Confessions of a Paris Air Show 2013 Journo: My Personal Thoughts and Wrap-Up

The British Airways Airbus A380 turns to land as the Airbus A400M holds short of the runway.

The British Airways Airbus A380 turns to land as the Airbus A400M holds short of the runway.

Reported from Toulouse and New York by Jason Rabinowitz, @AirlineFlyer

Paris Air Show 2013 was a crazy event from start to finish, and it is time for a post-show wrap up. This article isn’t going to be a typical “here is who ordered what at the show” article. Instead, this article details my experience at the show, what I saw, what I liked, what I didn’t like, and everything in between. However, here are some of the major highlights real quick: Airbus landed 466 orders versus 442 from Boeing. Ryanair firmed up their huge 175 737NG order, Boeing launched the 787-10, Air France-KLM ordered 25 A350-900s, Singapore finalized their order for 30 A350-900s, some more details came out on the still not launched 777X, and a whole bunch of other airplanes were ordered. Got that all? Ok, good. Let’s move on.

Extra: Coverage of Day 1, 2, and 3 here.

Because this was my first time at the show, I really didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into. Each day at the show reporting for Airchive was just me, my phone, and my bag of equipment, consisting of my DSLR with two lenses, a laptop, and various wires to keep everything charged up. All of this equipment adds up pretty quickly, and was a huge energy suck to carry around all day. It wasn’t until day two that I learned about lockers in the media chalet. Hey, better later than never.

Each day started off just about the same. I would head to the media chalet and check what press conferences were happening when and where. Often times, multiple conferences would be going on at the same time, and I would have to decide which was more important. Sometimes I got it right, other times not so much. I typically gauged if I was at the best conference by who else was there. If I didn’t see anyone I knew, I had screwed up. However, if I walked in and saw Jon Ostrower, Stephen Trimble, Ned Russell, and some other awesome aviation journalists, I knew I was in the right place. More often than not, thankfully, I had made the right call.

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair CEO, is always good for a laugh at any press conference

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair CEO, is always good for a laugh at any press conference

Press conferences occurred all over Le Bourget Airport. Some would be held in the manufactures chalet, others were held in a conference building. Of course, those two places were nowhere near each other, and was quite a walk in the either brutal heat or pouring rain. Press conferences were often laid back, with CEOs joking with well-known journalists throughout. This was great to see in person, as it really humanizes the entire process. As each press conference ended, all in attendance would scurry off back to their temporary places of business to write up an article, and I would plan my next move.

At times, there would be a long enough break between conferences that I could explore the rest of the air show, where most other journalists never went because they simply didn’t have the time. Some of the larger manufactures had absolutely massive chalets. Inside, you could find full scale mockups of aircraft cabins or flight decks, simulators, models, and really everything in between. I was lucky enough to try out several Eurofighter Typhoon simulators of varying sizes. I guess I need some more practice, since on one simulator I approached the runway too fast, and had to go-around. On the second attempted, I landed safely, and the manufacturer didn’t have to bill me for the cost of the aircraft.

Eurofighter Typhoon Simulator

Eurofighter Typhoon Simulator

Each day at around noon to 2pm, the air displays occurred, and I always made an effort to try to see as much as I could. Sometimes there would be a press conference scheduled during a display, so it was a tough call of which I wanted to attend. When I did get to the flight line, it was quite a show. In my opinion, Airbus put on the most interesting displays, by far. Yes, an Air India 787 was present and did some impressive moves, but Airbus really stole the show. First up, the legendary A380, not an aircraft you that comes to mind when you say the word “graceful,” really impressed me. A brand new British Airways A380 was on hand, and Airbus pulled all the stops to show us what it could do. Aggressive take offs, high angle rolls, dipping, diving, even a high alpha pass! Absolutely amazing, without question.

The British Airways A380 up in the air, doing tricks.

The British Airways A380 up in the air, doing tricks.

After the A380, a different breed of Airbus put on one heck of a show. The A400M, a C130 like military aircraft, had me in awe. While the A380 was rolling and diving, the A400M took it to another level. Flying sideways seemed to be no problem for the A400M, it was just another day in the air for this aircraft. It made for some spectacular photos, and even better memories.

Airbus A400M flying sideways, because it can.

Airbus A400M flying sideways, because it can.

Each day ended the way it began, with an unpleasant shuttle bus back to the train. The shuttle bus would quickly become the arch enemy of tens of thousands of air show attendees. The weather the week of the air show was unseasonably warm and rainy in Paris, and it turns out that the French don’t believe in air conditioning. Those on their way back to Paris would pack onto unventilated buses in 90 degree heat, and then sit in traffic due to the lack of a dedicated bus lane. Several trips got so bad that passengers hit the emergency switch on the door and walked the rest of the way. Not a great way to end the long day.

The Paris Air Show, simply put, was amazing for me. Each day was action packed, with non-stop news, excitement, and new experiences. Covering the show was tough at times, however, as there was simply too much news going on at once. At the end of the day, I think I chose the right press conferences, and got out as much breaking news as I possibly could. If I were to go back again, I would make a few changes to my plan of attack, but for the most part, I think I did ok!

Extra: Check out my full photo album from the floor of the Paris Air Show here


Extra: Also check out my photo album of the flying displays from the Paris Air Show here

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