I have a weird relationship with planes and flying in general. On the one hand I am fascinated by it. The technology, the sheer power behind a plane weighing a few hundred tons to lift off and carry me safely around the globe….
Then again I am afraid of it. Sitting in a plane, and especially over water, and especially at night, can freak me out. My mind runs amok thinking about everything that could co wrong… and I have to shut myself off and distract me.
And still, I made my trip around the world on planes, 46 flights in total, some 170.000 km in pretty much every Boeing and Airbus model currently in service.
So when I saw that the Salon Le Bourget, the Paris Airshow was on, I just had to hop on a Thalys train and go to see it, when they open the salon for the public on the last three days.
I arrived just in time to see the new Airbus A350 take off, a beautiful plane that just entered into service with Qatar airways in early 2015. Made mostly out of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer, it’s lighter than any of its predecessors and sports a newly designed nose and cockpit. It’s already one of Airbus’ best selling planes.
The demonstration was impressive, just after take off it went into a steep rise, to gain altitude quickly for the various fly-overs, and made some impressive turns.
For someone who, in every little rattling turbulence, fears that the wing might break off, this was a reassuring sight. Those planes can take and fly quite some manoeuvres, looking happy as a fish in the water.
It was followed by its big bulky brother, the massive A380. Not really an elegant plane, it’s the best way to fly, and whenever I get to chose, I try to get a ticket that will have me enjoy a silent, comfortable flight on the A380.
The crowd was cheering as it took off, and I felt quite a bit of Euro-pride about these planes, a joint effort of European companies that broke the US dominance in the air plane sector.
After all, a bit of competition is good! Unfortunately there were no scheduled flights of Boeing’s Dreamliner, but I had seen the production line back in Seattle already.
French military fighter Rafale was next, an impressive and intimidating show, mostly for the enormous noise that one plane made.
Agile as an eagle, it flew loops and spiraling turns that were breathtaking… The sheer energy output that thing has…. but it kind of also freaks me out a bit, being somewhat underneath. I have to fight my impulse to duck and cover.
The old-timer Mosquito and the reassuring Canadair water bomber, an aircraft designed and built specifically for aerial fire fighting, were a welcome change of scenery.
Finally I got to marvel at the aerobatics of a squadron of the French Armée de l’air, painting the Paris sky with the national colors.
All in all, a great day. I got a huge sunburn, running around the air field without a hat or sunblock, but it was worth it.