Visitor numbers down but Paris Air Show was 'good vintage'


2017/06/26 | 645 words | AEROCONTACT | INDUSTRY / TECHNOLOGY
Visitor numbers down but Paris Air Show was 'good vintage' © Airbus - Masterfilms - Philippe Masclet

This year's Paris Air Show at Le Bourget has proved a "good vintage" with orders up 13 percent though fewer visitors showed up, organisers said as the event wound down Sunday.

Tight security owing to an ongoing state of emergency in the wake of several terror attacks in France in the past 18 months saw the number of visitors slide compared with the last edition two years ago -- the event alternates with Farnborough in England.

But orders rose to $150 billion (134 billion euros) compared with the $130 billion the industry put in its order books two years ago, with giants Boeing and Airbus between them taking the lion's share with $114 billion -- $74.8 billion and $39.7 billion respectively.

Boeing managed to outpace its rival thanks to its new 737 MAX 10 airliner, taking in a total of 571 orders and commitments, with the plane aimed at the biggest part of the commercial airline market -- single-aisle aircraft for medium-range flights.

The jet promises even more fuel economy thanks to improvements in aerodynamics and engine performance.

But Airbus did win a big order from Iran's Zagros Airlines for 20 planes of the A320neo family and eight of the A330neo type.

The show also highlighted inflight internet access -- a nascent market still hobbled by slow speeds -- which will soon take off as dedicated satellites make surfing in the skies a reality, analysts at the show said.

They shrugged off the effect of bans on bringing laptops and tablets onboard imposed by Britain and the United States on flights departing from certain airports owing to the terror threat.

Marc Rochet, chief executive of the low-cost airline French Blue, said midweek that more than half of global commercial aircraft could be kitted out by 2021.

"It's a very good vintage in terms of business," said Emeric d'Arcimoles, the commissioner general overseeing the event which opened exclusively to professionals Monday to Thursday before letting in the public at large.

The number of professional visitors slipped six percent from two years ago to 140,000 -- which d'Arcimoles blamed largely on "budgetary restrictions" for many companies in the sector as well as on the tight security required under France's state of emergency.

D'Arcimoles said strong orders apart this year's edition saw other positives, such as the third edition of an employment fair showcasing opportunities in the aeronautical sector which he said attracted "more than 60,000 people, essentially young people".

In addition, Paris Air Lab, a new forum dedicated to research, brought in 50,000 visitors and allowed a number of start-up firms to book their first orders, he added.

- 'Stuff of dreams' -

The first half of the weeklong event, the world's largest air show, took place in sweltering temperatures which scared off some with non-professional visitor numbers down an estimated 10 percent from 2015.

Those who did attend were treated to programmes showing off some 30 rafale and Mirage combat planes, military helicopters and business and commercial jets and enjoyed a spectacular performance by the French Patrol demonstration squadron.

French President Emmanuel Macron also made an appearance, trying on a virtual reality headset as the aviation world delves ever deeper into the world of high tech, not least with roles for hybrid-energy jets and drones.

As the planemakers counted their orders, private visitors said high-flying hardware had drawn them to the event's gates.

"The world of aviation, it's the stuff of dreams," said Luis Ferrera, 42, enjoying a family day out.

Shigeharu Kito, 70, and Yukio Minami, 51, travelled from Japan with five fellow flying fans, telephoto lenses at the ready to capture and preserve memories of the moment.

For them, Le Bourget was an important highlight on a European tour of all matters aviation which saw them visit the Heathrow and Frankfurt airports as well as the Airbus headquarters of Toulouse in southwestern France.

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