The Paris Air Show: 'A fascinating experience'

3 Concordia undergrads attended the world's largest aerospace expo

The Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design and Innovation (CIADI) provides leading edge know-how to engineering students in the field.

This summer, CIADI’s education director, Nadia Bhuiyan, and her colleagues picked three students to attend the largest aerospace trade show in the world — the 52nd International Paris Air Show.

“Tonny Tabassum, Mitchell Lichocki and I were selected based on our involvement with the institute, academic performance and experience in the aerospace industry,” says Maria José Grasso, an undergrad completing her final term at Concordia this summer.

The Paris Air Show brings the worldwide aerospace industry together every two years. The 2017 edition boasted participation from 2,303 international companies.

From June 19 to 25, Grasso and her peers got to network with top aerospace business leaders, sit in the pilot seat of a Bombardier aircraft and watch the Dassault Rafale do “spins and flips like it was from another planet.”

‘The first thing we noticed was the enormity of the industry’

What's the connection between your Paris Air Show visit and your research and classes at Concordia? 

Maria José Grasso: I have been the president of the Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design and Innovation Students’ Executive for the past year and will be beginning my master’s degree at Concordia in September, while working in Germany with Airbus.

Concordia has always had a strong connection with the aerospace industry. Our mechanical and electrical engineering programs have long had options for an aerospace concentration. We have numerous student-run societies focused on aerospace and many of our students receive employment either as interns or as permanent post-graduate employees in the aerospace sector. Also, just last year, Concordia introduced a new Aerospace Engineering bachelor’s degree.

We’re a university with such strong focus and encouragement for aerospace and we’re situated in arguably the third largest aerospace cluster in the world. As such, Concordia took full advantage of the opportunity at Le Bourget, Paris to assert an international presence and represent our skills, talents and abilities to companies all over the world.

What's the coolest thing you experienced at the Paris Air Show?

MJG: It’s difficult to summarize three non-stop days, but here are some of the fascinating experiences we were fortunate to be a part of:

We worked closely with Aéro Montréal and can’t thank them enough for the opportunities they made possible. One of the highlights was the in-depth tour of the Bombardier chalet and their aircrafts. They introduced us to their newly developed CS300 business jet and their famous Q400 turboprop.

They had us sit in the cabins of both aircrafts while they described the challenges of design and manufacturing and their impressive accomplishments over other successful aircrafts on the market. The tour ended with each of us getting to sit in the pilot’s seat, have a personal conversation with a Bombardier pilot and experience what it’s like to fly these impressive aircrafts.

Another fascinating moment was when we attended an Airbus Canada presentation at the Canadian Government chalet, followed by front row seats to the opening air show. Airbus did a 90-minute discussion on their business in Canada, their predictions for the next 20 years and their needs from the country, workforce and government. This provided us with priceless knowledge for the industry that we’re soon to enter and the needs of some of its biggest players.

Following the presentation, we were invited to step out onto the back balcony and watch the show. The star was without a doubt the Dassault Rafale, which has rockets that make your heart feel like it will burst out of your chest.

Finally, we attended dinners at both the Canadian Embassy and the Quebec Delegation and were honoured to meet some of the most respected government officials in the country: Dominique AngladeNavdeep Bains and Marc Garneau, to name a few.

Each of the ministers mentioned — and many of the other attendees — took the time to speak with us individually and listen to our concerns for students entering the aerospace industry. We also discussed the immense talent at Concordia and its ability to provide leaders for businesses around the globe.

What have you learned from this experience?

MJG: The first thing we noticed upon arriving at Le Bourget was the enormity of the industry. There were thousands of businesses from around the world that weren’t just aircraft manufacturers. Some made special metals for manufacturing, others made uniforms and tools, others did logistics, planning and training.

Secondly, we really came to understand the importance of professionalism and networking. The people that attend the largest aerospace trade show in the world are the CEOs and presidents, and they’re there to discuss business and opportunity. Although many of them were in search of money and clients, their reactions when we presented ourselves were often refreshing and they showed genuine interest in the opportunities we presented them with.

It was incredible to be part of the first edition of the Paris Air Lab: 22 booths devoted to research and innovation from industrial groups, companies, startups and conference debates. Students from Polytechnique Montréal, ÉTS and McGill were also present throughout the week.

What's next for you this summer and fall?

MJG: Over the summer, I am completing my last classes in order to finish my undergraduate degree. This fall, I am starting my master’s at Concordia in applied sciences. The exciting part is that I will be doing the research for my thesis in Germany!