Farnborough International Airshow Report

Monday 9th July - Sunday 15th July 2012

Due to the Olympics, this years Farnborough International Airshow took place slightly earlier than usual during Monday 9th July through Sunday 15th July 2012. The biannual combination of a trade and public event has a tradition of attracting rare prototype aircraft to the UK that are often not seen anywhere else or ever again on our shores!

Andy Evans was present for UKAR during the trade days. Photography from the author and Dan O'Hagan.

As always a great deal of expectation surrounded the potential participants with rumours of a flying appearance of the JF-17 and misleading news reports coming from Russia of a large fast jet contingent taking part. Sadly it turned out that these rumours were untrue. Participation lists did however show a strong civilian contingent this year with flying displays from no less than two examples of the Airbus A380, including a Malaysian Airlines example. The Americans were not to be outdone and Boeing brought along a newly painted Qatar airlines 787 performing a full display for the crowds. Other flying participants included an interesting mini display team made up of a trio of AgustaWestland AW139, AW169 and AW189 together with a spirited solo display from a Eurocopter EC175 in SAR colours.

The military element of the flying display was a mixture of Farnborough "regulars" in the shape of a Gripen, F/A-18F and Typhoon turning burning in the sky and the new boys in town. Making their Farnborough debuts were the Yak-130 and KAI T-50B (in Black Eagles colours) performing solo displays each day. The military element of the flying display seemed lack lustre which, it is fair to say, was not the fault of the organisers. The star of the show was to be the appearance of a Su27 solo display from the Russian Knights. Due to problems with the granting of visas (which it remains unclear whether the Russian or UK governments were at fault for), the team were unable to attend even after trying right up to the beginning of the show to gain clearance.

The static display on the trade days represented a diverse mix of flying participants and rare civil/military aircraft including the appearance of a UH-72 Lakota and a large number of AgustaWestland helicopters. As per usual with Farnborough, a large number of the more interesting static items, particularly the biz jets departed prior to the public days and were replaced by other items.

The exhibition halls were, as ever, a treasure trove for the engineering student or someone trying to gain a job in the industry with many of the UK based companies being present. The largest of which being BAE Systems that had such items as the Typhoon Helmet Mounted Display to try. There was also a large Russian contingent present which was very prominent when compared to the greatly reduced presence from major US companies, including the non attendance of Northrop Grumman. Knowing where to look, there were some interesting items on display, including the public debut of the multi-mission pod for the F-35. The same pod is used to house the gun on the F-35B and C variants. Martin Baker were also present showing off a wide range of their ejector seats. Interesting was the difference between the (very similar) Typhoon and F-35 seats, the only difference being the head rest including air bags on the newer seat to support the helmet during ejection, something that Typhoon pilots using the Helmet Display will not benefit from! The reason for the airbags? Tests had shown the helmet displays weight can break a pilots neck during ejection if not supported!

This year, Farnborough can quite easily be described as a tail of two shows. Following from "public feedback" for the first time at this show the trade exhibition was not open to the public on the public show days. Whilst this can be understood when the cost of manning these stands for exhibitors is taken into account, this combined with some other decisions has resulted in a significant amount of criticism of the 2012 show. Especially the 787 departing prior to the public days together with other acts not taking part in the flying display.

Apart from the Vulcan displaying on the public days (static only on trade days), there is little immediate justification for why the price of a ticket for the public days was over £10 more than what was charged for trade days! This, undoubtably, discouraged a large number of enthusiasts from attending. Indeed, those that could justify it were present on trade days. This had the unfortunate knock on when visiting the satellite exhibition sites (such as Irkut) who were vetting people that were being allowed entry, refusing anyone not from a recognisable aviation company.

It is fair to say that, trade wise, Farnborough International was yet another success with major milestones such as the handover of the first Wildcat to the Army taking place. However, it is questionable to say the least whether the same can be said about the public Airshow, sadly. In 2014, Farnborough will have to pull out all the stops in order to justify such a price hike over trade days when there is effectively less to see, especially when all enthusiasts have seen this year what can be done for a very similar ticket price with less corporate input at Fairford.

Farnborough International Airshow will take place from Monday 14th July to Sunday 20th July 2014.