Posted by John McHale
PARIS, 23 June 2011. The 2011 edition of the Paris Air Show kicked off with an environmental theme, most notably Boeing and Gulfstream flying to the show using Honeywell biofuel and the new solar aircraft -- Solar Impulse -- making visits to Paris. However, as the real spirit of the show was a commercial aviation market continuing its recovery from the economic doldrums of the global recession.
In other words the mood was much better than the last Paris Air Show in 2009 when orders were low and the economic crisis was fresh. Things are better now, but still not back to the vibrant health of the market in 2008.
Commercial aviation really drives the success of Paris and not military aviation. While there were military aircraft on display and major prime contractors in attendance it’s all about the commercial jets. New airplanes making an appearance at the Paris Air Show or the Farnborough Air Show is always a sign of market health as the airframers think they can sell them. This year the excitement surrounded the appearance of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 Intercontinental passenger and freighter jets and the Airbus A320neo. The Airbus A380 -- a staple in the sky two years ago -- finally made an appearance late in the week after a minor ground collision kept it from flying at the beginning of the show.
In terms of airplane sales Airbus cleaned Boeing’s clock in terms of total numbers at the event with 726 compared to Boeing’s 102 at last count.
Optimism is strong. Mike Madsen, defense and space president for Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix says for commercial avionics there is especially high demand in aftermarket systems. The backlog at Boeing and Airbus is at an all time high and because many avionics suppliers who are installed on those aircraft should see their business really pick up once those orders are utilized, he adds.
India and China together represent the biggest growth area long term for commercial aviation with the Middle East not far behind, Madsen says. “The Middle East is increasingly becoming an important hub not just for air travel but for maintenance as well.”
Business aviation also made some noise at the event with the MC-21 aircraft from Irkut making a debut at the event. Sukhoi and Alenia Aeronautica also announced that they will launch a business jet version of their Superjet 100 later this year.
Business aviation has also recovered, notably in the mid-size category, “which was hit the hardest during the recession,” Madsen says.
I hope the business aviation trend continues and we see a similar enthusiasm in October at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) next October in Las Vegas.