The third (and final trade day for me) day has come to an end at Farnborough, here are the biggest talking points of the last 24 hours.
After a whirlwind day of ‘will they/won’t they’ for both Farnborough and Lockheed Martin, the decision was finally made that although the aircraft has been cleared to return to flight, the F-35B will not be making it’s international debut at Farnborough Airshow this summer.
BAE Systems revealed that it’s Taranis combat UAV had conducted a new series of test flights in an ‘undisclosed location’. These new tests were carried out some time between late 2013 and early 2014, and included flying the aircraft in full stealth configuration, making it virtually invisible to radar.
Qatar Airways’ boss, Akbar Al Baker has explained that it was in fact Airbus that cancelled plans to display the airline’s A380 and described it as a way for the manufacturer to ‘bully’ the airline into taking delivery of the aircraft. The airline head also said that even though the aircraft wouldn’t have been delivered in time for the airshow, he was hoping that Airbus would display the Qatar liveried A380 on his behalf.
AgustaWestland have signed their first UK air ambulance deal for their developmental AW169 helicopter with the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance Trust. The type is due for certification later this year.
Since its launch on Monday, Airbus have already received 105 orders for their A330neo aircraft.
Airbus have announced that the A350XWB will use just one engine across the board; the Rolls-Royce Trent 7000.
Boeing has selected BAE Systems to provides its latest 777X with a flight control electronics system.
Even with Boeing displaying the P-8 Poseidon as a future MPA option for the UK, the RAF have announced that they are looking into the possibility of extending the life of the Sentinel R1 fleet by adding maritime capability with the help of Raytheon. This is not seen as an MPA option as such but more of a hybrid gap-filler.
Farnborough International Airshow got underway today at the Hampshire airfield and there was certainly plenty to keep an eye on.
Airbus launches the A330neo which will be the first aircraft to feature the brand new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines. The new Widebody aircraft will be capable of reducing current A330 fuel consumption by 14% per seat and also increase the range by 400 nautical miles. The Neo will also incorporate features from the A350 XWB like the small winglets and engine pylons.
Almost immediately after launch came the news that Air Lease Corporation has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for 25 A330neo and 60 A321neo aircraft.
Boeing debuted their latest model of the infamous (albeit for the wrong reasons) Dreamliner, the 787-9. The variant is a 10 ft, 10-frame stretch of the existing 8 model. Due to the number of orders received, Boeing had to work as quickly as they could to get this model into production.
Qatar Airways continue to support the show with an almost unprecedented three aircraft on display; the sharklet-equipped A320, A350-900 prototype and their Boeing 787-8. There would have been a fourth aircraft present in the shape of their A380 but due to disagreements with their order, the airline reluctantly pulled the display.
Announced on July 12th, Saab and the Empire Test Pilots’ School have extended their contract with the Gripen for an additional four years.
Also announced in a late afternoon press release from FIA – ‘By 15.00 this afternoon there were firm orders and commitments for 326 large commercial jets and regional aircraft with a combined value of US$33.3bn. In addition there were orders and commitments for a total of 674 jet engines with a combined value of $8.6bn.’
The F-35B was notably absent and the grounding order is still in effect at the time of writing.
Once upon a time in a bygone era, Farnborough Airshow was the Airshow to attend. With many brand new and even some prototype aircraft being flown by the world’s greatest test pilots, the Hampshire town was the place to see past, present and future offerings for airlines and air forces around the globe. Decades later, Farnborough Airshow exists in a shadow of its former self – the 2012 show was one to forget for the aviation enthusiast but the team at FIA are keen to put things right for 2014.
The 2012 show had many things wrong with it; overcrowding, an average display programme, star items from the trade show leaving before the weekend, the trade halls closing for the weekend, overpriced catering, lack of toilets, and an expensive ticket price for what was on offer. Earlier this year I had the chance to meet with the team behind the scenes and reiterate the concerns that we all had from the show two years previous.
I went along expecting to get into a bit of a spat over what is expected from an Airshow but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The team put their hands up and admitted that they’d let people down and that after holding several focus groups with both enthusiasts and local members of the community, they knew what they needed to do.
To give you a little background – the trade show and public show are run as two completely separate events (Farnborough International Airshow and Farnborough Airshow respectively) and therefore trying to get trade aircraft to stay for the public show is a big ask. As was the case in 2012, many star items did in fact leave before the public show and for 2014 the team have tried to correct this. Investing quite heavily in manufacturers and foreign governments, the 5 1/2 hour public show has managed to secure star items like the F-35B, Airbus A380, Breitling Super Constellation and a Spanish Naval Harrier (the result of more than 14 months of negotiations with Spanish authorities).
The theme for the 2014 public show is ‘100 Years of Aviation’ and while some Airshows have had quite weak themes in the past, Farnborough Airshow are really focused on honouring this centenary and will be showcasing the past, present and future of aviation. As well as those aircraft already mentioned, there will also be a replica Me262 in the flying display this year – this is a fantastic achievement for Farnborough and it will be the first time that this aircraft has ever flown in the UK. The show will also commemorate 100 years since the start of the First World War with a brilliant display from the Great War Display Team.
It would appear that Sarah Harding, Head of Flight Operations at Farnborough has recognised that the show needs to evolve and offer the public a little something extra. For 2014, this will come in the form of some very special double acts. The F-35B will appear in the air with the Spanish Navy Harrier, demonstrating the capabilities of V/STOL aircraft while the Me262 will display with the Classic Air Force Meteor – both of these displays can only be seen this year at Farnborough. It’s not just in the air that things are improving either – for the first time ever, the static exhibit space is full for both the trade and public shows; and there are many operators still on a waiting list for a space should one become available.
As well as the public show, the trade show is also set to be a massive hit this year with early figures indicating –
20 bespoke buildings for individual exhibitors
98% of self-build hall space sold
18 international pavilions, 2 new: Norway and Malaysia
56% international exhibitors; 44% UK exhibitors
3 new countries participating – Tunisia, Malaysia and Thailand
26% of exhibitors are new to FIA
15% of exhibitors have increased space on 2012
Part of the new Chalet Row A development has been sold to Martin Baker for the next five shows
New delegations and UK MoD lounge
While there is a big tick against the flying and static displays, there is a lot outstanding to make 2014 a vast improvement on the last couple of shows. In February, the team were eager to tell us that the there will be many more changes – more toilets, a greater range of catering facilities and a revised crowd line layout.
Unfortunately though, the trade halls will remain closed. The closure came in 2012 due to two reasons; Health and Safety were concerned that the larger models could pose a risk to smaller children and also, participating companies could not afford to keep their stalls manned for the weekend where they weren’t making any sales. The days of going home with bags full of freebies are sadly over.
So it’s time to put 2012 to rest and look ahead to what’s in store for 2014. I seriously hope that everything comes together for the team this year and that both the trade show and public show turn out to be a massive success. Farnborough Airshow will never be able to reproduce the glory days but it can certainly do it’s best to return as a favourite amongst the enthusiast crowd.