Even the first-time Paris Air Show visitor knows the must-see action is along, and above, the flight line. But ignoring the 2,000-plus exhibitors who bring something less than a complete aircraft is a sure way to miss displays of some of the most innovative concepts. Here is a small sampling of worthwhile stops around Le Bourget this year, with a nod to three technologies: virtual reality, connectivity and additive manufacturing. 

Virtual reality engine runup

Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance, which now uses its MRO Lab to consolidate innovation efforts ranging from repairs to special tooling, will be showing several of its advanced products. Among them: virtual-reality Boeing 787 training for technicians. Developed in collaboration with Air France Group subsidiary HOP! Training by ICARE, the system reproduces an entire aircraft in a 3D setting and grants virtual reality “access” to the student. Air show guests will be able witness an engine runup using the technology. 

Hall 2B, #C137

Refueling from the fighter pilot’s perspective

Cobham’s exhibit is expected to include its recently released Virtual Refueling air-to-air refueling simulator. An active demonstration enables a participant to assume the role of a fighter pilot maneuvering his/her aircraft behind a tanker on a refueling mission. The simulator uses high-fidelity hose-and-drogue performance models that are designed to capture the physics of Cobham’s wing-pod and centerline systems, including a display of mishaps such as off-center contacts. Developed to enhance training to help decrease the risk of air-to-air refueling, the system is available in desktop, virtual-reality or full-motion versions.

Hall 2B, #E156

Connected aircraft I

Emergence of the connected aircraft is creating opportunities for suppliers of data-management and transmission equipment. Avionica specializes in both and is winning customers looking to equip both new and legacy aircraft. Cathay Pacific Airways recently tapped the avionics supplier to equip its fleet of Airbus A320s/A330s and Boeing 747s/777s with onboard servers, Iridium-compatible satellite communications systems, 4G cellular data transmission systems and quick-access recorders. Icelandair has chosen the same combination for its Boeing 737 MAX fleet. The package gives airlines global voice and data connectivity for myriad uses, including air-to-ground communications and automated wireless transmission of operational data. 

Hall 3, #DE19

Connected aircraft II

Connectivity will be a major airline industry theme long after this year’s show. Rockwell Collins is betting as much, and its recent purchase of B/E Aerospace underscores its confidence. While it is easy to see how the products of an avionics maker and an interiors specialist can combine well in the front and back of an aircraft, Rockwell Collins executives see far more integration potential. For instance, the ability to place sensors on cabin seats can lead to significant changes in the premium passenger experience, such as alerting the cabin crew when passengers wake up during a long-range flight and move their seats to upright positions, signifying they are ready for service. Similar technology could provide warnings of pending seat malfunctions, which could give technicians a heads-up before a broken premium seat becomes a threat to revenue. Rockwell Collins will be talking connectivity of all types—from throughout the cabin to flight-tracking—at the show this year.

Chalet 313, Row B

3D-printed structural parts

Norsk Titanium AS has spent more than a decade developing and commercializing additive-manufactured, aerospace-grade titanium components. In April, it announced a milestone purchase order from Boeing for 787 structural parts that use the supplier’s patented Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD) additive-manufacturing technology, which transforms titanium wire into parts with little waste. The 787 parts, which received FAA certification in February following a detailed testing program, will be the first 3D-printed titanium structural components to fly on an air transport aircraft. Attractive for its strength, titanium is gaining favor among OEMs. Norsk’s RPD process combines the benefits of titanium with the efficiency of 3D printing. Norsk will have some of its 787 components on display as well as a full-scale mockup of the company’s Merke I RPD machine that produces the parts.

Hall 1, #H299

Pushing 3D printing further

With additive manufacturing (AM) gaining interest across aerospace, expect a growing number of seasoned suppliers to crop up at the industry’s signature events. Renishaw’s AM technology will be making its Paris Air Show debut this year. Its RenAM 500M laser powder-bed fusion, or laser-melting, metal AM system will be on display, as will its QantAM software. Renishaw is part of Horizon (AM), a consortium of UK-based organizations developing AM for the aerospace sector. Other members of the Horizon (AM) team are GKN Aerospace, Delcam and the Universities of Sheffield and Warwick. The program is backed by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute.

Hall B, #G188

The innovation station

This year’s air show will have a new feature in a familiar space. Concorde Hall, so named for the two iconic supersonic airliners it houses, will be home to the Paris Air Lab. More than 20 exhibitors representing startups, industrial groups  and seasoned aerospace names will come together and show off collaborations that focus on innovation. Projects fit into several categories such as drones, passenger experience, sensors, advanced manufacturing and data analysis. Among the attractions are five virtual reality booths, a future vehicles booth and an “Earth seen from above” photo exhibition. Twice each day during the show, the Innovation Stage is scheduled to feature a representative from a startup pitching industry executives—and the rest of the audience—on the merits of a specific project.

Concorde Hall