Published on July 20th, 2016 | by Michael Whelan


Farnborough International Air Show – an overview

Farnborough International Air Show is held every two years and has established itself as one of the major airshows of the year where announcements of aircraft orders are made by airline manufacturers.

In advance of the event there has been a lot of lines written about the practicality of the event taking place at Farnborough. Over the years the surrounding area has been built up and it was questioned should it ever be an airshow or should it just be a trade event. A lot of funds are generated from the public days and airline manufacturers like to show off their aircraft and their capabilities to the public. Therefore, I doubt that it will ever move or there will be no flying display.

This year’s event was held from the 11th – 17th of July with the first five days being trade days. One of the first major announcements was Virgin Atlantic placing an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000’s to be delivered between 2019-2021. Four of the aircraft will be leased and delivered in 2020. As is the usual style of Richard Branson, he arrived into Farnborough on the Airbus A350XWB that was taking part in the show.

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Air Asia A320 was a Farnborough celebrating the airline’s SkyTrax awards

Throughout the week there were further major announcements by the Germania Group, Indian low-cost airline Go Air, AirAsia’s for 100 Airbus A321s, which topped the shows order list and of course Aer Lingus, to name but a few. Airbus’ total as of the 14th of July was 197 firm orders (10 outside the A320 family) with commitments for a further 82 aircraft. Boeing’s total to 14th of July was just 182; 62 were confirmed orders whilst the balance relate to commitments. The majority of Boeing’s customer orders came in the main from China. Other significant orders were:-

  • Air Europa for 20 737 MAX 8s, worth $2.2 billion (around €1.99 billion) at list prices.
  • Cargo Air, Lineas Aereas Suramericanas (LAS) Cargo, are each receive two 737-800BCFs. Air Algerie signed a commitment for two 737-800BCFs. An unidentified customer ordered four 767BCFs.
  • EgyptAir ordered nine 737-800s, worth $864 million (around €780.7 million) at list prices.
  • Russian heavy cargo carrier Volga-Dnepr agreed to buy 20 747-8 freighters, worth $7.6 billion (around €6.87 billion) at list prices.
  • Air Lease ordered six 737 MAX 8s valued at $660 million (around €596.39 million) at list prices.
  • TUI agreed an order for 10 737 MAX 8s and one 787-9 Dreamliner, worth $1.4 billion (around €1.27 billion) at list prices. The deal includes an option for one additional 787-9.
  • Standard Chartered Bank ordered 10 737-800s, worth $960 million (around €867.5 million) at list prices.
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Some of the chalets where the exhibitors entertain their guests

Whilst from an aviation perspective a lot of people like to see the static display and then take their spot on the crowd line to watch the flying display, the pure nature of Farnborough Air Show is so much more than just about aircraft display. This can be seen by paying a visit to one of the many halls or chalets which are rows upon rows of some very impressive exhibition stands of airlines, manufacturers etc doing their best to sell their product. The products can be anything at all aviation related. Aside from the four main halls a lot of the bigger companies claim an individual chalet each. Entrance to these is generally by invitation and only open during the trade days.

On display for the first time this year from Embraer were the E190-E2, the next generation for the E190/170 series, which had only started flying on the 23rd of May 2016. Embraer’s sales at the show were relatively modest, receiving a firm order for five E190-E2 aircraft from Indonesian regional airline Kalstar. That order includes an additional five options. The company announced a firm order for four current-generation E190s from aircraft lessor Nordic Aviation Capital. In addition a letter of intent was signed with Arkia Israeli Airlines for 10 E195-E2s. This is expected to translate into a firm order for six aircraft with options on another four. This brought the total backlog for E2-series aircraft to a significant 272 firm orders and 398 options, purchase rights, and letters of intent ahead of the aircraft’s expected entry into service in early 2018.

Also in attendance was the Embraer KC-390 which first flew in early 2015 but thereafter there was a delay of eight months, due to budgetary restrictions in Brazil, before its next flight in October 2015. This is being marketed as a replacement for the C-130 Hercules. Boeing signed a teaming agreement to jointly market and support the KC-390 which will see the two companies collaborate on worldwide sales and support of this new medium airlifter. It is understood that Embraer will seek to have the KC-390 certified for military and civil operations. Following the show the KC-390 embarked on a tour of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Although their press spokesman refused to divulge what countries would be visited, it was understood the Czech Republic – being one of the main partners in the project – was on the list. Embraer see a potentially large market for the aircraft from current operators of legacy C-130s for whom the C-130J is just too expensive and Airbus’ A400M being both too large and expensive for their budgets.

Japan’s Mitsubishi announced an order for 10 of its MRJ90 regional jets.

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The interior of the Cityjet Sukhoi SSJ at Farnborough

Cityjet’s new toy the Sukhoi SSJ-100 was in the static display, being presented by Leonardo Finmeccanica. Having had a quick look around the aircraft it is very impressive and spacious inside with the cockpit having plenty of room. One noticeable issue was that the back door had steps up to it; whilst it was possible to enter and exit via the back door it was a service door rather than a full passenger door, which might hinder quick turnarounds where use of both doors is required. Another topic of discussion amongst those that had a look around the SSJ was how long it would actually take before the aircraft is certified to fly into Cityjet’s main market, London City. The jury seemed to be out on accepting the manufacturers promises of 2018 on that one.

Antonov brought along and displayed their An178, a small twin engine military cargo plane. The market which this aircraft is trying to fill seems to have a lot of competition and time will tell if it will be a success although Saudi Arabia are said to be keen to join the program and have the An-178 manufactured in the Kingdom. Also in the static on the trade days was the larger Antonov An-124 of Volga Dnepr which was open for visits.

Boeing had their 737-8 Max in attendance, an aircraft which Boeing pride themselves on stating they have an aircraft that can match or beat their Airbus equivalent in range. According to the Boeing sales pitch their version will always have 12 extra seats than its competitor. The prime reason is due to the wetted area (the area that comes in contact with the external air) of a Boeing being smaller than that of an Airbus which reduces drag, reduces power needed to fly which results in less fuel and less cost.

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The Boeing 787-9 in the colours of ANA with a near vertical takeoff to start its display

Also in attendance from the Seattle stable during the week were a 747-8F of Cargo Logic (delivered at the show), a 787-9 of ANA with a decal of blossoms on one side and Mount Fuji on the other. As part of the Boeing centenary celebrations 2 Excel brought along their wonderful Boeing 727-200 Oil Spill Response aircraft. Such a rare and glorious sight to see a 727 in the air again. Other Boeing flying display highlights included the 737 MAX, P-8A and F/A-18F Super Hornet.

Aside from the commercial airplanes there was a large presence for military and business aircraft.

From the military jets the following gave displays – Saab Grippen, Boeing F/A-18F, Eurofighter flown by BAe test pilot Nat Mackpeace, Leonardo Finmeccanica (AleniaAermachhi) M346, and finally the Lockheed Martin F35B which gave the noisiest if not one of the more sedate displays of all the fast jets.

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An AW-189 in the colours of the HM Coastguard

On the rotary front what was noticeable, or rather not, was the absence of any large presence from Airbus Helicopters. This realign from the potentially fatal blow recently delivered to its EC225/725 program. Leaving the light civilian market to the likes of Bell Helicopters, Leonardo Finmeccanica, the manufacturer which has gone through more reincarnations than the late Prince, displayed a AW-101 to be delivered to the Italian Air Force and used in the CSAR role and three AW-149/189s. These are a larger uprated version of the highly successful AW-139, with the AW-189 targeting the civilian offshore market (the one present was from HM Coastguard) and the AW-149 being the military version, two of which are on display. Finally, for those that find the AW-109 too small and the AW-139 a bit on the big side, Leonardo have come up with the AW-169 which looks like a hybrid of the two.

This year’s event did not start off too well with the cancellation of the flying display on Monday and the early closing of the trade event due to torrential rain and flooding on the field. Friday’s flying display also had to be curtailed due to the weather conditions. There was some notable delays at security upon arrival at the main gates which caused many people to miss early appointments and some exhibitors had difficulty gaining access to their stands.

At the weekend the event is open to the public. A lot of the commercial airliners had left the field by mid week which resulted in a much watered down event than earlier in the week. A few aircraft were added to the weekend flying/static display such as Boeing Stearmans, The Blades aerobatic team, and a RAF Tornado GR4 (Desert storm scheme).

Photos by Alan Dwyer

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