Aeroplane September 2017

(Brent) #1

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his year’s Salon
International de
l’Aéronautique — and
more recently also ‘de
l’Espace’ — at Le Bourget was
the 52nd in a series that
started in 1909, initially as an
outgrowth of the Paris motor
show. As mentioned in the
May issue, I fi rst visited in
1967, when I was but a lad,
and have been back
intermittently for 50 years
since. How did Le Bourget
2017, the largest trade airshow
in the world, stack up against
the competition?
Paris still attracts the largest
number of exhibitors, even if
manufacturers — and
particularly American
manufacturers — quietly but
fervently wish it would go
away. They reason that nobody
actually goes to an airshow
and decides, on the spur of
the moment, to place a
massive aircraft order without
previously having negotiated it
for months, if not years. Events
such as Paris are today more
about announcing than
generating orders. These
totalled $150 billion this year,
but it is increasingly diffi cult to
prove that attending a show
creates new business. In 2003,
much of its aerospace industry
and the US military boycotted
Paris, but commercial
pressures, and the fear of
missing out, soon brought
them back.
Le Bourget is a great show
site with public transport
connections that put
Farnborough to shame and a
€14 (£12.50; less than the
airshow price of three Wall’s
Magnums) public entry price
that encourages the next
generation. The organisers
have the recurrent problem of
keeping ‘big-name’ aircraft at
the show once the fi rst trade
days have passed. This year,
two noteworthy newcomers in
the shape of Brazil’s KC-
and the stretched A350-
had left by mid-week, no

doubt to continue test
programmes or to undertake
sales tours. British
participation was decidedly
low-key. In the weekend fl ying
display, the UK was
represented only by a Hawker
Hurricane — and a French-
registered one at that, Jan
Roozen’s MkI P3351. The Le
Bourget crowds are openly

range. First impressions were
of a drone re-engineered as a
manned aircraft. Which, in
fact, is pretty much what it is.
The Salon is not just about
all that is new, however. The
Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace
is open without charge
throughout, for visitors to walk
through and enjoy its
unrivalled display of (mainly
French) aircraft. And other
historical artefacts are there if
you look for them. On what is
now the concrete apron at Le
Bourget can be found an
engraved stone plaque that
commemorates the spot
where Charles Lindbergh
touched down on 21 May
1927 after his epic,
pioneering, trans-Atlantic
fl ight. Now well-worn by the
passage of time and feet, this
is in every way as signifi cant as
the raised brass plaque,
known to all British
schoolboys, on the deck of
HMS Victory that announces,
‘Here Nelson Fell’.


Recollections and refl ections — a seasoned
reporter’s view of aviation history

ABOVE: Heading the British export drive at the Paris show, Hurricane P3351/F-AZXR. DENIS J. C ALVERT

enthusiastic, applauding
displays that they especially
appreciate. That tends to
mean French participants
(Chauvin, remember, was a
Frenchman) such as the
Patrouille de France, which
was allocated the top-of-the-
bill 15.00hrs display slot, and
the solo Armée de l’Air Rafale,
although the F-35A’s routine

with its ‘square loops’ also
drew genuine and
spontaneous applause.
As at Farnborough, there is
much enjoyment in seeking
out the wacky newcomers.
The Mini Bee-Plane is one
such project. A two- or
four-seat VTOL ‘personal
aircraft’, it features electric
propulsion driving eight fans

— four fi xed and four
tilting. This French project,
still some way from fl ying,
is promoted with the slogan
‘Drive your Aircraft!’ Another
futuristic design, albeit one
that had at least reached the
hardware stage to be on show,
was the SureFly, an eight-rotor,
electric-powered two-person
helicopter with a 70-mile

The plaque marking where Lindbergh
touched down is as signifi cant as that on the deck
of HMS Victory announcing ‘Here Nelson Fell’

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