Paris Air Show preview: Anniversaries, AI and heavy metal
Paris Air Show preview: Anniversaries, AI and heavy metal

As Rafael Nadal hit the winning shot over the net at the Roland-Garros stadium in the Bois de Boulogne, French eyes begin to turn to the skies as the next major event to rock the city of love steps to the main stage.

Freight from all over the world is being driven into the exhibition site at Le Bourget airport to the north of the French capital, and aircraft are this week carrying out practice routines to achieve their validation for the 53rd Paris Airshow.

The International Paris Air Show is organised by the SIAE, a subsidiary of GIFAS, the French Aerospace Industries Association. It opens on Monday and runs through to June 23 – with the final weekend a spectacular display for the general public.

Two years ago, more than 140,000 trade visitors and almost 2,400 exhibitors made the Air Show the biggest event of its kind worldwide – and 2019 looks set to match the previous edition.

Anniversaries

It is, after all, a year of special anniversaries.

75 years ago, we had the D-Day landings leading to the end of the second World War. At Le Bourget, look out for Douglas C-53, a Skytrooper from 1942 which dropped American paratroopers into France for that event. She flew over the Normandy beaches last week and has been in Germany for the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift before heading to the French capital for next week’s airshow.

There are triple celebrations of 50 years, with Airbus commemorating its golden jubilee, while it was 50 years ago that both the French and British Concordes made their first public appearance at the Paris Airshow.

Probably most memorable was, of course, the moon landing and expect this year's show to feature several astronauts using this occasion to push space very firmly back into the spotlight.

New tech

A number of innovations and new technologies were developed through this period of the late 1960s, and this year’s Paris show will be showing some of the latest developments that will be changing the industrial face of aerospace.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is disrupting the industry with its ability to augment advanced safety features in aircraft, enable the workforce to offload repetitive tasks, and enhance real-time responses to customer issues and complaints, among other benefits.

A third of aerospace and defence executives ranked AI as the technology that will have the greatest impact on their organisation over the next three years.

In fact, one-third of aerospace and defence executives ranked AI as the technology that will have the greatest impact on their organisation over the next three years, according to the latest Accenture Technology Vision 2019 report for the Aerospace and Defence industry, which will be presented during the show.

This year, at the show, French technology giant Thales pulls back the curtain to try and provide a glimpse of how AI should actually be viewed - not with distrust but with an understanding of how it should be, that is: transparent, understandable and ethical.

The Thales TrUE TrUE AI approach stands for Transparent AI, where users can see the data used to arrive at a conclusion; Understandable AI, that can explain and justify the results; and finally an Ethical AI, that follows objective standards protocols, laws, and human rights.

Visitors to the Thales display will be taken through a journey to discover how AI will make our world more secure, more efficient and, most importantly, put the human at the centre.

Heavy metal

But of course, the show is also about the heavy metal.

Star of the show is likely to be Israel’s Eviation, which will bring its all-electric aircraft, Alice, to Paris

It is powered by the magniX magni250, whose 375-hp engine will enable the nine-passenger composite commuter aircraft to kick-start the all-electric regional commuter market with zero emissions.

Eviation says its plane will be able to cruise at 275 mph with a maximum range of 650 miles, with a half-hour of recharging time for every hour in the air.

Priced from $3.5 million to $4 million depending on options, Eviation claims that the plane’s reduced maintenance demands and the much lower cost of electricity relative to aviation fuel will give it direct operating costs at best of $165 per hour, or 7 cents per available seat mile  60% to 75% less than turboprop planes with comparable seating capacity.

From a more traditional aircraft perspective, watch out for Mitsubishi.

From a more traditional aircraft perspective, watch out for Mitsubishi.  The newly named Mitsubishi Space Jet will be making its show debut following the name change for the 90-seat MRJ. The company says development of the MRJ is in a final phase and that deliveries could start in the middle of 2020.

It is also looking closely at the development of a 70-seat aircraft to meet the US market demand. Meanwhile, talks with Bombardier continue with the potential for the Japanese manufacturer to acquire the CRJ programme from the Canadians and put itself in a strong position within that regional sector.

Mitsubishi has been tipped to launch a 76-seat Space Jet at the show that meets US regional airlines conditions. With a purchase of the remaining Bombardier commercial aircraft business and its North American manufacturing site along with its global product support, Mitsubishi could well become the only clean-sheet, modern-engined, scope-clause-compliant regional jet available anywhere in the world.

Airbus will be presenting the whole gamut of its services and products and there will be plenty of interest in the first A321neo single-aisle aircraft destined for La Compagnie, which will showcase an all-business class cabin with 76 full-flat seats for transatlantic flights between Paris and New York.

Also present in the static display will be the "Vahana” – Airbus’ single-passenger (or cargo), all-electric, fully-autonomous, vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) demonstrator.

In the rotary wing sector, there will be other newcomers and propositions.

Russian Helicopters will be showing its Ansat – the first helicopter to be created during the latest period of the Russian Federation’s history, and it will make its European debut.

The multi-role aircraft is being utilised as an air ambulance in its homeland and the Ansat on the static display will show this configuration as well as its fully glass cockpit.

Unmanned

Of course, unmanned aircraft will be popping up all over the show.  

Israel’s Elbit Systems’ Hermes 45, a  small tactical unmanned aircraft system, will make its first public appearance on the Paris static display area.

The UAV combines extended range and duration with point launch and recovery, to and from land and maritime platforms for full ISTAR capabilities. Hermes 45 is operated by a two-person crew, launched from a short onboard platform rail, and is recovered by an automated spot landing system.

There is no doubt that Le Bourget is a must-see attraction. There is unlikely to be a whole raft of airline orders but there is plenty more to indicate the strength of the plans for flight of the future.

Game, set and match!

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