© 2024 WKNO FM
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

2019 International Air Show Opens In France


The Paris Air Show is underway outside of the French capital. It's the world's biggest aviation and aeronautics fair. It's held every two years, and normally, it's a week of dealmaking and bragging. But this year, the atmosphere is low-key after the deadly crashes of two Boeing planes, plus there are tensions over security and trade. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley has the story.

UNIDENTIFIED USHER: The Paris Air Show to the left, please.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Some 350,000 people are expected to visit the planes and high-tech equipment on display this week, and they began pouring in on Monday morning. That's when U.S. plane-maker Boeing launched its first press conference and got straight to the point.


KEVIN MCALLISTER: I'd like to start today with clearly what's front and center on all of our minds, the 737 Max. First, we are very sorry for the loss of lives as a result of the tragic accidents of both Ethiopian 302 and Lion Air 610.

BEARDSLEY: That's Kevin McAllister, CEO of Boeing commercial planes. He said safety is Boeing's top priority in everything it does. He said the company is doing everything it can to get the Max safely flying again but would not give a date. McAllister said this is a pivotal moment for Boeing.


MCALLISTER: It's a time to capture learning. It's a time to be introspective. And it's a time for us to make sure accidents like this never happen again.


BEARDSLEY: This year, the usual high-stakes competition between plane-makers Boeing and Airbus is subdued, says aeronautics editor Gil Bousquet.

GIL BOUSQUET: The mood is quite strange this year for the Paris Air Show 2019 because of the 737 Max crisis.

BEARDSLEY: Bousquet says it's terrible timing for Boeing, but he says Airbus isn't blowing its horn too loud, either, out of a sense of fair play and respect.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Thank you very much.


BEARDSLEY: Still, the European plane-maker inked its first orders for its new A321neo XLR, a single-aisle, fuel-efficient long-range jet that will open up new routes previously unserved, says Bousquet.

BOUSQUET: For instance, from Budapest to New York. Or you can fly from Texas or Florida in any city in South America with these airplanes. So it's a big change in the aircraft industry.

BEARDSLEY: Boeing had been set to announce the development of a plane for this same market but was derailed by the Max crisis. Analysts say the aviation market is in a downturn with far fewer orders expected this year. There is talk in the U.S. of slapping tariffs on the aeronautics industry to protect American jobs. Clay McConnell, head of communications for Airbus Americas, says tariffs would do just the opposite in what is now a global industry.

CLAY MCCONNELL: There's no such thing as a European aircraft or an American aircraft. Large commercial aircraft today are comprised of components and capabilities from all over the world.


BEARDSLEY: The air show is also a magnet for many of the world's arms buyers, who come to preview fighter planes and the latest military technology. Daily flyovers of supersonic jets always transfix the crowds. This year, French president Emmanuel Macron stood with the defense ministers of France, Germany and Spain, all women, to unveil a mock-up version of a next-generation European fighter jet. The joint initiative is touted as key to ensuring Europe can defend itself without having to depend on allies in an increasingly uncertain world. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.