Farnborough Airshow 2008

 - July 30, 2008, 5:29 AM

The 2008 Farnborough International airshow (held from July 14 through 20) largely confounded widespread predictions that provide clear evidence of an industry heading into a downturn. A fresh wave of airliner orders, mainly from carriers in the fast-growing Middle Eastern and Asian markets, bolstered Airbus and Boeing, along with their phalanx of global suppliers. The event also saw manufacturers boldly committing to major new airframe and engine programs with the clear intention of maintaining a competitive edge for the next cyclical upturn.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways split firm orders for 55 airplanes between Airbus and Boeing and provisionally committed to another 50. The value of the firm part of these deals was around $20 billion, rising to as high as $43 billion if all options are exercised.

The Etihad contracts inked at Farnborough included a mix of A320s, A350s and A380s, as well as Boeing 787s and 777s. The world’s top-two airframers also swelled their already stuffed backlogs with new business from Qatar Airways, FlyDubai, Tunisair, Aeroflot, Asiana Airlines and lessor the Aviation Capital Group, while DAE Capital confirmed the 100-aircraft deal it had provisionally placed at the November 2007 Dubai Air Show.

Airbus declared this year’s event to have been its second most successful Farnborough show ever. But, welcome as these new deals undoubtedly were, it was new program announcements from Bombardier, CFM International and Pratt & Whitney that will make a more lasting mark on the aerospace business.

Bombardier formally launched its C-Series family of single-aisle airliners on the eve of the show. The Canadian airframer also confirmed that the aircraft will be built in Montreal, Quebec, despite speculation that it might have opted to establish the new production line in the lower-cost, U.S. dollar-based location of Kansas City, Mo. The group’s Belfast facility in Northern Ireland will develop and manufacture the wings and China’s Shenyang Aircraft Corp. is to supply the center fuselages.

To date, the only commercial backing for the C-Series is a “letter of interest” for up to 60 aircraft, including 30 options, from Lufthansa. However, a spokesman for the German flagcarrier told AIN that the only outstanding questions are where exactly within the growing Lufthansa network the new model will be assigned, rather than whether the purchase–valued at up to $2.8 billion–will go through.

The C-Series will be powered by Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan engine. The 110- to 130-seat family will include five models: the 110, the 110ER (extended range), 110XT (for hot-and-high and short field operations), the 130, the 130ER and the 130XT.

Bombardier projected development costs for the long-awaited program at just $2.6 billion and said that the C-Series will enter a market segment worth $2.8 trillion over the next 20 years. However, Airbus–which, like Boeing, is still procrastinating on the launch of its own new generation single-aisle products–cast doubt on the Bombardier business plan. Tom Williams, Airbus executive vice president for programs, told a press conference that the manufacturer would be forced to turn to its partners for further development funds and he questioned the wisdom of launching the C-Series without a firm launch customer. “I think they [Bombardier] face a very big challenge,” he commented. “There will be a niche market for the aircraft, but I don’t think the size of market they are talking about is there.”

Pratt & Whitney revealed a full-scale model of its new geared turbofan (GTF) engine and announced that this will be marketed as the PurePower PW1000G. Steve Finger, the engine maker’s president, reported that the new technology turbofan is performing “outstandingly well” in early flight tests and confirmed that the ultra-high-bypass engine will be offered as a replacement for the PW4000, as well as powerplant for new single-aisle airliners. The 24,000-pound-thrust version of the engine for the new C-Series aircraft has been dubbed the PW1524G, while Mitsubishi is to get the 17,000-pound-thrust PW1217G. The PW1217 will start flight trials
late next year, with the PW1524 to follow a few months later.

CFM International partners Snecma and General Electric announced that they are to develop an all-new engine under the working title Leap-X (for leading edge aviation propulsion) that promises 16 percent more fuel efficiency than the existing CFM56 series. CFM intends to run a Leap-X demonstrator in 2012 and said that it could get it certified by 2016, subject to airline demand. The Franco-American alliance also confirmed that it is developing an alternative open rotor design that could burn about 26 percent less fuel and would be available to enter service from 2020.

Superjet International–the joint venture between Russia’s Sukhoi and Italy’s Alenia–took its backlog of orders for the new Superjet 100 regional airline into triple figures, with three new agreements announced at Farnborough. First, Russia’s AviaLeasing signed a “heads of agreement” for 24 of the 98-seat model and optioned 16 more. Then, an undisclosed customer–which according to sources close to the deal is Icelandair–agreed to buy 20 of the aircraft with deliveries starting in 2010. Meanwhile Switzerland-based leasing group Asset Management Advisors is buying five jets for delivery in 2011. The combined, potential, value of these deals is $1.38 billion.

In addition to the domestic Russian market, Sukhoi director general Mikhail Pogosyan said that the company is targeting southeast Asia, Europe and “the Americas.” He added that the company is negotiating with Boeing to provide support where needed.
Sukhoi confirmed that the Superjet will not complete certification until “mid 2009.” First deliveries will not be made to launch customer Aeroflot before the end of the third quarter of next year–almost a year behind schedule. As of show week, the first Superjet prototype had completed 10 flights and logged 29 hours in the air since its first flight on May 19.

Meanwhile, Antonov confirmed the launch of a stretched version of its much-delayed 86-passenger An-148 regional jet. The An-148-200 will seat 99 passengers in a single-class configuration and, the Ukrainian company insists, could be ready for service entry in 2010. This is despite the fact that it has still not delivered the first of the original An-148 model to launch customer Leasingtechtrans. It said that this landmark was “imminent” as far back as the June 2007 Paris Air Show.

“We have identified a market for more than 200 aircraft out to 2015,” said Antonov general director Dmytro Kiva. “We’ll be ready to flight test the aircraft in 2009. It is an easy modification.”

Embraer also announced 27 firm orders for its E-190 twinjets, plus new options for 10 more. These deals included orders for 12 airplanes and options on five more and from AeroMexico, five firm orders plus five options from Austria-based low-cost carrier Niki, five firm from new Chinese regional carrier Kun Peng Airlines and the firming up of five options by Saudi Arabia’s Nas Air.

Embraer announced the sale of one of its new Lineage 1000 large cabin business jets to the Al Habtoor group of the United Arab Emirates, and another for a pair of Legacy 600s for K2 SmartJets of Greece. Abu Dhabi-based Royal Jet will operate the Lineage for Al Habtoor.

Mitsubishi displayed a cabin mockup of its 86- to 96-passenger MRJ90 regional jet. This aircraft is due to make its first flight in 2011, but development of the 70-to 80-seat MRJ70 model is lagging by about a year. The Japanese company confirmed the list price for the MRJ90 to be $38 million and predicted that its strongest market will be in North America.

With a projected breakeven of 1,000 sales, Mitsubishi will also target the MRJ at the Asian and European markets but will steer clear of China and Russia because these countries have their own indigenous products. Launch customer ANA of Japan has ordered up to 25 of the MRJ90 and is due to take first deliveries in 2013.
Avions de Transports Régional chief executive Stéphane Mayer said the company remains on track to deliver more than 60 new airplanes this year after nearly doubling capacity of the final assembly line at its factory in Toulouse, France. In the first half of this year, ATR received orders for eight airplanes, two of them ATR 42-500 twin-turboprops for French and Italian carriers and the other six the larger ATR 72-500 twin.

Austrian all-cargo carrier Amerer Air is planned to become the first customer for the relaunched British Aerospace Regional Aircraft BAe 146QT (Quiet Trader) freighter program. Its aircraft, a Series 200 model recently converted by Aerostar in Bacau, Romania, has been undergoing painting and final maintenance checks in the UK before delivery. The 146QT will be ferried to Linz, Austria, where Amerer Air has created a major logistics center.

Bombardier got showgoers’ attention by staging a “speed and performance display” (not to be confused with a race) between a Learjet 60XR and Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren Mercedes. The Learjet chased the McLaren at a height of just 200 feet but couldn’t quite catch Hamilton by the time he reached the end of the Farnborough runway.

Bombardier has contracted Safran subsidiaries Messier-Bugatti and Aircelle, respectively, to provide the landing gear and nacelles for its new Learjet 85. Eaton will provide the hydraulic system.

The Sino Swearingen SJ30 made its first public appearance since Dubai-based investors agreed to pump at least $150 million into the manufacturer. In early June, Emirates Investment & Development (Emivest) obtained U.S. approval to acquire an 80-percent stake from the Taiwanese government in San Antonio-based Sino Swearingen Aircraft. Taiwan will retain the other 20 percent stake, along with SJ30 designer Ed Swearingen and original investor Douglas Jaffe.

A Gulfstream G550 jet appeared at Farnborough in an unfamiliar guise. Israel Aerospace Industries gave a public debut to its conformal airborne early warning aircraft, featuring all sorts of unusual airframe shapes to accommodate cutting edge surveillance equipment, such as the Elta EL/M-2085 radar.

Piaggio Aero Industries announced that it is developing a special version of the P.180 Avanti to be used by the Italian air force for flight inspections of navigation aids. Private company Norwegian Special Mission will supply its Unifis 3000 inspection terminals for the reconfigured airplanes, which is due to enter service in 2010. Italy’s Aeronautica Militaire 14th Stormo is providing four Avantis from its fleet for upgrades with the flight inspection gear.

CAE announced four new sales of its 7000 Series of full-flight simulators. Bombardier is taking the first Global Express simulator fitted with the new GlobalVision flight deck, while Embraer has ordered a unit for its E-170/190 series of regional airliners. British Airways has bought an A320 simulator, and Etihad Airways is to take one for the Boeing 777-300ER widebody.

Bristow Group has exercised options for three Sikorsky S-92s and six S-76C++s. It also has added options to buy another eight S-92s. Meanwhile, Sikorsky announced that Britain’s Royal Household has inked a contract for one S-76C++, to be delivered next year, and has placed an option for a S-76D.

Sikorsky also announced the appointment of New Jet International to act as exclusive representative in Italy and Monaco for its commercial helicopters. The company is already a distributor for Bombardier.

Bell Helicopter took an order for 14 aircraft–12 Bell 407s and two Bell 206B3s–from Australia-based sales representative Hawker Pacific. “Strong growth in the Oceania market ranges from aviation logistics support in Papua New Guinea, aerial support of mining in New Caledonia and corporate/private operators in Australia/New Zealand,” Hawker Pacific CEO Alan Smith explained.

AgustaWestland reported that the government of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh State has ordered one AW139 medium twin for executive transport. Separately, an A109S Grand light twin helicopter has been delivered to a private operator in Russia, the first of the type in that country. The manufacturer also has supplied an AW109 Power light twin to Japan-based security company SECOM.

AgustaWestland also revealed the names of the first customers for the upgraded AW119 Koala, the AW119 Ke. In North America, Seacor is operating its light single for offshore transport and fire-fighting missions. In Spain, FAASA Aviacion is fighting fires with the first two of eight AW119 Kes it has ordered. The third customer is Switzerland-based Air Engiadina.

Meanwhile, Bell and Agusta-Westland effectively confirmed yet another delay for the long-awaited BA609 Tiltrotor. Now projected certification has been pushed back from the “2010/2011” timeframe announced at the June 2007 Paris Air Show to “2011/early 2012.” Bell indicated that it may transfer more of its share of the development work to its Italian partners in a bid to catch up.

Nonetheless, Bell and Agusta did confirm plans for a search-and-rescue variant of the BA609. Thanks to its 275-knot speed, the BA609 would reduce typical helicopter mission time by 44 percent. At more than 300 nm from the coast, a BA609 could recover up to six people with its hoist.

Eurocopter announced the delivery of its 500th helicopter in Canada–an AS355 NP Ecureuil light twin. The NP is an upgraded version with Turbomeca Arrius 1A1 engines that provide a 20-percent payload improvement. Customer Phoenix Heli-Flight is based in Fort McMurray, Alberta. It performs medevac, firefighting, passenger transport and various kinds of aerial work operations.

Separately, Eurocopter’s UK subsidiary has announced the installation of an EC 225 flight training device at Aberdeen in Scotland. It will support Eurocopter’s North Sea oil and gas customers from 2010. This year it also plans to install two EC 135 FTDs, one in Dallas and one in Donauwörth, Germany.   

Farnborough Airport Gets New Hotel

TAG Aviation opened the new Aviator hotel at Farnborough Airport during the show. The 170-room facility is intended primarily for use by executive aircraft crews and their passengers but is also equipped to meet the needs of other business visitors to an area that is not otherwise well served by suitable accommodation.

The stylish, contemporary building–when viewed from above–has the shape of a propeller and the aviation theme continues inside with a tribute to the great Anglo-American aviator Samuel Cody, who made the first heavier-than-air flight in Britain at Farnborough in 1908. The hotel, which is run for TAG by the Dakota group, features a brasserie, an Italian deli and the Sky Bar, as well as meeting rooms.