On 13 June the Paris Air Show – arguably the world’s premier international aerospace event – opened its doors to trade and later in the week welcomed the general public. This high-profile event is held every other year at Le Bourget airport in Paris.

Each show attracts a record-breaking number of visitors and 2009, despite the grip of an unprecedented economic crisis, was set to be no exception.

In 2007 the Paris-based international air show attracted over 400,000 visitors and 1,996 exhibitors, while in 2009 over 2,000 exhibitors were expected to attend.

For seven days of the event the site must handle large numbers of visitors and traffic – and it hasn’t always gone smoothly.

The Paris Air Show has been criticised in the past for not handling its traffic effectively.

Even Air Show deputy managing director and sales director François Roudier previously joked with Aviation Today after the 2007 event that “the best way not to be in the traffic jam is to visit Paris and watch the show on TV”.

Congestion concerns

Roudier, however, did make a serious point. Public transport is weak and the only highway into Le Bourget becomes completely saturated, which brings traffic to a standstill. Although visitors are warned to arrive as early as possible at the show to avoid delays, this does create a problem despite the fact that the number of shuttles to and from train stations has increased.

“The Paris Air Show has been criticised in the past for not handling its traffic effectively.”

To help with alleviating the traffic this year there were free shuttle buses for public running regularly to encourage use of public transport. For visitors travelling by train, a free shuttle ran from Le Bourget RER station from 8.45am to 7pm every 30 minutes. On the metro a bus ran between La Courneuve and the show.

Despite this, the traffic management of vehicles trying to get into the show and on site has still created massive headaches. While at the show we caught up with Paris Air Show deputy logistics director Wilfrid Gruner to find out how the site was dealing with traffic outside and inside the showground.

Who have you been working with to organise the traffic outside of the show this year?

Traffic outside the show area has been outlined and established under the rule of a préfect order, which has been the synthesis of about ten workgroup sessions involving state representatives from the préfecture of Seine Saint-Denis, police forces and the Salon International de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace [International Air and Space Show].

What needed attention to keep the traffic flowing this year?

The working groups outlined the main traffic roads for those who would want to access or leave the show site. The result was that we decided to remove some traffic restrictions and replace some traffic lights by setting up police agents at strategic points to better cope with flow of cars near the show site, namely at rush hour. Specific road markings were implemented as well, to help visitors access the show ground.

What systems are in place to cope with the traffic inside the show ground?

Within the show area, traffic is organised by two schemes: the first scheme has consisted of the implementation of a specific car park aimed at exhibitors, business visitors (including the press) and the general public. It can welcome about 10,000 vehicles per day. The second scheme allows more than 4,000 vehicles per day within the chalet line to pick up or drop guests. In many ways, this space represents the largest reception area in Europe for seven days.

“To help with alleviating the traffic this year there were free shuttle buses for public running regularly to encourage use of public transport.”

What challenges have you faced in implementing these schemes?

These schemes have been made harder to implement due to the fact that the site is rather narrow in size and because of security controls and aircraft movements in the static area, which often disrupt traffic near the chalets.

What systems are in place to help the flow of traffic when it becomes disrupted near the chalets?

In addition to security services, a team of about 50 people work to ease the flow of cars and better cope with traffic near the chalets. This traffic regulation team works under the aegis of the central security headquarters (PCCG), which manages a staff of about 500 on site.

What tools does the PCCG have to manage the traffic and support its staff?

The PCCG runs CCTV devices and an intervention squad is always ready to reinforce the traffic regulation team if necessary. For major troubles, we may resort to our tow-away devices. The PCCG is in permanent contact with the general security control office who are heavily involved with the show.

Have there been any changes to the chalet line this year to help the flow of traffic?

This year, in addition to vertical road markings, other signals have been drawn on the floor to facilitate a pedestrian walkway. This floor marking sets out a one-way central lane with, on both sides, two other lanes aimed at picking up and dropping passengers, as well as smaller lanes for pedestrian traffic.