It’s that time of year again, where every two years it seems the global aerospace industry decamps to Hampshire, UK, for the Farnborough International Airshow. Part cocktail reception, part travelling circus and part high-level business conference, it leaves the residents of Hampshire unable, for a whole week, to find a spare taxi driver, security guard or waitress, as this massive event hoovers up all in its path.
High level wheeling and dealing, heavy metal in the skies and billion-dollar deals in the offing. But with so much to see and do and with aviation news literally assaulting your senses every day – what are going to be the main stories and trends this week? Here’s a quick and dirty guide to the top ten.
1) The 787 flies in
Undoubtedly the star turn at the show will be Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner which flew in on Sunday morning. After delays it seems that Boeing’s intensive 24hr test programme has paid dividends and it is making up time. Farnborough will provide a fantastic debut for the Dreamliner, the first all-new airliner to grace a major show since the A380. But it is only going to be at Farnborough for two days and will fly out on Tuesday afternoon, so if you want to catch it, you’d better be quick. Look out for a feature on the 787’s revolutionary composite fuselage production in the August edition of Aerospace International.
2) The A400M puts on a show
The second major aircraft that will be the focus of the show will be the Airbus A400M military airlifter. With wrangles over contracts with customers still not over, Airbus will be keen to demonstrate how capable the aircraft is and also how well it could do on the export market as an eventual replacement for the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules. While it is unclear whether the A400M will do the same sort of impressive wingovers in the flying display it thrilled the ILA Berlin crowds with, the flying display should be one to watch. If you want to know more, see the August edition of Aerospace International where we have an interview with chief test pilot Ed Strongman on the A400M’s test programme.
3) UAVs centre stage
Unmanned, uninhabited , or ‘remotely piloted’ aviation continues to gain importance as an aerospace sector and this year will be no exception. BAE Systems, fresh from its unveiling of the Taranis UCAV concept demonstrator will be keen to promote that, while the airshow itself will be hosting a UAV flying display – a first for Farnborough. Check out the incredible Fanwing which will be part of this flying display. Meanwhile we will be taking a closer look at Taranis in the September edition of Aerospace International.
4) JF-17 makes debut
Another new aircraft to look out for is the lightweight JF-17/FC-1 fighter – a joint development between China and Pakistan, and a sign of how emerging nations are fast developing the latest technology. It may not be a F-22 but it represents a significant step forward for Pakistan and China. Look out for an exclusive profile of the JF-17 and its development in the August edition of Aerospace International.
5) The duopoly is over
CSeries, MRJ, SuperJet, C919 and MS-21. If you are a serious spotter or an aviation professional you’d better get familiar with these names as they represent the latest attempts to expand into the highly competitive airliner market. The cosy duopoly of Airbus and Boeing is now beginning to break up and this Farnborough could see orders for some of these. Indeed Sukhoi already let the cat out of the bag when it published its annual report listing a commitment from Alitalia for 20 SSJ airliners, only to backtrack.
6) 737 vs A320 – who blinks first?
As well as WTO, the KC-X tanker fight, the other battle between Airbus and Boeing is going to be about the A320 and the B737 – or who blinks first in re-engining or putting forward a plan to develop an all-new single-aisle airliner. With the biggest airliner market sector at stake, the consequences of getting it wrong are huge. Both Airbus and Boeing, despite airlines hurting from fuel prices, say they have time to decide but if either makes a move, can the other really afford to do nothing? Airbus now says that by September, it will know whether it can juggle enough engineering resources for the A320NEO project.
7) Pressure on defence budgets
While some big defence companies may be looking nervously at current governments which are now questioning the cost of everything from Global Hawks to FSTA, others see opportunities in pitching more rationalisation, outsourcing and streamlining. Managing supply chains better, and moving the contractors further towards the front line may be the only option left for air forces such as the RAF to make the savings demanded. These sort of ‘power by the hour’, support, training and maintenance contracts may not be as sexy as sleek new fighters – but will be even more essential for today’s cash-strapped Western militaries.
8) The upturn is back
At a pre-Farnborough EADS media brief, Airbus’ chief salesman, John Leahy, hinted that he would double the number of airliner orders for 2010 so far (131) by the end of the show. Already, earlier in ILA Berlin, Emirates stunned the world with an order for 32 A380s. While this Farnborough is unlikely to reach the heights of previous shows in terms of orders, airlines are now feeling more confident as traffic returns and growth comes back. Any orders placed at Farnborough then, will have a ripple effect through the industry as a more positive outlook spreads and companies start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
9) The RAeS goes digital
Shameless self-publicity here – but the Royal Aeronautical Society will be exhibiting in force at this year’s show. We’re in Hall 1, Stand B26, and will be going digital this year with blogs, social media and twitter and our new online media portal. Come along and say hello and see our model of an amazing BWB future airliner that has been brought to life by a revolutionary new manufacturing technique. Also, if you are in the aerospace industry (or thinking about a career in it) and you are reading this, you really need to think about membership – you can sign up at the stand or online.
10) The mighty Avro Vulcan returns
Finally – for the classic aviation enthusiasts, Avro Vulcan XH588 is making a comeback to Farnborough. Two years ago it brought Farnborough to a standstill, with even jaded business executives standing outside with tears in their eyes at the sound and sight of this unique British aviation icon. If you want to keep it flying for future generations to marvel at this Cold War bomber –click here