OEMs ready to assemble for Farnborough airshow

 - July 7, 2008, 10:30 AM

Life begins at 60 looks to be the motto for the Farnborough International airshow as it prepares to mark the 60th anniversary of the first staging of the event, held this year from July 14 to 20. The 2008 show also marks the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight in Britain, with the historic Farnborough site the UK’s answer to Kitty Hawk thanks to the daring of American aviator Samuel Cody. A replica of his aircraft will be part of the rich historical content on display.

Farnborough has been sold out for months, with more than 1,500 exhibitors (up 5 percent on the 2006 total) preparing to participate. As of press time, some 70 aircraft were booked for the main static display, and these will be supplemented by a healthy crop of executive jets in the show’s standalone Business Aircraft Park (see below).

The economic context for the 2008 show has changed dramatically since the worldwide aerospace and defense businesses last gathered en masse at the June 2007 Paris Air Show. Since then, the full ramifications of a squeeze on credit in world financial markets have become apparent, at least in the West. At the same time, rapid expansion of the air transport and private aviation sectors in the Middle East and Asia have continued to spur market growth. In this respect, the latest Farnborough show will be an important litmus test of what the industry can realistically expect in the short and medium terms.

Highlights of the daily flying display will include the Airbus A380 super-large airliner and the long-awaited Kestrel JP-10 (a turboprop single that has been a long time in development, formerly under the name Farnborough F1). Special features will include a one-off fly-past by the impressive Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter on July 14 and a flashback to the Cold War era with the July 18 appearance of Britain’s Avro Vulcan bomber. Provisional flying display participants also include Boeing’s B-1B bomber and the extremely agile Sukhoi Su-35 warplane. July 18, as well as the public days, July 19 and 20, will feature an extensive array of historic aircraft spanning close to a century of aviation.

Major themes at FI2008 will include aviation’s response to demands to be more environmentally friendly. This will be a major slant of many exhibitors’ announcements and the subject of several special meetings during the week. Another activity in this vein will be a live demonstration of how an aircraft can be dismantled and at least partially recycled.

The Farnborough show site itself has been rejuvenated with several new features, including the new permanent exhibition center and a new four-floor, glass and aluminum building dubbed the “crystal palace.” According to Amanda Stainer, director of exhibitions and events with show organizer Farnborough International, more of the larger exhibitors have invested in their own separate exhibit structures, giving the show a distinctive and more permanent appearance.

All chalet space for the show has been booked.