Larger companies are reigning in costs and small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are set to take over the floor at this year’s centennial Paris Air Show in June, offering a glimpse at how the aerospace industry is coping with the credit crisis.

Speaking in London today, Paris Air Show managing director Gilles Fournier said SMEs represent 75% of the floor at the four-day trade biannual show and exhibition, the largest of its type in the world.

“We have seen a reduction in the amount of space the biggest companies are requiring,” Fournier said.

“There has been a consolidation of stands and a reduction in the number of chalets each company requires, from say 20 down to 15. There has been about a 5-10% reduction [in what these companies are spending].”

When it costs between $500,000 and $700,000 to bring one plane over to exhibit (in fuel, staff and other associated costs), there is little surprise some companies are cutting back.

While the number of staff visiting may be less this year, Fournier said 150,000 professional visitors are still expected through the trade-show doors, with smaller companies especially keen to make face-to-face contact in an effort to increase sales and network.

“In a crisis time SMEs want to investment in exhibitions,” Fournier said.

“The main aim of an exhibition is to open up lines of communication, especially in a crisis situation. I visited Hamburg Air Show two days ago and it was a profitable exhibition.”

The Paris Air Show offers a career fair and plenty of networking opportunities for business players, from one-on-one appointments to networking events.

In 2007, 30,000 students attended the event and $150bn in deals was made at the show.

As part of its centenary, an air show will take place between 19-21 June and will feature a Bleriot XI and Morane H as well as a Boeing B17, Morane 406, Consolidated PBY5 Catalina, Mirage III among others. An OV-10 Bronco and an F86 Sabre have also been added to the list. The air show expects to exhibit 150 aircraft.

The air show is organised by French aerospace industry association Gifas, which used to run the first Paris Air Shows from the Grand Palais in the centre of Paris. Today, the air show runs from Le Bourget in Paris, where a grass runway catering for older craft will be the focus of attention when eyes are not looking skyward.