Sunday, June 24, 2007

Flight symbols

In my previous post, My old passports [display], I mentioned that, in May 1962, I flew out of Paris, for London, from the airport at Le Bourget. Charles Lindbergh had landed here in the Spirit of Saint Louis, 35 years previously, after crossing the Atlantic.

Today, few flights use this quaint old airport, but Le Bourget has become internationally renowned as the site of the biennial Paris Air Show, which started in 1909.

For me personally, Le Bourget was a symbol of my flight to London in 1962 to obtain a long-overdue French visa, regularizing my de facto status as an employee of IBM in Paris. Much later, Le Bourget was also a symbol of my "flight" from Paris to the provinces, in that I attended the Paris Air Show with my daughter in 1993 on the eve of my departure. I recall every moment of that delightful sunny day, during which we watched acrobatic flyers, and had our ears pounded by the latest Dassault jets. The day ended at a Moroccan restaurant in the Marais quarter of Paris, not far from where we lived. My daughter, on the other hand, retains a quite different symbol of my departure from Paris: an antiquated crammed red Renault, which I had just purchased from a friend in the Marais, which had to be pushed manually to get me started on my route to the south. Not at all "Paris Air Show".

Le Bourget is an airport of the past, overtaken first by Orly and then Roissy (Charles de Gaulle). Today, as the one-week 47th Paris Air Show was drawing to a close, with a record-breaking attendance of 480,000 visitors, French TV presented the new installations at Roissy for forthcoming flights of the Airbus A380. Gigantic, like the aircraft itself!

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