Organizers of next week’s centennial Paris Air Show said Monday the world’s biggest aviation industry gathering won’t be diminished by the global economic crisis, which has hit the aviation industry hard.
Organizers expect around 300,000 visitors this year, half of which will be professionals, about the same as the last show in 2007 — despite notable no-shows such as business jet makers Gulfstream and Cessna.
“This year again, despite the crisis we consider that it is a considerable success because we’re full,” said Louis Le Portz, the air show’s chief executive. Roughly the same number of exhibitors will be present as in 2007, around 2,000, Le Portz said.
The show is taking place against the backdrop of an industry in deep difficulty, according to data released Monday by the International Air Transport Association. The Geneva-based body representing 230 airlines worldwide warned that the world’s airlines will collectively lose $9 billion this year — nearly double the previous loss projections.
Weak consumer confidence, high business inventories and rising oil prices leave the industry facing a slow recovery as the economic crisis saps air travel and cargo demand, the association said during a two-day global aviation conference in Kuala Lumpur.
The show is also taking place under the cloud of last week’s crash of an Air France Airbus jet flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, killing all 228 people aboard.
Charles Edelstenne, the chairman of French aeronautic industry body GIFAS, expressed the industry’s “profound emotion and solidarity for all those touched by the catastrophe.”
“Of course we had a few no-shows in the parts of the industry especially hard-hit by the crisis, like business jets,” Le Portz added. “But we sold out all the available stands and chalets.”
Gulfstream said it had decided not to exhibit at this year’s Paris Air Show because it had been present at the European Business Aviation Conference in Geneva last month.
Other big aviation names who are coming have cut back on the size or number of their stands and chalets, Le Portz said, without citing specific examples. “It’s to save money, it’s normal,” he said.
But these cutbacks have been offset by a record number of participating small- and medium-sized companies, Le Portz said — around 1,500.
Around 25 civilian and several military jets will make demonstration flights during the air show, including the first appearance outside Russia of Sukhoi’s new Superjet 100, seen as key to Russia’s attempts to revitalize its civilian aircraft industry.
Notable for their absence will be the Airbus A400M transport and Boeing’s 787 jetliner. Boeing’s new long-range widebody is going through more tests as it prepares for its first flight by the end of next month. Airbus parent company EADS has indefinitely postponed the first flight of the A400M transport and is now negotiating new technical requirements and commercial terms with the seven European NATO countries that first ordered the plane.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Paris Air Show, which alternates every other year with the Farnborough International Airshow outside London, 30 historic aircraft from various epochs of aviation history will also be on display, organizers said. The historic aircraft include a Bleriot XI, a plane shown at the first Paris Air Show in 1909, held in the Grand Palais on the Champs-Elysees.
The show opens to industry and the press June 15, and is open to the public June 19-21.