Bjorn’s Corner: Paris Air Show review


By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

June 18, 2015, c Leeham Co: With the industrial part of Paris Air Show over (the public portion continues through the weekend), one can start to summarize impressions. I have over the years participated in around 10 Paris Air Shows or Farnborough International Air Shows. This was one of the first where one could see that people were stopping and looking up to observe the aircraft which were quiet.

Once upon a time
Traditionally air shows have been events where the coolest aircraft has been the one which has made that cracking noise, virtually so that the ground has shaken. This was still the case two years ago at Paris when the mighty Sukhoi 35 made its spectacular display. It was a display of sheer grunt together with an aircraft that would turn and wrestle in almost any angles and maneuvers; spectacular.

But it was not very useful for anything else to impress and it stopped most business conversations during its 15 minutes display flight. This year it was different. No massively noisy military jet, the Dassault Rafaele’s display was good, hard work for the pilot who was under high G load for almost the whole display. Pakistan’s JF17 Thunder was not bad, like an F16 when it came out.


PAC/CAC JF17 Thunder. Source: Wikipedia.

But not extraordinarily loud or brutal neither of them and people observe with interest but it was nothing new.

This show it was instead the quiet aircraft which caught the headlines.

The whisperers


Airbus electrical experimental aircraft E-fan. Source: Airbus.

Most quiet of them all was Airbus new electrical aircraft, the experimental E-Fan. This one cannot hear unless one stands near when it starts or lands, there is a slight wind noise from when its body passes the air but apart from that one can’t hear anything, it is so quiet. The day when normal transport aircraft can be electrical or hybrid power aircraft, air traffic will change. No need to have airfields long from City centers and no problem with overflight of housing areas. It will be just another ball-game and air transportation will change as we know it.

We are not there yet but we are moving. The CSeries aircraft CS100 and CS300 were at an air show for the first time. Each day at noon, the CS300 made a display flight. Instead of emphasizing things like take-off and landing performance or maneuverability, the pilot focused on showing how quiet the aircraft is in different situations around an airport. Climb after start, turn in a circuit, circling and landing, it was all quiet and very comfortable. The people on the chalet terraces could comment to each other what they thought about the display and inside the buildings the business conversations could continue. The difference to normal display flights were marked, it was the new era, showing what is coming.

New widebodies

After the CSeries came other modern aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787-9, They were quiet as well, perhaps not to the degree of CSeries, but quiet. And the displays were once again laid out to emphasize the absence of strong sounds in normal maneuvers. A couple of extravagant maneuvers were made, like the 787-9 escalator start. For a pilot, not very spectacular but the show attendees liked it and they thought it was cool and “must be dangerous.” It is not. One gathers enough speed to then climb at a steep angle on the excess speed. The only spectacular thing about the maneuver is that the pilot might have to apply negative G to get the nose down. In such case he will see who cleaned the aircraft last. Any dirt and object lying on the floor will hit the roof, not so pleasant, a bit messy but not dangerous.

More electrical

The new era in civil aviation is quietness and more electrical. The first hybrid small aircraft were shown in the display area where electrical engines coupled with the propeller shaft gave a power boost under a certain time, just as with the Porsche which won Le Mans in 24 hours in the weekend. Air transportation has started on a journey of quietness and convenience. We better collect monsters like the Sukhoi 35 in flying museums so that it can be brought out for future air shows, to show how it once was. Those were the days when conversations stopped between 13.00 and 15.00 during show days, whether one wanted or not.

It is then a reminder of days that were when the noise was the spectacle. In the future the silence of the hybrid and electrical aircraft will be the spectacle. The conversations on the verandas of the chalets can be made in normal conversational mode; the only problem will be to know which aircraft is flying. It used to be that a few seconds of listening solved it, but this will no longer possible. Now you’ll have to step out to see which aircraft is gliding around the airfield for the display.

12 Comments on “Bjorn’s Corner: Paris Air Show review

    • @sowerbob, a draft version of Bjorn’s Corner inadvertently got published. It edited and finalized a short time later.

  1. Sad to see the noise go. I like the wave of the future but the heart thumping sound of a hot jet making noise will be missed.

    I loved going to Drag races, great noise (ear plugs these days though!)

  2. I think it was the Sukhoi 35 at Paris 2013, not the Su 33.
    It can be hard to tell sometimes, but the Su 35 has no canards and thrust vectoring engines.
    Su 33 is the carrier based version, with canards and larger folding wings

    • Thanks, what I remember it had thrust vectoring, changed.

  3. Bjorn, something I’ve wondered about the 787-9 high-angle takeoff that I haven’t seen asked or answered anywhere else on the web — is the airplane approaching stall conditions at any time in this maneuver? If so would the airplane have to be put into a special direct-law-type of mode to allow this maneuver?

    • The airplane is not close to stall. When it pitches up from generating speed and thereby extra energy it pulls some g’s but speed is high. On the top speed is low but then the wing is not loaded as he is either pulling negative g or very close to zero g to get the nose down, ie no or very little load on the wing = no stall.

      The maneuver us clever, spectacular yet perfectly safe as long it is done with exactness and precision which is the rule for all display flying.

      • Thanks, Bjorn, for the informed reply. It does sound an ingenious move, for visual effect.

        But the plane does lose velocity as it is going up at that high pitch, so wouldn’t that mean that the plane would eventually stall if the nose weren’t brought down? If so, how much longer do you think the plane could have been held at that pitch without stalling?

  4. Comparing the performance of the JF-17 with the F-16 is a bit of a stretch. I’d wager the turns displayed by the F-16 were about half as wide while flown at a higher speed.

    Most notable was the absence of the Typhoon from the show. It wasn’t even present in the static park – or maybe it was just well hidden in some remote corner?

    Another observation: It wasn’t just the contrast with a mixed-model fleet of Qatar airplanes that made the 787-9 in Vietnam livery stand out as the airplane with the most beautiful livery, hands down.

    • I referenced to the F-16 displays at LeBourget in the 1970s and 80s, of course. Oh, the golden times… 🙂

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