Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Paris Airshow 2013: On your marks, jet set, go!

By Bryony Jones, CNN
updated 5:36 AM EDT, Wed June 12, 2013
The Patrouille de France acrobatic team performs a flying display at the Paris International Airshow on June 24, 2011.
The Patrouille de France acrobatic team performs a flying display at the Paris International Airshow on June 24, 2011.
  • 50th Paris Airshow -- world's largest aviation industry event -- takes place from June 17 to 23
  • More than 2,000 exhibitors from 44 countries around the world will display their wares
  • 2013 highlights include flight demonstrations by Russian Sukhoi Su 35 fighter jet
  • Boeing and Airbus are both expected to announce a flood of new orders

Editor's note: CNN's Bryony Jones will be reporting from the 50th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget. Follow her on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Hollywood's stars may have moved on from the red carpets of Cannes, but the real "jet set" -- the CEOs and executives who decide how, when and what we fly -- are heading back to France.

The A-listers of global aviation will be at Le Bourget from June 17 to 23 for the 50th Paris Airshow -- the biggest and most important event in the industry's calendar, where billion-dollar deals are done at the edge of the runway as stunt pilots swoop through the skies overhead.

More than 2,100 companies from 44 countries around the world will fly in to showcase their wares at Le Bourget; from jumbo-sized jets and massive manufacturing tools to the tiniest springs, cogs and other components, as well as high-tech concepts which may not see the light of day for decades.

In years gone by, the show, held at the airfield where Charles Lindbergh landed after his pioneering transatlantic flight in 1927, has seen the debuts of some of aviation's key developments -- from Concorde to the Boeing 747 and the Airbus A380.

Read more: And the world's best airport is...

This time around, those hoping to spot aerospace's next big thing may be out of luck. With just days to go before the visitors arrive, it is still unclear whether the industry's two most eagerly-awaited new planes, Airbus' A350 and Bombardier's C-Series, will be at the show.

Both companies have warned the planes will be too busy carrying out flight tests to attend -- but industry experts say there's an outside chance they may still be spotted in the skies above Paris.

"We're still waiting to find out whether the A350 will put in an appearance," said Murdo Morrison, editor of aerospace industry magazine Flight International. "That certainly would be a highlight -- it's one of the newest and most exciting aircraft, but it and Bombardier's C-Series are at a critical point in their development.

"It becomes a bit of a fight between the marketing people, the publicists, who want the company to get all the best headlines, and the engineers who are working to critical deadlines to get the plane ready to fly as soon as possible," he explained.

Read more: Can 'game-changer' live up to name?

"What may happen is they pop in for one day -- fly in and then fly out again -- or even, in the case of the A350, that they do a flypast, without even landing."

Le Bourget: Aviation history

1927: Charles Lindbergh lands at Le Bourget after non-stop transatlantic flight

1951: Le Bourget becomes the venue for the Paris Airshow, previously held in the city and at Orly Airport

1969: Supersonic jet Concorde and Boeing 747 make their debut at the show

1973: Tupolev 144 crashes during a flying display, killing six crew members and eight people on the ground

1983: NASA's Space Shuttle Enterprise makes an appearance atop its Boeing 747 transporter plane

1989: The world's largest plane, the Antonov 225, flies in, carrying Russia's Buran space shuttle

2005: Airbus unveils its A380 super-jumbo at the show

2011: Solar Impulse's display showcases the possibilities of solar-powered flight

With or without the C-Series and the A350, there will be plenty to look at, with flying displays, aerial acrobatics and all manner of military and commercial hardware ranged around the airfield for visitors to get up close to.

Boeing is flying in not one but two 787 Dreamliners, and Airbus says that visitors will still be able to explore a full-size model of the A350's cockpit and cabin -- whether or not the real thing arrives.

Show organizers say one of the highlights of the show for the general public (204,000 of whom visited in 2011) is likely to be the flying demonstrations by a Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet.

And fittingly, given that 2013's event will be the 50th Paris Airshow, there will be some looking back: homegrown French plane manufacturer Dassault will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its Mystere 20 business jet -- the first of which will be on display at Le Bourget.

Read more: Are drones the highways of the future?

But Morrison said the real purpose of the event, and the reason for its significance, is the dealmaking and discussions that go on behind closed doors.

Throughout the show, the conference rooms and chalets lining the runway will play host to scores of high-powered briefings and meetings (in 2011 there were 151,000 trade visitors and 290 official delegations from around the world) at which aerospace movers and shakers will shape the future.

"The real reason the Paris Airshow exists is the industry side of things, the chance for face-to-face talks between suppliers and potential customers, the 'down-in-the-weeds' business discussions," he said.

"For some manufacturers the show is all about the race for orders, how many deals they've signed, and others make a point of avoiding that. But nobody really goes to Paris and decides there and then, 'I like that, let's buy two,' -- it's the meetings that matter.

"It's not about past glories, it's all about looking to the future: where the industry is going, rather than where it's been."

Follow all the action at the 2013 Paris Airshow via our Twitter list

Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Mon June 24, 2013
Is it a plane? Is it a drone? Next time you look up and see vapor trails spreading across the sky, bear in mind that the aircraft you're looking at might just be both.
updated 1:36 PM EDT, Fri June 21, 2013
Raytheon's JLENS aerostat is designed to carry out surveillance missions, hovering high in the air 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 30 days at a time.
Previously the airship was hailed as the future of flight: as glamorous, luxurious and fashionable. Is it the new dawn of the dirigible?
CNN's Richard Quest and Bryony Jones have been at the 50th International Airshow this week. Here's what they've seen and heard.
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
I am always being asked "'what makes the best airline?" Richard Quest reveals what airlines can do to become a frequent flyer favorite.
WWII fighter aircraft steal the show at the 2003 International Airshow in Paris.
From stunning aerial displays to solar flight, CNN flies through time with some of the show's best moments.
updated 5:36 AM EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
An A330-200 Airbus plane of Emirates airline at the Harare International Airport on February 1, 2012.
Emirates has been voted the world's best airline by passengers at the annual Skytrax World Airline Awards.
updated 8:52 AM EDT, Tue June 18, 2013
File picture showing passengers about to board an Air France plane at Le Bourget, airport, North of Paris in 1946.
From Charles Lindbergh's record-breaking landing to solar flight, CNN takes a look back at the Paris Airshow's most memorable moments
updated 5:36 AM EDT, Wed June 12, 2013
The Patrouille de France acrobatic team performs a flying display at the Paris International Air Show on June 24, 2011 at Le Bourget, near Paris.
Hollywood's stars may have left Cannes, but the real "jet set" will descend upon Paris for the 50th International Air and Space show.
updated 9:20 AM EDT, Thu June 13, 2013
Aviation expert Tim Robinson looks at how the BRIC countries are entering the elite club of aerospace manufacturing.
updated 9:25 AM EDT, Thu June 13, 2013
air france plane flying
Are drones being used for pizza deliveries? When did the first commercial jet plane make its maiden voyage? Find out if you are a plane geek.
Police and military forces are increasingly reliant on unmanned aerial vehicles to carry out risky tasks. So just how easy is it to pilot one?
Supersonic aircraft are just like buses: You wait years for one, and then two come along at once: rival "son of supersonic" concepts have been revealed.
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri June 7, 2013
Some things you just know for a fact. First man on the moon: Neil Armstrong. First to achieve powered flight: Orville and Wilbur Wright. Or were they?
Aircraft maker Boeing and parts manufacturer Honeywell both flew planes to the 2011 Paris Airshow using a mixt of biofuels and jet fuel.
Pilot of a Sukhoi superjet 100 practices his flight presentation routine on June 11, 2009
See the full coverage, including all the aerial acrobatics and business buzz, of the 2013 international airshow at Le Bourget airfield in Paris.