The return of trade show season

SAMPE Seattle, JEC World and the Paris Air Show are approaching fast, and they signal the real emergence of a post-pandemic world.


Photo Credit: Getty Images

On Feb. 29, 2020, I was in Prestwick, Scotland, visiting Spirit AeroSystems. I had been invited to see Spirit’s new automated manufacturing line for the production of resin transfer molded CFRP spoilers for the Airbus A320 Family of aircraft.

I remember listening to a local radio station while driving my rental car from Edinburgh to Prestwick, and hearing that there was one confirmed case of COVID-19 in all of Scotland. The reporter said that more were expected in the next few weeks. I also remember finding out that the JEC World 2020 trade show, which was scheduled for the following week in Paris, had been cancelled. I suddenly had to find a way home.

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Less than two weeks later, on March 9th, I attended a SpeedNews conference in Beverly Hills, California, where speakers tried, in real time, to predict how the coronavirus pandemic might impact air passenger traffic. “A 25% drop would be catastrophic,” said one speaker. That was my last work-related trip until August 2021.

If the pandemic shut the world down overnight, it was a foregone conclusion that a return to the free flow of people and goods would be much more gradual. Indeed, every time we thought we saw a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we were hit by a COVID variant or some other knock-on effect (supply chain crises) that seemed to diminish that light.

As I write these words three years — almost to the day — after the pandemic hit, it’s hard to not feel like “normal” has crept back up on us. I look at the calendar and am somewhat daunted by the next few months.

First, in late April, we have an unprecedented back-to-back schedule of SAMPE Seattle (April 17-20), followed by JEC World in Paris (April 25-27). This timing is an unfortunate byproduct of the pandemic itself. JEC was forced to push the 2022 iteration of its show to May because of the omicron variant in late 2021/early 2022. The late-April 2023 dates represent a gradual migration of JEC World back to early March in 2024. The collision with SAMPE is unlikely to happen again, though it will make for an exciting couple of weeks for those of us attending both events.

We expect these two shows will tell us much about the materials, technologies and end markets that the composites industry thinks is important right now. There’s a lot to choose from. Commercial aerospace is blooming again, advanced air mobility shows much promise and hydrogen storage is on pace to demand much of the industry’s bandwidth in the next few years. And we can’t forget the wind industry — already the composites industry’s largest consumer of raw materials — or the automotive end market, which is striving for lightweighting now more than ever.

As I write these words three years — almost to the day — after the pandemic hit, it’s hard to not feel like “normal” has crept back up on us.

A little further on the horizon is the Paris Air Show (June 19-25), which returns as an in-person event for the first time since 2019. The business side of the Paris Air Show revolves around the exhibitions, which feature the entire aerospace and defense supply chain, from material suppliers to tier manufacturers to OEMs like Boeing and Airbus. The 2023 show is shaping up to be a critical one as a source of signals about where and how the commercial aerospace industry might expand in the next few years.

As important as these events are to the composites industry, we here at CW know that getting to all of them can be difficult. So, we will do all that we can to keep you abreast of new technologies and news emerging from each. Keep tabs on CW’s news feed and social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) for the latest, and please reach out to us if you have something to share at any of these events. Safe travels.


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