Between 15 and 21 June 2009 the Paris Air Show, arguably the world's premier international aerospace event, welcomed more than 400,000 visitors who flocked to celebrate 100 years of flight with a spectacular flypast showing the old and new, from fighter planes to historic hobby craft.
Held every other year at Le Bourget airport in Paris (and in alternate years at Farnborough, UK), each show attracts a record-breaking number of visitors. Despite the grip of the current economic crisis, this year was no exception.
The last Paris-based international air show in 2007 attracted over 400,000 visitors and 1,996 exhibitors and this year more than 2,000 exhibitors attended – of which 60% were international. And as you can imagine, the security challenges were enormous.
The team at the Paris Air Show this year dealt not only with record-breaking crowds, but also thousands of vehicles trying to access the showground, meaning that effective traffic management systems must be in place as well as efficient and highly-effective security controls to manage any kind of security risk that could arise.
Gruner explained to Airport-technology.com how the site dealt with security issues in the showground over its seven days and how it managed to keep the traffic flowing to minimise security alerts; and in the meantime found lessons that airports dealing with similar sudden influxes could learn from.
Frances Penwill-Cook: How do you create a secure exhibition environment when the show is only for a temporary period of seven days and are you limited financially in your choices?
Wilfrid Gruner: Our toughest challenge lies in the temporary aspect of the event, which doesn't enable us to invest in the latest released protection technologies like in an airport. However, we have invested about €2m in security (including public order).
FP-C: What kind of risks must you be prepared for at the air show this year?
WG: There is not just one single major risk on the show but threats which are quite the same as in airports all around the world, such as plane crashes or terrorist attacks. State forces, along with private devices from the organiser, have been working in harmonious collaboration on prevention and risk management for two years before the event started. Real condition simulations are performed every year.
FP-C: What are your security strengths at the show if your budget doesn't allow for you to implement the latest technologies?
WG: Most of our security power resides more in presence and co-ordination of a staff perfectly trained to cope with such an area than in installations. This strategy relies in preparation and collaboration with state services (there are more than 30 different services involved), co-ordination, simulations and the capacity to adapt and cope with any situation.
FP-C: What security devices are implemented on site and do they differ from those traditionally deployed at airports?
WG: The security devices implemented on site are, in their conception, about the same ones as those used in airports. All vehicles and all visitors are checked at the entrance and at the exit. Flight displays are thoroughly checked by a tracking radar and a flight control commission ensures that each flight fully complies with volume and altitude restrictions.
FP-C: How do you protect the air space at Le Bourget during the show?
WG: The air space at Le Bourget is protected by an air security area device ruled by the French Air Force which has different control and interception means at its disposal such as anti-aircraft missiles.
FP-C: Who have you been working with to organise the traffic outside of the show this year?
WG: 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 SIAE [Salon International de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace or the International Air and Space Show].
The workgroup outlined the main traffic roads for those who would want to access or leave the show site. It has resulted in removing some traffic restrictions and replacing some traffic lights by setting up police agents at strategic points in order to better cope with traffic flow of cars near the show site, namely at rush hour. Specific road markings were implemented as well, in order to help visitors access the showground.
FP-C: What systems are in place to cope with the traffic inside the showground this year?
WG: 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 in order to pick up or drop guests – or to supply, in different ways, a space that represents the largest reception area in Europe for seven days.
FP-C: What challenges have you faced implementing these schemes?
WG: These schemes have been even harder to implement due to the fact that the place is rather narrow in size and because of security controls and aircraft moves on the static area, which often disrupt traffic near the chalets.
In addition to security services, a team of about 50 people work to facilitate 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.
FP-C: What tools does the central security headquarters have to manage the traffic and support its staff?
WG: This PCCG runs CCTV devices, plus 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 which is heavily involved with the show.
FP-C: Have there been any changes to the chalet line this year to help the flow of traffic?
WG: This year, in addition to a vertical road marking (road signs), other signals have been drawn on the floor in order to facilitate a pedestrian walkway. This floor marking has delimitated 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.