Farnborough show opens its hangar doors to the world
Twelve years after the first Farnborough show in 1948, the Society of British Aircraft Constructors (SBAC) opened the event to foreign engine makers whose products equipped UK aircraft. The daily 1960 display began with a simulation of Britain’s planned retaliatory response to nuclear attack as flights of four Avro Vulcans, Handley Page Victors or Vickers Valiant “V-bombers” were “scrambled.”
Unconsciously anticipating Royal Air Force developments, the show saw the last “Black Arrows” aerobatic-formation display in Hawker Hunters and the Folland Gnat trainer, which later would become a familiar mount for a future team.
New engine technology came in the form of the Rolls-Royce Conway bypass engine, and Beagle Aircraft’s Airedale, Husky and Terrier light aircraft debuted despite SBAC’s standard “no dogs” rule.
The 1961 display included almost 150 military aircraft from the armed services in a tour de force that overshadowed a much smaller number of new aircraft. Some 130,000 square feet of covered space catered to almost 400 exhibitors.
The increasing cost of development and fewer original designs meant insufficient activity to support an annual show. In 1962, SBAC said there would be no 1963 event and only British products in 1964, the year Farnborough began alternating with Paris as the site of each year’s major show.
The 1962 event provided first appearances by the Bristol T188 high-speed research aircraft, de Havilland DH121 Trident airliner and DH125 executive jet, Hawker P1127 vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, Vickers VC10 quad-jet and small Wallis Autogyro.
The first biennial Farnborough show in 1964 saw another new Beagle (B242, the re-worked B218), short-haul British Aircraft Corporation One-Eleven airliner and ogival-winged BAC 221, and the Short Skyvan utility/feederliner and Belfast transport. This event also saw the first appearance of Folland Gnat formation aerobatics with the “Yellowjacks” that in 1965 would become the Red Arrows.
Another “first” was SBAC’s publication of a public-day souvenir program. The society might have had second thoughts about the wisdom of introducing a number of vintage aircraft for the weekend flying display after the Shuttleworth Trust’s Bristol Bulldog crashed after stalling at low level.
In 1966, the organizers opened the show to European aircraft incorporating British engines or those with significant alternative UK content. Among the overseas visitors was Italy’s Aermacchi MB326 trainer, whose pilot completed his display by landing from a loop and, with gear and flaps deployed, rolling the aircraft while on finals. Other European machines that year included the Breguet Atlantique maritime-reconnaissance aircraft, Fiat G91 lightweight fighter, Fokker F27 Friendship regional turboprop and Transall 160 military transport.
The twin-engine Britten-Norman Islander made its first appearance and, in one guise or another, has appeared at every subsequent show. Helicopter participation involved Westland’s Scout, Sioux, Wasp, Wessex 2 and 5, and Whirlwind, but–with UK industry rationalization well under way–a huge turnout from Hawker Siddeley Aviation and its Andover, Buccaneer, Dominie, Gnat trainer, HS125, HS748, Hunter, Kestrel, P1127, Shackleton, Trident and Vulcan overshadowed the former group.
Weather again played its part in 1968, when Farnborough took place two weeks later than usual. Heavy rain immediately before the show opened flooded areas of the airfield, leading to cancellation of the first day’s flying. Revised defense procurement following several project cancellations in the mid-1960s brought two new aircraft to the show: the Hawker Siddeley Harrier and Rolls-Royce Spey-engined McDonnell F-4K Phantom II.
The de Havilland Comet jetliner that appeared during 1949-61 returned in derivative Nimrod MR1 reconnaissance form and another British debutante was the Handley Page Jetstream feeder-liner. The 1968 event also marked the Breguet Atlantique accident, in which the crew and someone on the ground died when the aircraft stalled in a turn following a single-engine flypast.
Two Anglo-French collaborative projects seen in 1970 were the Sepecat Jaguar fighter-bomber and BAC/Sud Concorde supersonic transport. Another new participant was the Ling-Temco-Vought Corsair II.
Britten-Norman excelled itself by flying its new decidedly utilitarian Trislander three-engine design and bringing it to Farnborough later the same day. In absolute contrast, the Canberra bomber made its last show appearance 21 years after its debut. Again, there was an accident and test pilot “Pee Wee” Judge was killed following a negative-G maneuver in the Wallis Autogyro.
About one in ten of the 250 exhibitors occupying over 140,000 square feet at “Farnborough Europe” in 1972 came from overseas. Alongside visiting aerobatic teams– Patrouille de France and Italy’s Frecce Tricolori–were appearances by the Swedish Saab Viggen fighter (whose Saab 105 trainer sibling managed to land sans undercarriage), Hindustan Aircraft’s license-built Folland Gnat fighter and the Rolls-Royce RB211-powered Lockheed L1011 TriStar.
Two years later, SBAC established “Farnborough” in its now-familiar global aerospace guise. Overseas companies comprised nearly 50 percent of the 380 exhibitors, with a new exhibition hall almost doubling available covered space to 250,000 square feet.
Among U.S. manufacturers were McDonnell Douglas with the F-15, and Sikorsky, whose S-67 Blackhawk crashed following an unsuccessful aerobatic maneuver.
Multinational programs included the Airbus A300 and Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jet trainer. The Hawker Siddeley P.1182 (Hawk) trainer was also included.
The 1976 show saw variable-geometry designs: the Anglo-German-Italian Panavia Tornado, U.S. Grumman F-14 Tomcat, and the McDonnell Douglas YC-15 military transport prototype. Airbus test pilot Pierre Baud flew the A300 before demonstrating the diminutive Bede BD5J–the show’s largest and smallest participants.
The de Havilland Canada Dash 7 regional airliner and Cranfield A1 aerobatic aircraft recorded first appearances in 1978. As expansion continued, additional hospitality units took the chalet total to more than 200, but the approaching 1980s would require wholesale site landscaping to permit further growth.