Paris Air Show 2003

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Fans Enjoy The Spectacle...

The Paris Air Show opened over the weekend at Le Bourget, delighting crowds of spectators with fighter planes zooming overhead, and bringing a bout of nostalgia as an Air France Concorde made its last landing, destined for the airport's aviation museum. Unmanned aerial vehicles, many of them freshly tested in warfare in Iraq, are getting lots of exposure and interest. An assortment of vintage aircraft are assembled for static and aerial displays, including a replica of the Blériot XI, the first aircraft to cross the English Channel; a Piper Cub; a DC-3; and a B-17. But the World War II-era Flying Fortress is the only U.S. aircraft that spectators will get to see take to the air. The current crop of the U.S. arsenal stayed on the ground. For the first time at this event, a dedicated static display area has been set aside specifically for UAVs, accompanied by five days of industry-based presentations. Show organizers were upbeat, if restrained, in their first-day news release: "At the end of the day, the number of visitors was similar to 2001. The Paris Air Show organisers are pleased with this result, which confirms the public interest in vintage planes and current aircraft. Many people admired the Patrouille de France flight demonstration (the French acrobatic team) which celebrates its 50th anniversary. This level of attendance is quite good, considering this was a hot day and transport was difficult."

...While Industry Frets About Slump

The dearth of U.S. military presence, plus the impact of a slow economy, reflect the continuing stress on the industry. Overall, exhibit space is down by 5 percent over the last show, in 2001, and aircraft on static display are down from 226 to 206. American exhibitors number 200, down from 350 last time. The U.S. military presence is cut severely -- only six military aircraft are on the field, and none of them will fly. High-ranking military officials are not attending for their own reasons, and many U.S. corporations have cut back for economic reasons, for a reduction of about 20 percent since the last show. Raytheon is there with its T-6B trainer, but Cessna stayed away altogether. "This is the worst economic crisis this sector has ever known," Boeing spokesman Jean-Marc Fron told United Press International. "We're in the middle of this crisis. We hope that in the next two or three years, the airlines will recover, and start ordering new aircraft -- and that we've positioned ourselves to supply what they need." Russia is showing only a Yak-130 trainer. MiG and Sukhoi fighter jet designers kept their aircraft away, saying they feared they would be impounded in a legal dispute with a Swiss company, Noga. Noga says the Russian government owes it more than $60 million from business deals in the early 1990s, and tried to seize Russian planes at the last air show.