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The London Air Show has now established itself as a major aviation exhibition. The show is aimed mainly at people who aspire to or currently fly in General Aviation. However, the show covers so much more than that with a number of different exhibitors covering all manner of aviation from commericial to modern military with a smattering of historic aviation along the way. There are also seminars and advice centres for those interested in getting into and getting the most from aviation. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK headed to the smoke to find out more. All Photography copyright Paul Johnson/Flightline UK.

Sim City
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New Kids on the Block
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Virtual High Life

Photo copyright British Airways

One of the biggest highlights for many of the Fly! Exhibition is the BA Customer first 737 Simulator. It's appearance is so popular that people arrive early and run across the hall to it to get their experience booked. On our visit to Fly! the simulator was booked up for the day with 15 minutes of the show opening. Flightline UK was lucky to be offered a 15 minute experience in the simulator. It's based within a trailer containing a replica of the 737's cockpit with all the controls laid out as closely as possible to the real thing. The actual software is Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, though with several enhancements specifically for the simulator. It is actually used for procedural training by BA Flight crew. Customers get the chance to perform a take off from London Heathrow and as well as an experience of general handling before being set up for an approach in Heathrow over the city of London with all the landmarks plainly visible in the projection. At the end following a successful trip customers get a certificate with line graphs of their approach just like the graphics from the Krypton factor!

Each experience costs £25 and money from that goes to BA's own charity High Flight. Started by Stratton Richey, a captain for BA and Farnborough commentator the charity raises money for flying scholarships for the disabled and takes disadvantaged and disabled young people flying. Sice the start of the project five years ago £367,000 has been raised. None of this money is used for administration costs . Those funds come from huge help from British Airways and finacial support from Flight International Magazine who also provide the charities website - http://www.highflight.info. High Flight has taken 1950 young people gliding, funded 10 Flying Scholorships for the Disabled, funded a microloght organisation to modify a microlight to accommodate wheelchairs and taken 1200 special needs youngsters to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford.

"Fly!" has developed well since the first show was held in 2003 and now is a widely aknowedged aviation event with a growing list of exhibitors and visitors. What is so different to any other airshow is the opportunity to get close to aircraft, actually have a go at flying in an extensive portfolio of simulators and talk to those involved with Aviation. In particular the show is a great tool for those wanting to learn to fly privately with a number of flyings schools and airfields showcasing their services. In fact, despite some uninformed views, the UK General Aviation Markets is showing string growth. This has been helped by the fact several companies now find private aircraft of all kinds much more viable than normal commercial services allowing employees to go where they want rather than where the airlines can or want to go. This is set to continue with fractured ownership of aircraft ie. timesharing a private aircraft between owners. Several manufacturers were at the show. Cirrus had a big presences with a dramatic exhibit highlighting their unique safety systems which deploys a parachute for the aircraft itself. Also in the hunt for GA owners and clubs are Diamond aircraft which this year showcased their elegent twin, the Twin Star alongside the more familiar DA40. Liberty are another upcoming GA producer aand were showing off their latest high-tech cruiser, the XL2.

However, by far the most dramatic of the "light" aircraft on show was the ATG Javelin, a light business jet in civil form capable of carrying a pilot and one passenger. The aircraft can reach speeds in excess of 600mph and will also be offered as a training aircraft to military customers.

Away from fixed wing flight, there were a number of other interesting types on show. Helicopters from Enstrom and MD helicopters were displayed by Eastern Helicopters. Also on display were a number of Autogyros in amby different guises. Perhaps the most notable was the Carla which really does look like a cross between a ultralight and a helicopter.

2006 saw the welsome return of the Royal Air Force to the exhibition with a pair of it's full scale replicas on show. While the Harrier GR7 is familiar "Fly!" saw the debut of the new Typhoon replica which has a fully working cockpit area to give visitors a feel of the RAF's latest fighter aircraft. It's position close to the Royal Navy stand however has meant it had gained a case of the RN Bugs!!

The Royal Navy exhibited a Lynx HMA8 as it has done in previosu years allowing the public a up close and personal look at a real current military aircraft. The Navy also brought one of the RN Historic Flight's Swordfish. W5868 should soon be back in the air, but the show provided an excellent opportunity to show off one of the heros of the second world war. Joining the Swordfish in the historic area was huey.co.uk's UH-1H Iroquois Miss Jo. Since last year the aircraft and team have gained a wealth of sponsorship now discreetly displayed on the tail of the aircraft. Hopefully this wonderful addition to UK historic aircraft should be seen at a number of events throughout 2006.

It wasn't just large expensive aircraft on show. There were demonstrations of all sorts of air sports on display from hang-gliding, gliders and parachuting. Also there were representatives of model flying. For those less adventurous armchair aviators there was plenty from the world of simulation. Exclusive to Fly! was the Breitling Fighter Challenge where your could take on a friend in duel in a F-15 fighter. Microsoft as in previous years hosted Flight Sim City with a number of stations where you could have a quick flight in Flight Simulator 2004. However, the star of the simulation area in the BA Customer First 737 Procedural Simulator. Saturday morning saw a great rush across the halls when the doors opening and it was fully booked within minutes.

2006 was undoubtely the best installment of this exhibition which was superbly presented amd several interesting seminars held throughout the three days. If you are interested in any sort of aviation, Fly! is a valuable experience that informs as well as entertains.

Flightline UK would like to thank Mason-Williams and Clarion Events for their hospitality at the show and Stratton Richey and Michael Hockfield from British Airways.

 copyright Flightline UK