A preview of what to look forward to at this year’s Farnborough Air Show on 9-15 July
Farnborough International, the world’s most iconic and longest running aerospace trade show, will this year take place between 9 Monday and 15 Sunday July. Maintaining tradition, the first five days of the biennial airshow will focus on the event’s trade exhibition, with the following weekend dedicated to the public airshow.
The true value of the airshow however is realised within the week’s trade exhibition. In 2010, $47bn worth of orders were announced during the event, with Farnborough playing host to over 120,000 trade visitors and 1,455 exhibitors from 40 countries across the globe. Although the tough economic climate continues to hinder the industry’s recovery, 28% of this year’s exhibitors will be new to the trade show. In total, 55% of confirmed exhibitors are from outside of the UK, setting the stage for what will once again prove to be a truly international event.
The show comes at a crucial time – although defence budgets remain flat or are depressed, the civil aerospace sector is ramping up, with the Boeing 787 now entering service, the Airbus A350XWB in development and with updates of existing airliners like the 737 MAX and A320neo to look forward to.
In some ways, it will be a tale of two Farnboroughs - a vibrant civil aerospace market, contrasting sharply with defence companies increasingly concerned about the mandatory defence cuts (or sequestration) in the US. David Baxt, Global Head of Aerospace & Defence at investment bank Jefferies agrees, saying that due to pent-up civil demand and defence sequestration in the US, he has “never seen a bigger divide between the commercial and military aerospace sectors” than today.
Even general aviation, buffeted by the economic storm has fared better than most, with new products like Bombardier’s Global 7000/8000 and LearJet 70/75 launched, as well as Cessna’s Longitude and Latitude.
UAVs too, an ever more exciting sector, are now breaking into the mainstream civil world. Expect manufacturers to promote the civil roles that drones could play, from firefighting, to law enforcement to search and rescue.
Finally, this year’s Farnborough will also see a definite ‘new space’ feel as Virgin Galactic countdown to operations with its SpaceShipTwo sub-orbital spaceplane. Space tourism and the recent visit of SpaceX’s Dragon to the ISS means that it is no longer the preserve of governments. But what is the next step?
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the highlights…
Last year at Le Bourget saw Airbus romp home with record salesin the traditional air show order race. This year, though, US rival Boeing is ahead of the game and aggressively stepping up its marketing of its next update of the 737 – the 737 MAX. It expects to sell some 1,000 of these narrow body airliners this year – predicting that it will be the ‘Year of the MAX’. Industry analysts agree and expect Boeing to win more orders in 2012 than Airbus – the first time since 2006. The show could see Boeing land major MAX orders for up to 200 aircraft from United Continental, as well as up to another 100 from lessor Air Lease Corporation (ALC).
Sweet home FALAlabama
While Boeing may be grabbing the show headlines with the MAX orders, the latest big news from Airbus may not be sales announcements – but the more details of its strategic plan for a US production line for the A320 family – revealed just a week earlier. This facility, to be built in Mobile, Alabama next year, will see the first A320 aircraft start assembly in 2015, to come off the production line in 2016. Airbus estimate the factory will produce some 40-50 aircraft by 2018.
So why do Airbus need this fourth A320 facility when the aircraft is already being made in Toulouse, Hamburg and Tianjin, China? A US FAL gives it a foothold in attacking the giant US market, where in single-aisle airliners Airbus trails with only 20% of the market, compared to its 50% share in the rest of the world. This is particularly acute given the aging US domestic airline fleet.
There are other reasons for this move – Airbus has had a presence in Mobile since the days of KC-X competition, when it promised to open an A330 line there should it have won the USAF’s tanker contest. The facility would be near a deepwater port, ideal for getting components in from the rest of the Airbus’s network. Cost wise, it also means that it would the aircraft will be priced in dollars, insulating Airbus somewhat from currency differences. It also benefits from a non-unionised workforce (the same reason that brought Boeing to South Carolina for its second 787 line). Additionally it repositions Airbus (& EADS) for any new Pentagon contracts – no longer can it be attacked as purely a ‘French’ aerospace manufacturer.
But perhaps the most pressing reason for a new A320 facility is that with a huge backlog of single-aisle airliners built up (almost 3,300 by the end of May) – the company really needs to clear them to be able to resume selling A320neo slots. Expect to find out more about this highly significant industry news at Farnborough.
Qatar 787 flying display confirmed
First heard of back in January when ceo of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker told journalists at the opening of his new luxury lounge at London Heathrow he wanted to fly his new 787 at Farnborough, the appearance of the Dreamliner in the daily flying display has now been confirmed by Boeing. Given the Qatar chief’s history of plain speaking about airliner manufacturers, there is no doubt that fulfilling his request was a high priority by Seattle. As well as the 787, Korean Air will also bring a 737-900ER with Sky Interior, as well as a full -size Advanced Technology ‘double winglet’ from the 737 MAX.
Sharklets and MAS A380
While Boeing will be bringing a winglet – Airbus will be bringing its Sharklets with the first new-build A320 to be equipped with these fuel efficient wingtip devices. In addition the show will see an A380 from Malaysia Airlines sporting a special livery taking part in the daily flying display. Airbus also will be bringing an A319 and an ACJ318 corporate jet for the static display – as well as the mighty Beluga outsize transporter. This huge aircraft is also likely to be have on its side the worlds biggest and highest flying careers ad – “Think Mobility.. Join US”.
In sales too, don’t write Airbus off just yet. The European manufacturer is not likely to let Boeing steal the headlines without a fight, and recently revealed it is targeting sales of 30A350XWB and 30 A380s by the end of this year.
Airbus also are likely to reveal another one of their exciting future concepts – which a year ago saw them wow the public with a transparent, walled aircraft inspired by nature. This year, we may see Xbox360 Kinetic- style gesture controls demonstrated as part of potential future cockpit concept of 2050.
Outside the duopoly
For other manufacturers outside the big two the future is less certain. Bombardier, for example, is proceeding with development of its CSeries, yet it is still struggling to find buyers, despite ongoing rumours of a Qatar Airways purchase. Jefferies’ David Baxt dismisses criticism that Bombardier has missed its chance with the airline “its very very competitive. I do expect to see more orders”.
The one bright spot has been ATR, which now bulges with record orders for its regional turboprop. Interestingly the company also recently hinted that it may be looking at future VTOL concept for its airliner – could this be a 21st century Fairey Rotordyne and are we likely to hear more about this at the show? Meanwhile either ATR or Bombardier could be celebrating if reports that Indonesian flag carrier Garuda Indonesia intends to to buy 50 regional turboprops (either ATR-72s or Q400s) at the show come true. Embraer meanwhile will have an E190 and a ERJ145 on the static display.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to the dominance of the European/US civil airliner dominance though, may come from China – which is working steadily to acheive its aim of a strong and healthy aerospace sector. Interestingly David Baxt says that for China’s C919 it may be a Western low-cost carrier that gives China its big breakthrough in foreign airliner sales: “I would not be surprised it if was a western European low-cost carrier – that’s the kind of renegade move they would make”.
Indeed last year, at Paris, low-cost carrier Ryanair signed an MoU with COMAC to participate in discussions with its C919. So could we hear more about this at Farnborough?
Finally, in recognition that while the in-flight experience continues to get better and better (at least for those in first class) this year there will also be a special security zone, recreating a typical airport. Expect to see some innovative solutions and technology on display to answer the question – ‘how can we make air travel more stress free’?
On the military sphere, depressed defence budgets in Europe and the US and Washington’s pivot to Asia-Pacific means that this Farnborough will have a slightly different flavour than previous years. However despite the gloom surrounding some in the sector, only Northrop Grumman took the decision to pull out of the show entirely. Sequestration in the US is top of the agenda – bringing uncertainity. David Baxt explains that the looming threat of sequestration on the US defence industrial base is extremely real – and that politicians had not fully thought through the effects. “There is a legal requirement to issue layoff notices some 60-90 days beforehand – that means we could see layoffs at the end of October, early November”. He dismissed the idea that a quick fix could be found at the last minute “I can’t see it being repealed”.
In Anglo-French collaboration the big news is that we are likely to see a further agreement signed in July (possibly even at the show) on further and deeper co-operation between the UK’s BAE Systems and France’s Dassault on UAVs and UCAVs, with both London and Paris working to align their requirements. Who does what bit of technology though may still be contentious – so as ever, the devil will be in the detail. Farnborough may also coincide with the first flight of Europe’s combat UCAV demonstrator – the Dassault-led nEUROn, with BAE’s Taranis stealth drone likely to follow with a maiden flight in the next 12 months.
At the show, US aerospace companies and the US military will be out in force – with F-16, F-18E/F, C-130Js and the V-22 all set to make an appearance. Though the Osprey tiltrotor has visited the UK before, it appearing at Farnborough will be newsworthy given that from 2013, the USAF Special Operations will be operating them from RAF Mildenhall. The USAF will also perform a flypast with the iconic B-52 on Tuesday morning.
One important type yet to appear at an international air show is, of course, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Though the test and training fleet is growing rapidly and progress is being made (with Norway having now purchased its first two) deliveries are still running a year late.Unfortunately it does not now look like Lockheed and the Pentagon were able to engineer an aircraft to appear (which would likely involved both overwater air-to-air refuelling and a transatlantic flight as well as possibly a back-up spare aircraft). While the logistical challenges may provide a useful excuse, rumour also suggests that the UK Government was keen to play down the F-35 this year in favour of bolstering its Eurofighter Typhoon presence. Having suffered a defeat in India’s MMRCA, the UK Government and partner nations will be justifibly keen not to let any other sales slip away.
Now confirmed, Airbus Military will bring the A400M transporter to show off – which is now undergoing functionality and reliability tests ahead of its first delivery at the turn of the year. A flying display appearance from the surprisingly agile A400M will be very welcome, given it sat out last year’s Paris air show in the static line. (For an interview with the Head of Airbus flight test on the A400M’s development progress, see Episode 2 of this podcast here).
As well as the mighty A400M, Airbus Military will also be bringing not one, but two variants of the C295 tactical transport – which is now gaining additional missions and capabilities, such as winglets, higher power setting engines and HUD/UVS. The two C295s at the show will be the new AEW prototype and the ASW/MPA version. Displaying the Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) Maritime Patrol (MPA) version at Farnborough is also noteworthy given the UK’s current lack of maritime patrol aircraft since the retirement of Nimrod.
One puzzling omission is the RAF’s new A330 Voyager air-to-air tanker. One insider source said that limited ramp space meant it would not be able to attend. However, ongoing tanker probe issues and the recent news of conversion work moved from the UK to Spain (with lost British jobs) – perhaps meant that the Voyager may be sitting this one out.
Other military highlights will be an appearance from two of the Russian Knights Su-27 (one in static, one flying), plus Saab Gripen alongside Irkut’s Yak-130 trainer, and the KAI/Lockheed Martin T-50 advanced trainer – making its Farnborough debut with the RoKAF Black Eagles display team.
Meanwhile at the weekend, the Royal Air Force will thrill the crowds with displays from the Typhoon, King Air, Falcons parachute team, Tucano and Red Arrows. The RAF Tornado team also promise a ‘role demo’ on Saturday and Sunday – which may involve some stunning pyrotechnics!
As well as bringing full-scale military aircraft to gawp at, defence companies will also be keen to highlight their other capabilities in UAVs and autonomy, cybersecurity and GPS resilience. MBDA, for example, will be unveiling its next ‘Future Concepts’ based on micro munitions for UAVs. And the presence of Omega Air KDC-10 aerial tanker will be a reminder of how industry is now moving further towards the front line, in helping cash-starved Western forces concentrate on their core roles.
Following on from the Royal Aeronautical Society’s European Space Tourism conference in June, for many people, perhaps the highlight of the show will the chance to get up close with the full size mock-up of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo – a vehicle that may one day be as significant as the 1920s Curtiss Jenny was in giving people their first taste of flight. Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson will be there on Wednesday morning, and a 400-seat pavilion has been allocated for the company. The show may also see an announcement and more information on Virgin Galactic Cargo – an intitiative to offer lower-cost space access via air-launched small micro-satellites using the WhiteKnightTwo mothership.
But it won’t all be space tourism at the show. Indeed the UK space industry is now a fast growing £8bn industry that is only now receiving some of the attention it deserves in terms of its expertise in small satellites, and space science. Expect a more confident, muscular space presence from Britain at the show, bolstered by the UK’s first ESA Astronaut, Tim Peake and from Reaction Engines’ ongoing work on the Skylon spaceplane.
In general aviation, there will be appearances in the static display from business aircraft from Hawker Beechcraft, (now struggling with bankruptcy), which will bring its Hawker 4000, as well as two King Airs, plus Dassault will bring its Falcon 7X and Falcon 2000 Trescal, with Embraer also bringing its Legacy 650 for the static display.
In civil helicopters a highlight will be Bell’s mock-up of its new ‘super medium’ 525 ‘Relentless’– which it is aiming will spearhead its fightback in the civil market. In addition to the European debut of the Relentless mock up, a Bell 429 in an Emergency Medical Services configuration and a Bell 407GX will also be on static display. The
manufacturer will showcase a Bell 429 in corporate configuration on demonstration flights.
While Eurocopter‘s compound X3 demonstrator is currently on a US tour, the European helicopter manufacturer is planning to use the show to present its new medium EC175 – set to be certificated next year. We may also hear more details about its advanced next-gen X4 helicopter – set to enter service in 2017.
Meanwhile, AgustaWestland’s AW149 (complete with a special livery) is set to reach billions around the globe when it makes a cameo role delivering James Bond as part of the Olympic opening ceremony sequence. At the show, AgustaWestland will be bringing its new 8-tonne twin AW189 helicopter – first unveiled in 2011 and flown in December, and has hinted that the even newer AW169 prototype may also make an appearance. The helicopter, which first flew in May, would also be especially significant for Farnborough as aircraft for UK customers will be assembled in Yeovil – marking a return to civil helicopter production for Britain.
Finally – good news for Vulcan fans. The mighty Avro Vulcan XV558, has now being repaired after an engine fault and took to the skies on a test flight on 3 July ahead of RIAT and Farnborough.
Where’s the British-built aeroplane, daddy?
Yet for some enthusiasts and for those with a keen appreciation of aviation history, the elephant in the cockpit is likely to be in this celebration of British aviation – where in the show is a British built aircraft? Indeed you would have to wait until the Red Arrows appear, to see the BAE Hawk, which could be the last purely all-UK aircraft produced in Britain. So how does the UK continue to have such a vibrant aerospace sector, rated as second (or third depending on who you talk to) in the world?
Industry trade group ADS believe it is because the UK has cornered the market in the most difficult parts, such as landing gear, wings and engines. These technologies are difficult for newcomers to break into and takes years to perfect and master. Ideally, says ADS, UK industry should be able to sell wings to Airbus, Boeing or whoever needs them.
And there are other niches that the UK could exploit. Its expertise in composites means also it has the natural lead in repair and maintenance of these – likely to become more important as the 787, A350 and other composite airliners enter service.
In UAV’s the UK has been undertaking work with its ASTRAEA initative in the challenge of unlocking civil airspace to unmanned aircraft– a potential market that if craked could be worth billions with new and novel uses for these drones. Another technology that aerospace is excited about and which the UK could lead is additive layer manufacturing (ALM) or 3D printing – a potential second green industrial revolution.
So should we be worried that the UK has given up final assembly of aircraft? Certainly there is a sense of loss that Farnborough no longer has the multiple types of a 1950s airshow. But it is also important to remember that aircraft are now more complex and it is difficult for even the largest nations to do everything. The 787, for example, features components from the UK, along with parts from Japan and Italy.
Even China’s new indigenous airliner, the C919, a prestige national project, features Western suppliers including firms from the US, UK, Germany, Italy and France. Airbus now has a Chinese final assembly line for A320s. Canada’s CSeries, meanwhile features Chinese and Italian firms making major structural components. All these are examples of how today’s aerospace industry is much more interconnected than in the past, and why the UK, despite not building aircraft itself, still manages to retain its place in the top rank of aerospace nations.
In a sense, the global civil aerospace industry may be following a pattern set by the automotive industry, where a multinational matrix of suppliers feeds the car makers with essentially the same parts, to be arranged in slightly different ways for different markets.
Royal Aeronautical Society at Farnborough
The Royal Aeronautical Society will also be exhibiting at Farnborough (Innovation Zone, Stand 21), where it will be co-located with two light aircraft from the Boeing/RAeS Schools Build-A-Plane project.
Come along to the stand to find out more about this great educational project for young people, or talk to Society staff about becoming a Member of the RAeS, the world’s oldest professional body dedicated to the entire aerospace community.
If you are visiting the air show and have time to spare, remember the RAeS National Aerospace Library is located in Farnborough and will be open Tuesday to Friday – it is one of the world’s most unique aviation archives (see here for a great podcast featuring an interview with the Chief Librarian).
On the Tuesday the RAeS will also be holding its traditional Farnborough Summer Reception at its HQ in London – a must attend event in the avaition calender for social networking for VIPs from across the global aerospace community.
Meanwhile the RAeS’s Bill Read (Deputy Editor, Aerospace International) who previously won an Aerospace Journalist Award in 2010, has been shortlisted for another writing award in the new Aerospace Media Awards awards for his article on ‘iPads in the Cockpit’, which appeared in April 2012 edition of the Society’s Aerospace International magazine. Best of luck to Bill!
Finally the RAeS will also be holding a competition to win a fantastic watch worth £365. The lucky winner will receive a C8 Pilot Mk II Vintage Edition aviation watch, kindly provided by renowned watchmaker Christopher Ward (www.christopherward.co.uk).
Our new Farnborough microsite is now live here – head on over to enter our prize draw and find out all our activities in at Farnborough during the week!
Social media, avgeek contests and more!!
Finally, the air show is set to take on more exciting ‘buzz’ this year with social media going mainstream and with some fun contests and ideas. The organisers, for example, responding to complaints that the trade stands disappear at the weekend, are now providing a limited number of ‘Jubilee Day’ tickets, allowing public visitors the rare opportunity to experience the four trade exhibition halls on the Friday.
Friday will also be Futures Day at the air show, with 10,000 young people expected to attend and learn all about the possibilities of a career in aerospace.
Last year also saw Airbus introduce ‘flash mobs’ to the Paris Air Show – so don’t be surprised if the static display turns into a dance zone at some point.
Twitter too is now playing a bigger role in spreading news and connecting ‘avgeeks’. Raytheon, for example is hosting a #MeetRay tweetup for 50 of its Twitter followers to join it at Farnborough and get exclusive access to the show.
Meanwhile Lockheed Martin decided to celebrate its centenary with a fantastic competition for five of its Twitter followers or Facebook fans to win a flight aboard the iconic vintage airliner, the Lockheed Super Constellation. Unfortunately technical issues with this classic airliner will keep the Connie at home – but the prize winners are set to have a great avgeek time with Lockheed including stick time in the F-35 simulator.
Stay ahead of all the news!
To follow all the news at Farnborough don’t forget to bookmark www.aerosociety.com and follow the daily airshow news on the Insight blog. For those on Twitter the hashtag is #FIA12 and the Editor Tim Robinson will be tweeting live from the show on @RAeSTimR