight tracking and the mental health of pilots to be a undercurrent when flight safety topics crop up.

Expect drones large and small at the show. 

Unmanned systems will continue to grow and expand – but this time the biggest growth is in civil drones – which are now losing their purely military connotations as ever more applications and civil uses are found for them.

Finally, there will be a big emphasis on careers in aerospace and aviation. The show will see the return of the ‘Careers Plane’ highlighting the wide variety and range of jobs in aerospace manufacturing.

An enhanced visitor experience

The organisers can gaurantee everything will be better than 2013 - except perhaps the weather...

This year the organisers are also promising an enhanced experience for exhibitors, trade and public visitors. WiFi and telephone networks have been enhanced – and the show is rolling out a geo-location-powered smartphone app – that not only will guide visitors to their destination inside the show, but will also allow them to create ad-hoc ‘geo-groups’ to meet up with up to 25 colleagues. Meanwhile a business-to-business ‘speed dating’ service will cater for those wanting to make fast contacts. The infrastructure has also been improved, with better car parks, accessibility, air conditioning in Hall 3 and improved access at Gate L3.

Keep up with the news

The latest June issue of AEROSPACE. 

Updated: Sample a taste of RAeS Membership with a free PDF download of the June issue of AEROSPACE magazine here

The AEROSPACE magazine team will be reporting on the show with the latest news appearing in a series of daily blogs.

Meanwhile on Monday 15 June at 1500GMT, Editor-in-Chief Tim Robinson will taking part in a live CNN Twitter chat on the future on commercial flight - join in using the #CNNLeBourget hashtag. 

Stay ahead of all the news! To follow all the news at Paris don’t forget to bookmark www.aerosociety.com and follow the daily airshow news on the Insight blog. For those on Twitter the hashtag is #PAS15 and the Editor Tim Robinson will be tweeting live from the show on @RAeSTimR

7 June 2015