Farnborough Airport, Hampshire, England
16th-22nd July 2018
Report by Peter Davison and Colin Coulthard
This world famous and renowned airshow has, for years, exhibited all that is new and innovative in aviation with the famous halls reconstructed for each show. This year was the first to utilise permanent purpose-built structures although the dry summer weather prevented them being rain-tested as in past years. All the major players were present and industry support appeared healthy with large commercial orders announced. However, the trade day aerial demonstrations were limited, to some extent by new safety regulations in a built up area. Those that really suffered were the public; charged prestigious rates on the final weekend for an apology of a flying display and many closed exhibitions; something needs to change for 2020.
Airbus dominated the flying demonstrations with the A330 and A350 plus the rebranded Bombardier CS300 now named A220. With global trade wars and Brexit causing uncertainty technological cooperation is more vulnerable to politics than at any time in post-war years.
Boeing remained detached from Embraer though who knows how that will pan out by next year’s Paris or Farnborough 2020. Showing a factory fresh 787 from Biman certainly made a change from recent years where Qatar dominated the static park. A recently delivered Qatari 777 and executive Gulfstream still gave this air-minded Arab nation a significant presence.
Leonardo displayed a wide variety of rotary and fixed wing products confirming that the growth in the helicopter sector shows little sign of slowing down. A Norwegian Air Force Merlin and Brazilian Wildcat representing some of the little reported international success by the Yeovil factory recently celebrated as the longest continuous aeronautical construction site in history.
A growth area is air cargo, previously one high capacity freighter tucked away at the western end this year, although still detached geographically, two Boeing 747 freighters and a Antonov 124 provided a welcome opportunity to realise the enormous internal capacity when passenger facilities are removed. P2F conversions are still popular but dedicated freighters, particularly 747 and 767s are enjoying a bouyant market.
The business jet sector was well represented by Gulfstream and Dassault though, with the growth of the annual EBACE show in Geneva and the subtle specification options available, Farnborough is not the best showcase for this sector. Who would have thought that, in 2018, a Boeing 727 might excite the crowds with a new lease of life.
Returning to the public airshow and value, Farnborough seems to be fairly blind to the STEM initiatives and opportunities to inspire the younger generation that industry and heritage organisations are leading on. There is a serious pilot and engineering shortage worldwide. With so many technology leaders present from Monday to Friday surely some incentive should be offered to spread that expertise more widely through the public weekend. The title ‘flying display’ is a misnoma; watching an airbus between long intervals and leaving the military ‘excitement’ to the US air Force F-16 and a veteran Spanish Navy Harrier plus some light aircraft might justify a ‘fly-in’ ticket price but is both unjustified and misleading to families thinking that aviation might be the career choice for their children. Far better to be honest and divert visitors to the inspirational Royal International Air Tattoo.