PARIS — This year’s Paris Air Show is my first major large-scale aviation industry event. Sure, I have covered other major events in the past, but nothing even comes close to what went on today. Welcome to Paris.
The forecast for the show has been varying seemingly every time I check it. One day the forecast reads 65F and sunny, and the next day 85F and rain. The moment I stepped off the train and onto the shuttle bus to Le Bourget, it started to drizzle. After I had abandoned the shuttle bus because of endless traffic, it started to rain. Then it rained harder, and harder, and bolts of lightning started to rain down from the sky.
Thankfully, the flight demonstrations were scheduled for the afternoon, so I took that time to head to the shows indoor floors, which are vast. Over the course of several hours, I wandered around with no particular destination in mind, snapping pictures of anything I deemed worthy. Of course, as an #AvGeek, everything I saw was worthy.
The Airbus “booth” has a massive display of all the manufacturers’ aircraft, from A319 to A380 and A400M. These models were massive, some of which even had spinning engines. There were model displays from Russian manufactures, Chinese, Japanese, and any other country that is capable of putting a machine into the air. The amount of detail in these models is stunning, but soon it was time to see the real things, and break some news.
After swimming to the main conference hall, it was time for a presentation from Boeing CEO Ray Conner called “State of the Business.” Conner opened the press conference with a few jokes about the “797,” which was really two drawings from an ambitious young fan. The 797 design proposal 2 holds 1,000 passengers, somehow all with window seats, and has 6 engines. Conner went on to sum up the current status of Boeing, which was quick good looking.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the show grounds, Qatar ordered nine 777-300ERs. The deal is worth $2.8 billion, with firm orders for two and options for seven more. Across the show grounds yet again, I joined another Boeing press conference, where GECAS ordered 10 787-10x Dreamliners. During the press conference, GECAS President and CEO Norman C.T. Liu was going on about how much they love the 787, and at that moment a terribly loud clap of thunder pauses the room. Just then, Boeing CEO Ray Conner states “even god likes the 787!” Yea, that was a funny moment.
Simultaneously, Boeing announced that Tokyo-based Skymark Airlines selected the 737 MAX as its next generation single aisle aircraft of choice, making it Japan’s first airline to do so. “Based at its Haneda Airport hub in Tokyo, Skymark Airlines currently operates a fleet of 30 Next-Generation 737-800s on a lease from GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) and other lessors,” said Boeing via press release. So there was that, and I have no idea where it actually happened.
One of the more interesting bits of the day was in the form of a regional jet. The media calendar said that Embraer had a press conference starting at 12:15pm, so I walked over to the location. As I walked in, nothing was set up, and some large model aircraft were just being unpacked. I snapped a picture and tweeted it out. I then learned that the press conference was actually at 1pm, and those models were not supposed to be seen just quite yet.
The models I took a picture of were actually of the Embraer E2 series of ERJs, the next generation of the ERJ family. The E2 series improves upon the current E175, E190, and E195 models, boasting improved capacity, better fuel economy, and overall lower operating costs. The E2 series sports a new wing, new main landing gear, improved avionics, and new engines. Fuel burn on the E195-E2 model is down ~23% over the current E195, which is a dramatic drop.
When I walked into the press conference, I did not expect to see any orders associated with the E2 series. I was wrong, very wrong, SkyWest was announced to be the launch customer, ordering 200 E-Jets E2, comprising of 100 firm orders for the E175-E2 and 100 more purchase rights. IFLC has also ordered 100 E-Jet E2s, 25 E190, and 25 E195 orders, as well 25 E190, and 25 E195 options. .Entry into service is slated for the second half of 2018 for the E190-E2, 2019 for the E195-E2 2019, and 2020 for the E175-E2.
With most of the day’s breaking news behind us, it was time to hit the flight line for some displays of aviation fury. Thankfully at this point, the sky turned blue and the sun came out. While I missed a couple or caught a glace or two, I made sure to be there for the main events. First up was the mighty Super Constellation. While it didn’t put on any amazing acrobatic displays, it was great just to see one in the air in person.
Just as the Connie landed, an Air India Boeing 787 took to the skies with a very impressive steep climb. It is great to see the 787 back in the air, and Boeing pushed their new baby to the limits. Next up, the Airbus A400M, which was by far the most acrobatic display of the larger aircraft. Twisting and turning and rolling in the sky, it was quite a show.
Last, but certainly not least, the super Airbus A380. Fresh from the Airbus factory and painted in full British Airways livery, the A380 always puts on a great show. Just thinking about the sheer size of it and what it is capable of is stunning. Really, the pictures speak for themselves. You just can’t add commentary with any meaning.
All in all, it was a fantastic day, and I learned a lot about how I should attack the show in the future. For now, it’s time to dry off, get some dinner, and dream about some airplanes. Until tomorrow!