The 49th International Paris Air Show, known locally as “Le Salon du Bourget” and recognized as the world’s oldest and largest air & space industry exhibition, took place June 20-26, 2011 at Le Bourget Airport.
Located on the outskirts of Paris, the airport is the very site where Charles Lindbergh landed after the first trans-Atlantic flight over 80 years ago. The event saw a participation of more than 2,100 international exhibitors that exhibited over 140 aircraft from 14 countries. One company that shined at Le Bourget was Olney, Texas-based Air Tractor Inc., and its highly-successful European dealer – Valencia, Spain-based company Air Tractor Europe.
The second joint appearance of these two companies at the Paris Air Show marked the third year in row that the Air Tractor brand was at the Paris Air Show.
The teams were lead by Mr. Lee Jackson of Air Tractor Inc. and by Mr. Vicente Huerta of Air Tractor Europe and Avialsa T-35.
Despite the fact that this year’s Paris Air Show was smaller than that of 2009 and 2007, this event can be considered highly successful for Air Tractor Inc. and Air Tractor Europe.
Paying tribute to Mr. Leland Snow, the US-Spain company duo exhibited two highly impressive aircraft: the fire-fighting amphibious AT-802A Fire Boss and the counterinsurgency (COIN) AT-802U. The AT-802A Fire Boss represented the most successful single-engine fire fighting aircraft of all time and is owned by Air Tractor Europe’s sister company, Avialsa T-35 S.L.,
Thanks to the affordability, ease of operation and maintenance, high sophistication in terms of its water, foam and retardant dispersal systems, over 415 AT-802As have been manufactured. The AT-802A is flying in US, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Cyprus, Israel and Australia.
Many other wildfire-affected countries are seriously considering employing these unique aircraft for protection of their citizens and national interests. The highlight of Air Tractor’s presence at the 49th International Paris Air Show, however, was the two-seat armored and armed AT-802U COIN aircraft.
It was the very same aircraft that appeared at Le Bourget in 2009 with one very significant difference – this year the AT-802U arrived at Paris not as a demonstration-of-concept aircraft but as a pure combat plane that is already operational.
Designed to support special operation units from forward locations, the versatile, rugged and dependable AT-802U was exhibited at Paris with new types of weapons along with the Wescam MX-15Di retractable airborne reconnaissance infrared sensor turret.
Unlike 2009, this Wescam unit was connected and powered to demonstrate its capabilities to the professionals that were interested in this small fighting beast. The AT-802U is able to carry out complex, 10-hour plus intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions while carrying a weapons load of up to 8,164lb (3,703kg).
The Paris Air Show also produced an important announcement for the Air Tractor community. Air Tractor Europe’s sister company Avialsa T-35 S.L. presented EUREKA’s Eurostars Program a 1.99 million Euro project for creation of an advanced training center for the AT-802 aircraft. The project is scheduled to be completed by December 31, 2013 and includes a flight simulator system, officially named Flight & Navigation Procedures Trainer (FNPT), for pilots of AT-802 aircraft in land and amphibious configurations.
The simulator will be developed with unique capabilities to simulate fire-fighting missions with a level of fidelity and accuracy as described in the JAR-SDT 3A for an FNPT. The successful completion of this project will significantly help in increasing the quality of training of AT-802 pilots, and will definitely supplement the recent appearing of the two-seat AT-802 Fire Boss amphibian fire-fighting and training aircraft.