By Sangeeta Saxena

Le Bourget. 17 June 2019. Day 1 at Le Bourget definitely went to Airbus in a surprising environment of no onemanship between the traditional rivals Boeing and Airbus. The clouds of 737 Max still seem to be hovering over Boeing.  Paris Air Show began with virtually no queues and a smooth entry compared to previous years though it did not spare us of long walks with taxis deserting midway due to kilometres long jam on the main road outside. But that did not diminish the adrenaline running high.

The President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, inaugurated the 53rd edition of the Paris Air Show. It was a day of futuristic plans as he presented the future Franco-German combat aircraft, which should be launched in 2040. Recently joined the Spain the three nations will the three ministers of the Armed Forces  formally signed a framework agreement for it. The prototype of the fighter is expected to fly  in 2026 and the service entry is going to be 2040. Led by Dassault Aviation and Airbus the project attracted a lot of attention today.

Unlike previous years where both Airbus and Boeing rained announcements it was just Airbus holding press conferences to make big announcements. And the surprise package was Embraer’s announcement.  There were around 150 order commitments with only 28 firm on the opeing day of the show making it the slowest first day in the history of Paris Air Show.

Virgin Atlantic ordered 20 (14 plus 6) A330-900neos to replace existing A330 aircraft in its fleet which have an average age of over 10 years. Expected  delivery of the new aircraft is from 2021. Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines (MEA) became the launch customer for the A321XLR which was unveiled today with an order of four.

United Airlines ordered 20 Embraer 175 aircraft and took options for 19 more in an order worth up to USD$1.9 billion.These Embraers will replace some of United’s older aircraft as part of their regional fleet replacement program.

The  day also reiterated the fact that lessors hold the supply of aircraft to the airlines industry with their flexible purse strings. Air Lease Corporation turned out to be the biggest buyer by ordering 27 of the A321XLRs and  signing letter of intent for 50 A220-300s and an additional A321neos to top up an existing order.

It was a quiet day for Boeing at the show expectedly as rumours floated that the anticipated first flight of the 777x has been pushed back and a delay in the expected announcement of  Qatar being the first Boeing 797. Although expected, Boeing has formally announced in a statement that there will be no launch of the ‘797’ or New Midsize Aircraft (NMA) this year as they’re still assessing the business case. Probably Day2 at the show will see Boeing back in its old form which we all missed today.

But before the end of Day1 came the news that Leasing company GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) has ordered 10 777 Freighters, converting them from purchase rights to firm orders, as well as adding options for 15 Boeing 737-800BCFs. LONDON – Ahead of the Paris Air Show 2019 Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation officially announced its newly named Mitsubishi SpaceJet family of aircraft.

Japan’s Mitsubishi  entered the show with a name change.  SpaceJet will be the commercially recognised name for the Japanese aircraft manufacturer which includes the SpaceJet M75, M90 (previously known under the developmental designation of MRJ90) along with a new additional member, the larger SpaceJet M100, will introduce a new standard in regional air travel. The Mitsubishi SpaceJet family of aircraft is designed to address the growing demand in the ever-expanding regional jet market.

Bombardier Commercial Jet which is virtually at an end saw next to nil announcements  of any form at the show. The final sale of its CSeries program (rebranded the A220) to European icon Airbus SE earlier this year, and closing a multi-million dollar deal with Canada Longview Aviation for the sale of its Q400 turboprop aircraft several weeks ago, marked the beginning of a no Bombardier era for the shows. Sad but strategically thought of exit from the aircraft manufacturing arena to greener pastures.

ATR the leader in regional aviation market had no announcements to make on the Day1 but their ATR 72 of Pakistan Navy did attract a lot of attention. Germany’s Rheinland Air Service (RAS) the Mönchengladbach-based MRO and modification house has converted this ATR-72 into Sea Eagle configuration for the Pakistani Navy. An order was placed by Islamabad in 2015 and work on the program started in January 2016. The aircraft on display is the second one modified for Pakistan.

Russian aviation returned to Paris after a gap of five years due to western sanctions. Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) has on a static display its  Be-200ES amphibious aircraft which is mainly used for firefighting (it can take 12 tons of water on board), as well as for search and rescue, maritime patrol, cargo, and passenger transportation. Ansat Russia’s modified helicopter both in its medical and VIP transport variants is being showcased at Le Bourget . The last time Russian-made civil rotorcraft participated in Paris Air Show was 30 years ago, at 1989, when the EMS-modification of Mi-17 was demonstrated at Le Bourget. But no sales announcements came for Russian aviation today. With MAKS 2019 coming up probably Paris is not a sales arena for them.

The Aviation Industry Corporation of China, Ltd. (AVIC) is taking part in the 53rd International Paris Air Show, displaying its key commercial and defense products . In its first participation in the Paris Air Show since 1986, AVIC plans “to exchange ideas with foreign counterparts to enhance cooperation and demonstrate its capabilities to expand the international market with a strong ‘AVIC’ branding.” A range of selected defense products, including fighter and trainer jets, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), military helicopters and transport aircraft are being showcased. The dual-seat JF-17 and AC312E helicopters make their international air show debut in mock-ups. AVIC also displays a portfolio of civil products, including the MA700 passenger aircraft and the Y-12E and Y-12F commuter aircraft.

Israel has a heavy presence including  the Defense Ministry’s Sibat export authority as well as the state-owned companies Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael, privately owned Elbit Systems as well as a host of smaller players such as Aeronautics Limited, UVision and jet engine maker Beit Shemesh Engines. Elbit’s Hermes 45 drone, designed to provide enhanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for ground forces in units as small as brigades and divisions, as well as by naval squadrons is a major attraction.

The first day ended with a lot of excitement in the skies with transporters and fighters thundering over the Le Bourget skies. The helicopters and drones were nit to be left far behind. It was a visual treat to see the flying display. So bye till I tell you more about all that is happening in Le Bourget. The show continues.