Published June 20, 2013
Planes, planes and more planes are hitting the skies this week at the world’s oldest and largest airshow.
Celebrating its centennial, the 50th edition of the bi-annual, seven-day International Paris Air Show kicked off on Monday and runs through June 23 -- and FoxNews.com is there to bring you an exclusive tour of the chalets, the food, the wine and of course, the planes.
The Paris Air Show started back in 1909 with a focus on "aerial locomotion" at Paris’s Grand Palais. Over the years, it moved to Le Bourget airport -- familiar to Americans as the site of Charles Lindbergh’s landing in 1927 after the first non-stop transatlantic flight between New York and Paris.
Every afternoon some of the 150 aircraft on display take to the sky over the historic city, putting on spectacular flying displays.
Major players in defense and commercial aviation gather from around the world to showcase their best, about 2,200 companies from 144 countries. In all, more than 350,000 visitors will be cruising the aisles looking at more than 32 acres of the latest in aviation tech.
The show is commercial as well as military: Those searching for just the right cabin interior for their private jet are shopping alongside military personnel looking at state-of-the-art composite materials for stealth systems.
Window-shopping military clients will find more than aircraft, however. The show is also jam-packed with spacecraft, satellite telecommunications, aircraft engines, airborne weapons systems and more.
Shopping for defense aircraft – French VIP chalet style
The Paris Air Show is one of the major networking events in the aviation industry calendar, drawing people not only for the aircraft but the opportunity to make deals Parisian-style.
Some of the major players here opt for their own chalets to entertain, meet with clients and sell defense technology. Their luxurious chalets feature terraces that overlook the runway, meaning guests and clients get a close-up VIP view of all the flying performances.
Inside these chalets you'll find open bars, gourmet food and highly professional "Downton Abbey"-style staff. And for jaunts to and fro about the show, the personal chalets come equipped with its own golf buggies.
Merely lunching with five guests in one of these VIP chalets alone will set you back more than $4,000.
Set against the very French backdrop of chalets and air spectaculars, business does gets done, of course. At the Last Paris Air Show, 14,000 were aircraft sold.
So who are the target shoppers for chalet-invites? 54,000 official delegates representing military, governments, and airlines from 100 countries or so are expected.
The U.S., U.K., Belgium, Italy, Germany and France traditionally go big -- but increasingly so are China and Russia.
Americans in Paris: Boeing, Raytheon and Future Rocketeers
As you'd expect, American aviation giants like Boeing have a strong presence. The company brought a pair of 787 Dreamliners: one is flying daily displays while the other remains on the ground. The ScanEagle unmanned aircraft system is meanwhile playing a role in the U.S. Corral display.
On Monday, U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Greg Masiello, Joint V-22 Program Manager, U.S. Naval Air Systems Command gave a popular briefing on the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey and recent operational deployments.
The Engineering Student of the Year award sponsored by Boeing was given during Flight Awards held at the Musee de l'Air et de l'Espace (Museum of Air and Space) on Tuesday evening,
Raytheon opted for a very interactive experience for visitors: Those popping by the company’s pavilion can see the wearable Joint Tactical Air Controller for dismounted soldiers. And Raytheon is letting people try it on and have a go.
Visitors also get the chance to get their hands on an F-16 Flight Console that gives military pilots integrated battlefield information. Raytheon challenges guests having a go with very realistic scenarios.
Like Boeing, Raython has brought a raft of subject matter experts briefing on key tech from interceptors like the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle and sensing innovations that can detect and track ballistic and cruise missile threats. Wednesday’s briefing focused on precision engagement with air launched weapons like the Small Diameter Bomb II, Griffin and Paveway.
Young American Rocketeers
On Friday, American, British and French student rocketeers will compete in the annual international rocketry global championship.
The Georgetown 4-H team from Georgetown, Tex., bested 99 teams in the recent U.S. finals for the chance to represent the United States at the Paris Air Show.
The first four days of the Paris Air Show are exclusively for those in the business.
However, unlike many of the big events on the international weapons’ shows calendar, this show opens up to the public and draws some big crowds. Two years ago, more than 200,000 general visitors showed up -- that’s about 25 percent more than the visitors in the biz who pitched up to peruse, network, buy and sell.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.