Connecting flights Wichita aviation companies head to the International Paris Air Show to network and show off their wares

Jun. 17--Nat King Cole may have loved Paris in the springtime, but for Wichita's aviation industry, June means business at the International Paris Air Show.

Wichita planemakers and suppliers are headed to the 47th biennial show at the Le Bourget Airport just outside France's capital. The world's largest airshow and aviation industry gathering opens Monday and runs through next Sunday.

Two recently formed Wichita companies -- Spirit AeroSystems and Hawker Beechcraft -- will display at the show for the first time since they were founded.

About a dozen marketing, sales, supply management and other leaders from Spirit will attend. The company, which was created in 2005 from Boeing's former commercial unit, will have a booth and a chalet at the show.

It's a good way to get the company's name out and gain exposure in the industry, said Debbie Gann, Spirit's senior marketing manager.

"All of our key customers and people we'd like to do business with all converge in Paris," Gann said. "You just have incredible access to those folks and you have some incredible meetings."

Hawker Beechcraft will have a large presence at the show. Most of its products will be on display.

Formerly Raytheon Aircraft Co., the company was renamed after it was sold to Onex Corp. and GS Capital Partners. The deal closed in March.

With demand in Europe for business aircraft rapidly growing, "we're expecting more activity at the show," said Hawker Beechcraft spokesman Mike Turner.

Paris may seem glamorous, but it is grueling for those who work the show, with long days starting early in the morning and ending late at night.

It's also an expensive undertaking, "so you want to make every hour count," Gann said. The costs include transporting and housing employees in Paris during the show and renting booth space or chalets at Le Bourget.

For large manufacturers, the costs can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Hawker Beechcraft spokesman Mike Turner.

The Paris Air Show is held every other year, alternating with the show in Farnborough, England. Aerospace, business jet, military, space and helicopter industries will be represented.

The last Paris show, in 2005, attracted 460,000 visitors, 3,500 journalists and 2,000 exhibitors from 42 countries.

The show opens less than a month after the close of the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition, a show focused on corporate aircraft. EBACE has grown significantly since it began in 2001.

That has forced some business jet makers to decide between the two. Over the past five years, Cessna Aircraft, for example, greatly reduced its presence in Paris, which focuses more on the defense and aerospace markets.

That's changing. Cessna is increasing its presence at this year's show.

"We think Paris does provide another excellent forum for us," said Cessna spokesman Bob Stangarone.

Five years ago, roughly one-third of its sales were outside the U.S., Stangarone said. Last year, 48 percent of its orders were from customers outside the country.

"We see that trend continuing," Stangarone said.

Big companies such as Boeing, Airbus and General Dynamics will get plenty of attention at the show. But with major manufacturers subcontracting higher percentages of their production, it's an increasingly important show for subcontractors, and many smaller Wichita companies will be represented.

Mid-Continent Instruments will have representatives at the show. Electromech Technologies, a Wichita electromechanical systems manufacturer, will have a booth featuring its smart actuation systems.

And Kaman Aerospace, which operates Plastic Fabricating Co. in Wichita, will share a chalet with 15 to 20 other companies.

That allows the company to meet customers and host luncheons and breakfasts, said William Brown, Kaman Aerospace vice president for business development.

Coordinating all the meetings takes effort but is effective, Brown said.

"We can meet so many more companies in a four- or five-day period of time without having to travel all over the world," he said.

In addition to businesses, organizations will also be represented at the show.

The Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition has appointments set up with companies at the show to encourage them to expand or locate in Wichita. The Kansas Department of Commerce will be there, too.

The goal is "to put our face in front of decision makers," said GWEDC president Patrick French.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or []

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