2013 Paris Air Show

Last summer, I was lucky enough to attend the 50th Paris Air Show as a professional, something I could never have hoped for when I was a student.  I have been meaning to post pictures of this event online (elsewhere than on Twitter) for a long time and it looked like a great way to inaugurate this blog! Being able to visit such a large show while escaping the week-end crowds was delightful. The Paris Air Show is still  the most famous aviation show in France; it is the occasion to meet with many industrial partners and see aircraft from up close, something that I do not get to see often as an engineer.Of course, it would have probably gone better if I had not been wearing dark, warm business pants in a 85F/30°C heat, and I would probably not have been so exhausted afterwards if I had not been wearing heels while walking around the 192,000 square meter aircraft exhibition area all day long. I was told I had to look professional. I will never listen to what I am told again. Needless to say the day ended pretty much like this:

Boo was smiling, at least. I was just grunting by the end.

However, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t worth it. While the organization of the show could be improved (by adding, notably, more room for the people who already own tickets instead of making everyone wait for an hour outside with no visible line, or by adding seats to watch the demonstrations for business guests who have no access to the private lounges), the exhaustion doesn’t take away the wonder.

Seeing this A400M fly, for example, was well worth a heat stroke. If you don’t know what the A400M is, I encourage you to read this.  The first A400M Atlas  delivered to the French military, baptized “Ville d’Orléans” has recently successfully completed its first missions in Mali during Operation Serval. C-130s, you better watch your backs.

I had the chance to take some decent shots of other aircraft, thankfully, as you can see above. Eurocopter’s Tigre’s demonstration of its helmet-mounted sights, notably, was very impressive.

Look at that smile. Can't I do that everyday?
Look at that smile. Can’t I do that everyday?

And of course, Christmas came early the moment they let me in the Rafale. I was so excited I could barely listen to the pilot showing me the cockpit displays.  Fun fact: my spot in line to climb into it was taken by the minister of defense of Uzbekistan. A humbling moment.

However, even the Paris Air Show didn’t escape American sequestration. For the first time in decades, no American jets were on display, and they were what I had been waiting for all that time! The US Air Force did, however, have its little booth in the American Pavillion (which, admittedly, was larger than I expected – American aerospace industry replaced the DoD that year).

See how sad it was? Only models.
See how sad it was? Only models.

There was something a little eerie about watching Russian aviation do its demonstrations and stunts, and never once be challenged by American jets. Alas, one can only hope that the 51st Paris Air Show, set to take place in June 2015,  will see things return to normal. And hopefully, I’ll be there, this time with a real camera.

America, please, don’t bring an F-35.


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