The 41st Paris Air Show flight director, Claude Martin, is in his fifth year bearing the responsibility for Presentations en Vol – flight operations safety. He ensures that all flights are conducted in accordance with safety rules specifically developed for this show.
In view of his “day job” as a test pilot for the French Flight Test Centre, Martin relates very well to airshow pilots. The gray hair and squint lines around his darting eyes affirm his years of experience in a cockpit.
This airshow is unlike most others in that it takes place at an airport which remains open to public air traffic even while some flight demonstrations are taking place.
The airspace associated with Le Bourget airport is divided into five categories. A1, a pie-shaped patch in front of the reviewing area, is reserved for highly maneuverable light aircraft and helicopters. This area has an altitude limit of 3,000 ft. and may even be used in times of limited visibility. Area A is a slightly larger slice of pie with the same altitude restriction. Both these areas can be used without stopping general aviation traffic on Runways 7/25 at Le Bourget.
Area B1 is used by light- and medium-transport aircraft and fighter aircraft that can remain within this slightly enlarged area. Traffic stops at Le Bourget but continues unhindered on Runway 10/28 at Charles de Gaulle (CDG). Area B lengthens the airspace northeastward. When this area is used by less maneuverable aircraft, traffic stops on the southern runway at CDG.
Area C has no precise geographical limits. Its use is reserved for planes with limited maneuverability such as large transports and parachute jumping with higher altitude requirements. Its use is allowed only in exceptional cases and involves intensive air traffic control coordination with CDG.
Visiting pilots of some 50 aircraft participating in the aerial demonstrations are given a thorough daily briefing and issued a pilot guide that covers all phases of the aviation activities likely to be encountered at this airshow. They are cautioned to do their jobs and not to compete with one another. Acrobatics are authorized only with special authorization. Martin’s description of acrobatics as any attitude in excess of 90 degrees, is a bit more liberal than most.
Flight crews are allowed rehearsals prior to show time and an authorized French pilot, appointed by Martin, is available for on-board familiarization of the geographic limitations for the appropriate demonstration area. To ensure the safety and smooth operation of the show, Martin presides over, ”The Conseil des Sages” (Council of Wise Men), an advisory board that provides assistance to flight crews and is sympathetic to their needs. The council is also consulted before any disciplinary action is taken against pilots violating any of the airshow rules.
Air traffic continues to increase yearly at both Le Bourget and Charles de Gaulle and the job of flight director just gets bigger. Martin, around six feet tall and with a broad engaging grin, handles the swirl of activity adroitly. The Paris Air Show still has room to grow and so does he.