The Countdown to the 2023 Paris Air Show

The International Paris Air Show is the world's oldest and largest aerospace exhibition. How did it all begin?



June 12, 2023

DALLAS — In preparation for the 2023 Paris Air Show, to take place from June 19 to June 25, let's take a trip down memory lane and fly back to 1908 when a section of the city's motor show was dedicated to 'aerial locomotion' for the first time.

A year later, six years after the Wright Brothers achieved the first manned, powered, sustained, and controlled flight by a heavier-than-aircraft, the city's Grand Palais on the Champs Elysées hosted the first dedicated air show called "Exposition Internationale de Locomotion Aérienne," attracting 380 exhibitors and over 100,000 visitors.

Little would the organizers know that it would become the genesis of one of the world's largest aerospace events, where industry players meet up, seize commercial opportunities, present their expertise and innovations to the world, and form technological and industrial partnerships that shape the future of flying. 

The Paris Air Show, the world’s oldest, first opened its doors in 1909. It has held at the Grand Palais in Paris. Photo: Airbus

From Grand Palais to Le Bourget

Visitors to the 1909 Air Show at the Grand Palais could see The Wright Flyer on static display, and the star of the show was the Blériot type XI with which the aviator Louis Blériot made the first successful flight across the English Channel that year. 

There would be four more air shows in Paris before the First World War. The show resumed in 1919, and it was held every two years from 1924 until 1938, a year before the Second World War interrupted it again.

The Paris Air Show resumed in 1946 in the Grand Palais, and from 1949 flying demonstrations were staged at Paris Orly Airport (ORY). Since then, the event is staged in odd years. The last iteration of the air show before moving it into Le Bourget Airport (LBG) was in 1951.

In 1953, the French Union of aeronautical industries (today’s GIFAS) of French aeronautical manufacturers drew up plans for an exhibition hall at the southern end of Le Bourget Airport. The aircraft were thus in their element and demonstration flights could be put on alongside the static display.

The 1953 air show was thus the first to be organized in the format that still prevails today: indoor halls for the stands, an outdoor static exhibition area for aircraft, and exhibitor chalets around the north-south runway to enable demonstration flights during the event.

The Paris Air Show in 1969. Photo: Airbus

From the Dawn of the Jet Age to the Cold War

In the late 1950s, the dawn of the Jet Age ushered the Paris Air Show into a new era, where American aerospace manufacturers began to gain more prominence, and the air show began to grow its global dimension.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the air show was the stage for the East and the West to show off their aerospace capabilities during the Cold War era. The reason was nothing but to gain a psychological advantage during the Cold War and spread their influence by attracting potential buyers.

The 1969 Air Show brought the Boeing 747, the Apollo 8 command module, and the Concorde to the stage. It was perhaps one of the most iconic events in the long history of the air show.

As the Cold War began to fade away in the 1980s, and the aerospace industry players rejigged into large industrial conglomerates, the rivalry was no longer between countries but between companies. Also, the countries represented in the air show began to grow from 26 in 1979 to 34 in 1989, and 49 in 2019.

Photo: Paris Air Show

The Paris Air Show Today

The 54th edition of the International Paris Air Show returns after a four-year hiatus forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, as one of the world’s largest and oldest air shows in the aviation and aerospace industry.

With over 2,453 international exhibitors from approximately 50 countries and a display of 140 aircraft, the 2023 Paris Air Show is set to be the epicenter of the global aviation industry.

Established players such as Airbus, ATR, Boeing, CFM International, Embraer, Honeywell, and Safran come together with new disruptors in the industry like Joby Aviation, Maeve Aerospace, and Lilum will mark their presence, showcasing their best and most innovative products and services.

Photo: Paris Air Show

We'll always have... Paris

A lot has changed in the four years since the largest air show, measured by the number of exhibitors and size of exhibit space, was held in person. Aviation analytics firm IBA says that about 2,100 aircraft could be ordered as airlines replace older equipment and prepare for future growth in air travel.

This will challenge manufacturers to increase production while slots for narrow-body jets, such as Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, are sold out for years. Apart from the aircraft orders to be, Paris has a lot more to offer.

All of the major players in the global aerospace industry are going to be present at the 2023 Paris Air Show, and your Airways team will be at Le Bourget from June 18 to June 21, bringing the latest news, analysis, and content as the show unfolds.

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Featured image: Paris Air Show 2023. Source: Airbus