Paris Air Show: Washington continues to showcase sustainability
By bus, train, car or plane, some 300,000 people packed the Paris Air Show in June to catch up on the latest in aviation after a four-year break from in-person gatherings. The massive Hall 3, built as the main media center for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, hosted the largest U.S. presence at the show to date, with 300 American companies out of 400 companies represented in Hall 3.
Governor Jay Inslee and Commerce Director Mike Fong led the way for Washington, with a 100-member delegation representing 20 business and the $70 billion aerospace and aviation sector across the state.
Washington has been at the forefront of innovation in the aviation and aerospace industry for more than a century. It still is today, as the industry addresses rising carbon dioxide emissions and their global climate impact. The Washington-based businesses showcased the state’s unique industry, from sustainable fuels to industry 4.0 automation to uncrewed systems to advanced air mobility and commercial space.
“Being there in person at the 2023 Paris Air Show seemed like a family reunion,” said Robin Toth, the aerospace sector director at Commerce. “We were able to meet face-to-face again with many global suppliers and have the opportunity to see some of the newer aircraft fly above the airfield. The focus on green propulsion technologies was a huge feature of the show, as were the military and defense drones and air taxis. Our incredible team members met with both large and small companies in person and returned home with a significant portfolio of economic development projects.”
The show wasn’t only about making connections; it also broke news. Twelve announced plans to scale production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from CO2 and renewable energy with a commercial-scale production facility in Moses Lake, and Inslee, with ZeroAvia, announced an additional state investment to support the company’s expansion at Paine Field in Everett. ZeroAvia recently unveiled a program to retrofit a Dash 8–400 76-seat aircraft with a prototype engine that will make it the world’s largest hydrogen-electric aircraft.
“As the world looks to lower carbon emissions, one of the areas Washington state is leading that charge is in sustainable aviation fuel production and hydrogen-electric aircraft development,” summarized Mike. “Being at the Paris Air Show was an immersive and awe-inspiring experience to see every big player in aerospace and aviation centered on one stage. Washington state really made the case on how the next big thing in the industry is happening in our backyard.”
State pavilion receives top honor
Keeping with the show’s sustainability theme, the state’s pavilion was made with renewable and recycled materials. The creative design included a floor to ceiling plant wall with the plants from a local nursery and were returned at the conclusion of the event. Also, the pavilion was outfitted with LED lights and stainless steel metal. The idea was developed by Commerce’s Office of Economic Development & Competitiveness in 2019 when the team found out the theme for the next Paris Air Show was sustainability.
The pavilion was awarded the top honor by Kallman Worldwide for ‘The Best Build Over 50 Square Meters.’ And, in an affront to the “Seattle freeze,” the judges also noted that everyone at the pavilion was extremely friendly.
The design also included a large mural created by Coast Salish artist Peter Boome, a member of the Upper Skagit Tribe. The piece is called “Persistence”, and it is a black outline of birds framed by an orange sun draped in a light periwinkle background. The artwork honors the land’s past while looking towards the future.
Powered by waves
The air show wasn’t the only attraction in Paris. Just south of the Eiffel Tower in the 15th arrondissement, about 3,600 experts from the offshore renewable energy industry gathered for Seanergy, the leading offshore renewable energy international event. Three members from the OEDC team were there to learn about and promote ocean energy.
“Seanergy is one of the premier conferences here in Europe on offshore winds and everything related to alternative energy with the ocean,” said Stephanie Bowman, the maritime sector lead at Commerce. “It was fascinating. There were a lot of good ideas about technologies that we can bring back to Washington state.”
Although the event focused on offshore wind, there were exhibitions and presenters on wave and solar energy on the water.
“What stood out for me was the opportunity on jobs. Whether or not we end up having offshore wind along the coast of Washington, we can definitely play a really big role in the supply chain for building the turbines for offshore wind,” Stephanie said.
These opportunities have a long-time horizon and are major considerations for the next 10 to 15 years.
“Let’s be clear, there is a lot of input needed from our coastal communities, tribal communities, our state regulators, fishing communities, and federal regulators before floating wind turbines become a reality,” said Keith Swenson, OEDC deputy director. “In the shorter term, there’s lots of opportunities for Washington to develop large wind turbine blades, large and complex floating platforms, or even the boats that service those platforms.”
When assessing the economic opportunity, a big part of offshore wind is understanding the ecological impact and hearing from other countries about their approach and lessons learned. During Seaenergy, the Washington delegation also met with large developers like RWA, Siemens, Comus and Total Energy. They also met with leaders from Nantes, one of Seattle’s sister cities. Nantes is in the Payes De Loire region, which hosted the delegation for an all-day tour of its industry ecosystem.
Learning from our sister city
The Loire River, France’s longest, winds east to west and divides the nation’s north and south. A three-hour speed train ride southwest from Paris, near the mouth of the Loire on its way to the Bay of Biscay, sits Nantes. Nantes’ metro area has about a million people, and it’s been a leader in French industry for some 1,500 years. Today, Nantes is the only French city designated as a European Green Capital.
Nestled among the ancient stone, intertwining natural areas and culturally vibrant backdrop is a supercluster aerospace ecosystem that built inspiration from its surroundings. The Pays De La Loire Region (regions comparable to U.S. states) covers the area south of Brittany and Normandy along the lower stretches of the Loire River. The region is home to the Jules Verne IRT, an industrial research center dedicated to manufacturing. The center focuses on four industrial sectors: aeronautics, automotive industry, energy and shipbuilding.
“The investments that are made at Jules Verne and the dexterity that a facility like that has to interact with and think about how to tether our economic relationships between two markets are really unique,” said Chris Green, OEDC assistant director. “We work on this here in Seattle, on how we think about the development of an industry vertical or a cluster.”
Furthermore, these well-established institutions in other countries with similar economies like manufacturing, maritime or decarbonization, lends itself really well for international collaboration on how Washington can grow, elaborated Chris.
The delegation also had an inside look into The Daher Shap’in R&D center. Daher recently announced aerostructure components produced with thermoplastic composites, which will help decarbonize aviation. The Shap’in center is one of three innovation centers to accelerate decarbonization.
Following the tour, two members from Airbus presented their best practices for reusing their composite materials. The company uses recycled material to build skateboards, IMOCA sailboat built from carbon fiber and other materials, chairs for a barber, and medical prosthetic blades.
Finally, the group took the Nantes’ Football Club bus to a medium-sized pier in Pornichet, where they took a three-hour boat tour of the SEM-REV test site. The site develops, tests and improves energy recovery systems from wind and wave sources, and it is the first European site for multi-technology offshore testing that is connected to the grid.
Just two years ago when a small delegation visited Nantes there were only a few turbines floating on top of the ocean. Now, there are 25 turbines.
“To see this development in two years, shows how quickly the industry is continuing to spread around the world,” explained Chris. “Sea energy and ocean energy concepts are really important to us. We can learn valuable lessons from France and Europe.”