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If you enjoy the thrill of a heart-stopping experience, you should have been with me at the Paris Air Show this past week. The jet fighter screamed past the spectators, then stood on its tail and then shot straight up, engines roaring as if it were a rocket rather than an airplane. After gaining altitude, the fighter rolled over on its back in a long arc until the plane pointed straight down, accelerating rapidly towards the earth. As my heart rate started rising, the pilot pulled the fighter onto a smooth, level course in front of the crowd, which included six United States Senators and a host of other dignitaries from around the world.
Welcome to the Paris Air Show!
A highlight for me was the opening of the U.S. Pavilion, where I had the honor to introduce several distinguished Americans, especially Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the President’s Representative to the Paris Air Show, holder of the Congressional Medal of Honor and a much respected figure in and out of the U.S. Senate. Other speakers included the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, Michael Donley and the U.S. Chargé d’Affairs, Mark Pekala.
Commercial Service Paris also escorted the members of the U.S. Congressional delegation from the Senate Appropriations Committee to their meetings at show. The delegation was led by its Chairman, Senator Inouye, accompanied by Senator Thad Cochran (Mississippi), Senator Tom Harkin (Iowa), Senator Richard Shelby (Alabama), Senator Byron Dorgan (North Dakota) and Senator Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma). The final highlight of the day was the opening night gala Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) reception for 1100 American exhibitors and guests at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador.
The Paris Air Show, Europe’s largest aerospace exhibition, takes place every two years at the Le Bourget exposition site and airport. Over 300 U.S. exhibitors, including 162 companies and American states exhibited inside the U.S. Pavilion (organized by Kallman Worldwide) – the largest national delegation at the show. The Commerce Department’s acting Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services, Mary Saunders, was also on site to meet with her counterparts from governments around the world who send representatives to this huge biennial event.
The activity was non-stop as business deals were discussed in the corporate “chalets” that line the flight line at the airfield, while enjoying great views of the flight demos. The CS team at the U.S. Commercial Service Paris (CS Paris) office within the U.S. Embassy Paris, together with the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC), jointly support the commercial and military aspects of the show, with assistance from several other U.S. government agencies, including the FAA and NASA.