PARIS — As day 3 of the Paris airshow began, I felt more confident that I knew what I was doing. I learned a lot of lessons on day one and two, and it was time to put those lessons to work. After storing my heavy bag in the locker I reserved the day before, I quickly glanced at the days press events, keeping in mind that most of the times listed would be incorrect, and that I should check directly with the companies. My first stop of the day was the Boeing media chalet, where I ended up spending almost the entire morning.
The first item of the day was a detailed press briefing about recent developments on the 737 MAX program, of which a few were significant. Boeing opened up with a pretty funny and clever video, which is a change from the usual stale marketing material. The first bit of news was that Boeing has accelerated the launch of the 737 MAX by 6 months, and is now preparing to make the first delivery the third quarter of 2017, but is still a little bit behind the Airbus A320neo. The next newsworthy item was an updating of the 737 flight deck, aligning it more with the 787. The flight deck will go from six main displays down to four larger ones.
The MAX will be powered by the LEAP-1B engine, and although it is larger with a diameter of 69.4 inches, ground clearance will remain the same as the 737NG. This is possible in part because the nose of the 737 MAX will be raised up eight inches. Additionally, the Boeing Sky Interior will be standard on all MAX aircraft. There were also some funny quips thrown out by the Boeing employees, such as this quote from Joe Ozimek, VP 737 MAX marketing: “An aircraft so slow, it had to be certified for bird strikes from the rear, referring to the Airbus A340.
Next, things got even more comical, as the ever-quotable CEO of Ryanair Michael O’Leary made his first ever appearance at the Paris Air Show to sign off on their huge 175 737NG order, worth $15.6 billion. Throughout the press conference, the jokes and one-liners continued as if we were at the comedy cellar in New York. O’Leary joked about fitting more seats in the 737 MAX by removing the cockpit, and when the conversation mentioned the possibility of wider doors he responded “As a low cost carrier, we only fly slim people.”
In the more serious moments, O’Leary once again touted how much he loves that 737, but that there are other airframers waiting to steal business away. “We continue to have an active dialogue with COMAC….It would be very good to have 3 significant aircraft manufacturers” said O’Leary. Also of interest, Ryanair is evaluating the possibility of a 737 MAX order, and may have some news for us by the end of the year.
As the day went on, the press conferences became fewer and further between. After a quick lunch at the Boeing chalet, I watched the British Airways A380 push back from its stand. I then wandered into a press briefing on the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, or MRJ. The large regional jet market is quickly becoming saturated, and Mitsubishi is just entering now. The MRJ is scheduled for its first flight later this year, with entry into service sometime during 2015. The MRJ is interesting, as it will feature the widest seats in the aircraft segment, more overhead storage, and a fuselage that a normal human being can actually stand upright in. I had a chance to check out their cabin mock up, and it was quite impressive. However, I don’t recommend sitting in the row with 29 inch pitch, my knees still haven’t forgiven me for that.
After the MRJ briefing, I decided to hit some booths that I had not yet been to. Turns out that not only were they air conditioned, but contained a ton of cool #AvGeek items. Simulators are a big item right now, and I got to play around with a few of them. The two simulators that I actually got to try were both Eurofighter Typhoon models. The simulator made by EADS that I tried is a compact model, but another which is made by Alenia Aermacchi was much larger. On both simulators, I got the Typhoon into the air, accidentally went supersonic, and successfully landed. You get extra #AvGeek points for landing.
At some point towards the end of the day, Air France-KLM ordered 25 Airbus A350s, and Singapore finalized their order for 50, but I have no idea where or when that happened. That’s one of the problems with the Paris Air Show. So much happens so quickly, that even though you are there, you don’t hear about many things until it’s already made public.
So, that’s it. I’m back at my hotel after a sweltering and rainy commute, and I’m beat. It’s my last night in Paris, and all I want to do is sleep. Later this week, I will be writing up a total wrap up story, diving into my experience at the Paris Air Show. For now, time to rest my feet!