Paris Air Show’s top brass deny rumours of F-35 snub

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“We are still waiting for a positive answer from the Americans,” insists event’s boss amid speculation about political controversy.

Senior figures in charge of organising this year’s Paris Air Shows have denied rumours they declined to invite the US Air Force to fly the F-35 fighter jet at the extravaganza of civil and military aviation.

The plane, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is expected to sit out the world’s largest air show when the event takes place this summer.

The news was first reported in Aviation Week before being followed up by other specialist publications covering defence.

American website Defense News reported comments from Pentagon insiders who said no invitation to bring the F-35 to the show at Le Bourget had been forthcoming, but today at a press briefing at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, Emeric d’Arcimoles, chief executive of the Paris Air Show, said this was not the case.

He appeared to suggest that misapprehensions that the show was in some way connected to the French state may have led to a misunderstanding about who was responsible for inviting the Americans.

“The state has no authority inside the air show,” he said. Around - of course. Above - of course. But not inside. That is very important.

“Sometimes they didn’t understand that and... were very astonished not to receive any official invitation from the French state, but it’s not at all the case. They will never receive any invitation from the French state.”

He had been surprised to read rumours of a snub, he said, adding that his team had “twice been to Pentagon”.

Gilles Fournier, managing director of the event, also insisted the F-35 had been invited and said there had been no official response from the Americans as of yet.

Fournier told journalists: “To be clear, with the F-35, officially we are still waiting for a positive answer from the American authorities. Unless we have no answer, we can expect we will get it.”

He added: “Lockheed is an old customer of the show and has always been there from the beginning, from the ’50s, and is still there - but Lockheed is not the one that decides because the US military aircraft are always conducted by the US Air Force.”

The reasons for the aircraft’s possible absence from the billing at the famous air show are still unclear, but there has been speculation that the decision became embroiled in a degree of political controversy.

Though several major US allies are buying the F-35, France buys the French-made Dassault Rafale fighter plane instead.

President Trump has in the past been critical of the costs of the F-35 development programme, which was commissioned by the US military.

Lockheed Martin will have a chalet at the air show and is expected to be marketing the F-35 to potential purchasers by way of a static display.

Around 20 aircraft will fly at the show during the display this year, it is understood. These will include the Brazilian KC-390, a military transport aircraft – but there will be no flying cars, the organisers today confirmed.

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