Many would consider the United States of America as the birthplace of aviation; however, France made many contributions to the advancement of air travel. 2019 marks the 53rd edition of the famous International Paris Airshow, as well as Jetex’s 10th anniversary of our Jetex Paris Le Bourget FBO terminal. To mark these milestones we’ve gone back to where it all began to find out how France contributed to the aviation world.
The first company of its type, the Syndicat d’Aviation started by Gabriel Voisin and Ernest Archdeacon in 1905, began with two biplane gliders. It was the first company to specialize in building and designing aircraft exclusively. In November 1906, Gabriel Voisin and his brother Charles formed Voisin Fréres, the first commercial aircraft company. The Voisin Company built gliders and airplanes, producing around 20 units before World War I broke out in 1914.
In 1908 the American Wright brothers, making great advances in the USA, visited France to demonstrate the military advantages of their original ‘Wright Flyer’ machine. Their achievements were passing the American public by almost unnoticed, hence their trip to France where aviation was thriving. They presented the first controllable powered aircraft to the French army and their flights also came to the attention of two French brothers – Rene and Gaston Caudron. The French brothers later went on to set up flying schools in Pau and Le Mans, where pilots trained on Wright machines.
The list of firsts does not stop there. On 25 July 1909, Louis Bleriot made history by becoming the first person to man a flight between continental Europe and Great Britain. Early that morning he set off from the beach near Calais. With no compass and an open cockpit he flew at a height of about 250 feet (76m), at 45 miles per hour.
His plan to follow a French navy frigate across the channel failed as thick fog descended halfway through his journey. He continued and finally spotted the English coast and the sight of a man steering him in with hand signals. He crash landed (and thankfully survived) near Dover and made aviation history, completing the journey in 37 minutes.
It seems the early aviation industry attracted siblings, with the Farman brothers – Henri and Maurice – making great strides in evolving the design and manufacturing process. What we would probably call a ‘speed demon’ nowadays, Henri was attracted to racing. Along with his brother they set a tandem speed record in 1894 and Henri later became an automobile racer. After a major crash, his attention turned to aviation where he excelled. He completed the first closed-circle flight of a kilometer in Europe. Then, on October 30th, 1908 he made the first cross-country flight, between Mourmelon (Bouy) and Reims, France.
In 1912, the brothers formed the Société Henri et Maurice Farman. Farmans became one of the most popular aircraft of World War I, as their plant was the only one prepared to fulfill large orders.
The First World War was a pivotal time for French aviation. At the end of the war, in 1918, France was producing more than 2,700 planes each month. The most successful aircraft was considered to be the Breguet Bre. 14. In the last two years of the war almost 5,500 were produced. The plane went on to service the first European airmail flights, flew the first passenger routes, as well as completing outstanding long-distance flights. In 1919, it flew 1,180 miles (1,900 kilometers) from Paris to Kenitra, Morocco.
The Race to Commercialize
After the war, enterprising businessmen saw an opportunity to offer flights to the public. In 1919 a group of French entrepreneurs began flying routes across the English Channel between Paris and London. By late 1919 they were offering a daily service for up to 14 passengers.
In 1933 Air France was formed from a takeover of the bankrupt Aeropostale and was inaugurated at Paris Le Bourget Airport. They streamlined routes, condensed the fleet and made improvements to passenger comfort with the addition of heating and luggage racks.
French aviation continued to grow, but other nations including the USA and Great Britain, perceived the importance of aviation technology for warfare and politics. They began funding their own research and development and making considerable technological advances. Then came the Second World War, this time rather than advancing the industry, it destroyed it. Factories were looted and engineers fled or were deported.
Operations were greatly reduced during the Second World War and in 1945 Air France became state-owned. It simultaneously became a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), enjoying great success in the ‘golden-age’ of air travel in the 1950’s, serving champagne and hot meals on-board.
In the late 1950’s things started to pick up again, with the development of the mid-range jet the ‘Caravelle’ – successfully exported to United Airlines in the USA. Then, perhaps the most advanced creation was developed by Aérospatiale together with the British Aircraft Corp. The Concorde, launched in 1969, could fly from London to New York in just three and a half hours. But the supersonic jets operated at a loss for thirty years and after a series of fatal accidents, were formally retired in 2003.
France’s contributions did not stop there. Aérospatiale was a founding member of the European consortium that went on to become Airbus. Their first plane, the A300, entered service in 1973. At a time when the USA dominated the aircraft market, the Airbus cemented itself as a leader with the successful A320 and A330 jets. It was firmly accepted as a rival of Boeing in the global market.
Fast forward to today and the aviation industry in France is thriving, with firms covering all segments of the market, including transport aircraft, business aircraft, helicopters and engines. Multinational companies including Airbus, ATR and Dassault continue to lead the way in aeronautics.
Alongside the innovative and enterprising individuals making great strides in aviation, they were supported by the International Paris Airshow – started in 1909. It showcased the important innovations being made in France and round the world. Now organized by the French aerospace industry’s main body, the Groupement des Industries Françaises Aéronautiques et Spatiales (GIFAS), the show regularly attracts over 100,000 attendees and is held every other year.
In 1927 Charles Lindbergh brought fame to the exhibition, after landing at Le Bourget following the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris. 1969 saw the Concorde Supersonic Jet and the Boeing 747 introduced and in 2005 the Airbus A380 was first presented.
2019 marks an important year for Jetex as we celebrate our 10th anniversary of our FBO location at Paris. Our team, based at Paris Le Bourget Airport itself will be happy to discuss your business aviation needs, including trip planning, fuel uplift and ground handling services. Find out more about the International Paris Airshow, or take a look at our Paris Le Bourget services. Visiting Paris? Take a look at our guide to six things to do in the city.
Chartering a private jet to France
As well as our flagship Paris le Bourget location, we also provide FBO locations and services across the whole of France. In 2017 Jetex partnered with EDEIS, specialists in infrastructure management, to bring you 15 locations:
Annecy Mont Blanc, Auxerre, Bourges, Châlon, Cherbourg, Dijon Bourgogne, Le Havre, Nimes Camargue Cévennes, Reims, Tarbes Lourdes Pyrénées, Toulouse Francazal, Tours Vale de Loire, Troyes, and Vannes Golfe du Morbihan.
Each location can offer bespoke concierge services for your local requirements. Jetex at Paris le Bourget (LBG/LFPB), our first FBO location, services the busiest business aviation terminal in Europe. If you’re travelling to the South of France for summer, Marseille (MRS / LFML) offers direct access to the French Riviera and helicopter transfers to Monaco.
Annecy (NCY/LFLP) provides good access for skiing across the border in Switzerland and serves as an alternative for Geneva Airport. We now cover two airports in Toulouse, Francazal (LFBF) and Blagnac (TLS/LFBO), offering 24/7 concierge services and fuel arrangements.
To find out more about our services in France, including fuel, permits and permissions, contact our Team at firstname.lastname@example.org