Report: Paris Air Show 2019, Le Bourget

Paris Air Show Le Boruget
Paris Air Show 2019, Le Boruget airport.

Paris was, once again, the capital of aviation while on Monday, 17th June the doors opened and the 53th Paris Air Show began. During the trade days a huge amount of contracts was signed and partnerships were defined. If you visit Le Bourget you can see everything is related to the aviation world, not only planes but also thousands of companies showing off their products, from nuts and bolts to ejection seats and whatever you can imagine or not. I have visited the show for two days and as it was really a lot to write about you can expect more articles about certain products in the next months. Here is just a “quick” report on what I have witnessed there.

One of the main focuses of this edition was on sustainability of aviation. The modern engines are much more “green friendly” than the previous generation, they burn less fuel and pollute less. The airline traffic is on the other hand also increasing and, even if the planes are more efficient and the airlines tend to fly them at their best economical speeds, the pollution caused by the airline traffic is rising concerns in the public opinion. The passengers want to fly more than 20 years ago, but they want to do it also cheaper and with a look on the foot imprint of the flight. Recently some French politicians even proposed to ban flights connecting French cities that are already well served by the TGV. Clearly it is something that is still far from reality, but the fact is that the aviation industry wants to show to the public opinion that is getting greener and it is investing in R&D to cut the emissions produced.

There are already planes powered by electric engines and among the flight displays it was possible to admire the flight display of Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro.

Will the next edition bring the flight display of a much bigger electric aircraft? The future of flying is also electric, we just have to wait to see how fast it will go. One important milestone was the order placed by Cape Air for 100 short haul all electric commuters Eviation Alice. Eviation is an Israeli company that’s developing the 9 seater Alice, that will be powered by three propellers. The first flight is set to happen during this year with the first deliveries in 2021-2022. Cape Air is also the largest customer of the Tecnam P2012 Traveller with 100 of them on order and it’s operating a fleet of 88 Cessna 402s and 4 Britten Norman Islanders.

One of the first big news that followed the opening ceremony was the mock up New Generation Fighter. A small model was still resting under a protective cover in the early morning at Dassault’s stand in the second hall. Less than two hours later a full scale model of the plane was unveiled at the presence of the French President Emmanuel Macron and the defence ministers of France, Germany and Spain. Spain joined the program to build this sixth generation stealth fighter that will replace the fleets of French Rafales, German Typhoons and Spanish F-18s. The cooperation between Airbus and Dassault was already announced at ILA Berlin previous year. Will other European states follow them? The United Kingdom is already working on the Tempest, that was presented last year at Farnborough. The first flight of the NGF is scheduled in 2025 and the entry in service between 2035 and 2040.

Coming back to the commercial aviation market there were, as usual, huge announcements from the biggest companies. However there was a pronounced decrease of orders. One of the reasons for it is the grounding of the 737MAX. Another one is the trade war between China and USA. Here is a brief recap of the week.

The total orders to the main producers at the show were 866 (down from 1226 of the previous show, in 2017):130 firm orders, 562 LOIs and 174 options. There were also 344 conversions of orders.


Airbus launched a new version of the A321neo, the A321XL, on the first day of the show. The plane will have a range of 8700 km and it will consume 30% less fuel per seat than comparable aircraft of the previous generation. The first deliveries are scheduled in 2023 and the launch customers will be Middle East Airlines.The order book for the A321XL boosted already to 240, thanks also to the numerous conversions of some airlines that already ordered the A321neo. There were no orders for the A350, the A220 had a good success and the A320neo was once again the battle horse of Airbus. Among the numerous agreements reached during the show, Air Asia converted their order for 253 A320neo to the same amount of A321neo. Cebu Pacific signed a MOUfor 16 A330-900s, 10 A321XLRs and 5 A320neos.

The A330-900s will have an incredible capacity of 460 seats and the A320neos will accommodate 194 seats. It is not clear how they will fit so many seats in those planes, but seems that the passengers will not be really comfortable…

American Airlines ordered a total of 50 A321XLR (30 conversions and 20 new orders). Delta ordered 5 more A220-110 (they had ordered before a total of 85 planes of this type). NAC (Nordic Aviation Capital) did some shopping at Airbus too and signed a MOU for 20 A220. Air Lease Corporation signed a MOU for a total of 100 aircraft ( 50 A220-300s, 27 A321XLRs and 23 A321neos). Qantas converted an order of 26 A320neos to the bigger A321XLR and ordered ten more aircraft of the type. IAG announced 14 firm orders for the A321XLR and an option for an additional 14. Saudi Arabian Airlines decided to expand their order of A320neos to reach a remarkable number or 100. They also added 15 A321XLR. China Airlines signed a LOI for 11 more A321neos on the third day of the show. Indigo Partners choose to convert an order for 18 A320neos for the A321XLR and signed for 32 more A321XLR. The Saudian LCC Flynas converted an order for 10 320neos for the bigger A321neo and signed a MOU 10 A321XLR. The A321XLR was ordered in total from 11 customers. One of them was also JetBlue that converted an order of 13 A321neos to the newest long range type and ordered 10 more A220-300.


Boeing started the first day with no orders. As mentioned above, the grounding of the 737MAXs is the biggest problem for the American company. Furthermore the 777X program is experiencing some delays. In this scenario there were no big expectations from the show. There was one big deal that showed to the world that the airlines still trust the 737MAX (the program could be also renamed very soon). IAG signed a purchasing agreement for 200 737MAXs (MAX 8 and MAX 10). The announce shocked Airbus and numerous sources are reporting that Boeing gave to IAG a really big discount for this deal, that could be up to 65% (the list price of the order is around 20 bln €). IAG ordered also 18 777-900 with an option for further 24. The planes will be used by British Airways and will replace the Jumbo Jets in their fleet. Air Lease Corporation committed to buy 5 787-9 Dreamliners. Korean Air decided to add more Dreamliners to their fleet, signing for 10 more 787-9 and 20 787-10. Turkmenistan Airlines will expand their fleet with a single 777-200LR with a deal worth approx. 300 mln €.

There were numerous successful deals for new freighters. ASL Aviation Holdings signed a MOU for 10 firm orders and 10 purchase rights for the 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighters (BCF). China Airlines plans to buy up to six new 777 Freighters. GECAS, the 737-800 BCF launch customer, signed an agreement with Boeing to exercise 10 purchase rights to firm orders and added 15 more options. Qatar Airways will expand their cargo fleet with five more 777 Freighters.


The four days at Le Bourget were not so strong as previous year’s Farnborough show for Embraer. The first day the Brazilian company announced a firm order for 20 E175s from United, with an option for additional 19 aircraft. The next day Embraer unveiled that Fuji Dream Airlines signed a firm order for two E175. However the deal was already known, but the customer was officially unveiled only in Paris. The Spanish carrier Binter confirmed a previously signed purchasing right for two more E195-E2s. The biggest European operator of E-jets, KLM Cityhopper, announced a firm order for 15 E195-E2s with purchasing rights for another 20. The company is already operating a fleet of 49 Embraer aircraft.


ATR was in a certain way the star of the show. The Franco-Italian manufacturer registered 145 order commitments. On the second day Nordic Aviation Capital signed a LOI for 35 ATR-72-600, with options for 35 and purchase rights for another 35. One of the main advantages of the aircraft is that emits 40% less CO2 than regional jets. The newest ATR-42-600S (a STOL version of the ATR-42-600) will have three launch customers: Air Tahiti, Elix Aviation and an undisclosed operator.


Before the show there were some rumors that Mitsubishi will announce the acquisition of the CRJ program from Bombardier. The companies were still in advanced negotiations and the agreement was finalized on 25th June. Mitsubishi will pay Bombardier 550 mln $ and will assume liabilities for approximately 200 mln $.

The MRJ program was freshly renamed as SpaceJet and a stretched version, the SpaceJet M100 was announced. An undisclosed North American customer signed a MOU for 15 M100. The aircraft will be delivered starting in 2024.

Boeing showcased the Air Tahiti Nui brand new 787-9 Dreamliner. The aircraft performed also flight displays. “Bora Bora” is the third Dreamliner in their fleet, the fourth and last on order will join them in august. The livery gathered the attention of the many visitors and planespotters.

Parked just near there was an Airbus A350-1000 of Qatar Airlines. The carrier was the first customer of the -1000 version. 

It fits the QSuite Business Class, a revolutionary product that can feature a double bed for the passengers flying in J. I did a quick tour of the plane and as you can see the lucky passengers can fly and rest almost as they were at home, or even better…

The economy class has a 3-3-3 configuration, the seats are 18 inches wide and have 32 inches of pitch. The cabin is lightened by LED lights that help preventing the jet lag. The latter, together with the amazing cabin crews and much more, helped Qatar Airways to win the Skytrax’s World’s Best Airline of 2019 award. The ceremony was held on the second day of the show. Here is the list of the first 10 Airlines of 2019, as you can see the only European company is Lufthansa (9th):

1. Qatar Airways
2. Singapore Airlines
3. ANA All Nippon Airways
4. Cathay Pacific
5. Emirates
6. EVA Air
7. Hainan Airlines
8. Qantas Airways
9. Lufthansa
10. Thai Airways

Behind the A350-1000 was possible to visit a Gulfstream G500 of Qatar Executive, the business jet subsidiary of Qatar Airways.

Airbus showcased various military aircraft: French Air Force A330 MRTT and A-400M, French Army Tigre helicopter, Portuguese Air Force C295, Serbian Army H145M, the mock up of a H125M and on Thursday unveiled the mock up of the H160M. Also drones had their part: an Aliaca, a DVF 2000 ER, an EuroMALE, the mock up of the VRS700. During the show Airbus signed with Lockheed Martin a MOI to jointly explore opportunities to meet the growing demand for aerial refueling for US defense customers.

The airliners were represented by an Air Baltic A220-300, an Airbus A321LR, an A321neo of La Compagnie in an all business configuration, an A330neo of Air Asia, the helicopters EC135 and H175.

Among the big ones there was also the prototype of the Vahana, the first certified electric, self-piloted vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) passenger aircraft. Following the decision to close the production line of the A380 there were no A380s on display, the first time from 2005. There is one of them stored at Le Bourget and it was quite sad to see it parked while watching at the flight displays…Howeverthe A380 of HiFly,in the “Save the coral reefs” livery, flew during the weekend, when the show was open to the general public.

Boeing’s presence was strong. Also in this case there was no space for their biggest aircraft, the 747. The market strikes to buy two engine planes, the Queen of the Sky will be still produced in the future, but the project struggles to get new orders. Starting from the military, there were a CH-47 Chinook and an AH-64D Longbow Apache of US Army,an F15-E Strike Eagle and a KC46A Pegasus of the US Air Force, a P-8A Poseidon of the US Navy.

Boeing’s chalet guested an exhibition about the Lunar Program Apollo and a mock up of the Boeing T-X (this type was developed in collaboration with Saab and will replace the fleet of T38 Talon). Besides the 789 Dreamliner of Air Tahiti Nui there was a 737 Boeing Converted Freighter of Prime Air. Boeing is, as Airbus, investing in self piloted vehicles and presented the Boeing Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV).

Lockheed Martin showed an F-35 Lightning II (this time there was no flight display), a C-130J Hercules, an LC-130H used in Antarctica and the civil version of the Hercules, the LM100J.

Embraer pavilion was celebrating their 50th anniversary, the last as Embraer since the company will be renamed in Boeing Brazil. An E195-E2 was painted in a beautiful “Profit Hunter” livery, the business jets were represented by the Praetor 600 and the military aircraft by the KC-390 and the Super Tucano. All of these planes, with the exception of the Super Tucano,performed a flight display.

ATR put on display an ATR 72-600 of Silver Airways. The Pakistan Navy was also present at the show with an ATR 72-500 MPA converted by the German company Rheinland Air Service in cooperation with Aerodata.

Dassault is at home in Paris, their exhibition included the mock up of the New Generation Fighter, a Rafale (the flight display is still one of the bests you can see at an air show), a Rafale Marine, a Mirage 2000S and the business jets Falcon 8X, Falcon 20E and Falcon 900LX.

More business jets were on display at Gulfstream’s stand: a G280, a G550 and a G650ER.

The Japanese presence was strong. Mitsubishi had a M90 on static display, Honda a Hondajet Elite, Kawasaki the twin engine military transport aircraft C-2 and the four engine maritime patrol aircraft P-1. Both planes are used by the JASDF. Since they are two really interesting projects we will write more about them in the near future.

Another country that had a strong showcase was Turkey. The Turkish Aerospace Industries unveiled the mock up of the TF-X. This is the Turkish response to the removal of the country from the F-35 program, following the purchase of Russians S-400 air defense systems. The TF-X is scheduled to fly in 2025 and enter service in 2028. The fifth generation fighter aims to be the best fighter aircraft in Europe. It’s also the first Turkish indigenous project of a fighter plane. TemelKotil, president and CEO of TAI, said that his company has enough know how to build it.

The Turks are working also on an advanced jet trainer/light attack aircraft, the Hurjet. The first flight is scheduled in 2023 and a mock up was on display at their stand. The attack helicopter T129 ATAK, that was developed from the Agusta A129 Mangusta, performed flight displays at the show. To complete the static display there were a multirole helicopter T625 Gokbey, an UAV Anka and a large palette of weapon systems.

The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra showed the JF-17 Thunder, a multirole combat aircraft produced in cooperation with China. One special color JF-17 flew on the first day, the second day was the turn of the JF-17 in the standard combat livery. The aircraft can fly at a speed of up to 1.6 Mach and was ordered also from Myanmar and Nigeria.

The Italian defense holding Leonardo unveiled on Monday the mock up of their new drone, the Falco Xplorer. The company already built one and there is another one under construction in the ex Meteorfactory of Ronchi deiLegionari, near Trieste airport.

Leonardo’s flagship is still the advanced trainer M-346 Master. Next to it was parked the M-345, this type is set to replace the MB-339A/PAN of FrecceTricolori. The strong tradition of the legendary AgustaWestland is now rebranded in Leonardo Helicopters. One AW139 of the Italian firefighters was at the show and it was announced that “Vigili del Fuoco” will buy another 5 AW139.

Let’s continue with helicopters. Bell presented a Bell 429, a 505 and a mock up of the 525. The Russians had two light multipurpose helicopters Ansat on static display, one in VIP and the other one in HEMS configuration. One aircraft performed also flight displays. It is remarkable that this was the first civil Russian type of helicopter showcased at Le Bourget after 30 years, the last one was a Mi-17-1VA “Ambulatory”. The NH industries had a NH-90 of the French Army Aviation (ALAT) that performed also flight displays.

Coming back to the planes, Pilatus had one PC-24, a PC-12 in a very special livery and a PC-21. The PC-24 is a huge sale success. The orderbook is strong and was reopened this year in may for the EBACE show: approx. 80 delivery positions for 2020 and 2021 were sold out in just a few days.

The Swiss company RUAG had on show a RUAG Dornier 228, a DO 328 was on static display at the stand of Sierra Nevada Corporation. Another turboprop, a Saab 340 equipped for maritime surveillance was on display at the stand of CAE Aviation.

The Dash 8 program changed owner less than one month ago. De Havilland of Canada debuted in Paris with a Dash 8 -400 of SpiceJet. The producer announced an order for six Dash 8-400 from TAAG Angolan Airlines, however the agreement was already signed at the end of march. The parental company of DHC is Longview Aviation and owns also Viking Air Ltd. that produces the DHC-6 Twin Otter. Air Antilles signed with Viking Air a commitment for 2 DHC-6-400. One Twin Otter in a special livery was on showfitted with various equipment and sensors produced by the Austrian company Airborne technologies and other producers. Another Austrian company (now owned by Wanfeng Aviation), Diamond Aviation, had on display a DA42MPP, a DA62 and a Dart 500 training aircraft.

Cessna came to Paris with a C172S Skyhawk, a Citation Latitude and a 208B Grand Caravan. Daher showed off the Socata TBM-940 next to a Quest Kodiak. Last but not least, the Beriev 200ES that did an interesting display and demonstrated it’s waterbombing capabilities.

Text and Images: AljoĊĦa Jarc -

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