Farnborough International 2008


Trade Displays
Click to Enlarge

The 2008 Farnborough Airshow celebrated the 60th anniversary of the SBAC event being held at Farnborough. There has been significant change in aviation over those 60 years in terms of technology as well as the direction the aviation business has gone. In those early days Farnborough remained a totally British event promoting only aviation products produced in the UK. In 2008, over $88.7 billion of international deals were done which was a record for the show despite the early signs of a downturn in world trade. It's therefore a safe assumption that Farnborough's role as a trade focal point is secure, but what about the drama and spectacle of the flying display which has made Farnborough world famous? Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of the Author unless stated otherwise.

The diamond jubilee of any British institution is always a big event. Farnborough has a rich heritage of delivering some of the world most spectacular flying displays by the latest machinery and some of the UK's best display acts. The early plans for Farnborough 2008 were impressive and there was quite a bit of good news about the display. Perhaps one of the most welcome of which the dropping of the display minima to 500ft. That still doesn't stop Farnborough from having rules above and beyond any other airshow. Rules covering the over flight of the immediate surrounding area still cause many acts to have to modify display routines. It often causes frustration not only to the pilots, but also to the crowds at Farnborough.

The other main item of good news was to collect together a number of aircraft from each of the six decades of the Farnborough Airshow together as a showcase of the show's heritage. The centrepiece of this was to be the Vulcan and right up to the event there was a lot of  speculation as to whether it would make it or not.

The run up to Farnborough was overshadowed by the events at the Royal International Air Tattoo where unseasonably heavy rainfall effectively saturated many of the car parks and much of the showground washing away hopes to open the airshow to the public. The cancellation of RIAT subsequently made Farnborough perhaps the biggest show of the year and there were quite a few Fairford "refugees" amongst some boosted crowd numbers over the public days.

Busy Blades

Amongst the busiest aircraft on the Farnborough flightlines were the four Extra 300LP aircraft of the Blades. As well as giving daily displays throughout the week, the team were also kept busy flying some lucky passengers. Amongst the passengers were a number of wounded servicemen from the "Help for Heroes" charity. Their display continues to impress and they were one of the few display teams to be exempt from Farnborough's strict display regulations .

On the ground there is always plenty to see with the large exhibition areas and static displays of aircraft. The exhibition areas never seem to change a great deal between shows though some of the bigger companies have now moved out into their own dedicated areas away from the main halls. Of note was BAE Systems own large hall and Boeing's very "spacey" hall of white walls and coloured animations!

For the enthusiasts and photographers, there is always great frustration of the aircraft layout at Farnborough and 2008 was no exception. With certain areas remaining invitation only and  some very tight barriers around aircraft getting clear shots of some aircraft was near impossible. Highlight amongst the static park were a pair of Slovak Air Force MiG-29 and MiG-29UB Fulcrums which represented the only eastern European participation at the show. A Pollution Control Dornier Do228 from the German Military was also another rare military visitor.

With no F-35, A400M or A330MRTT able to appear at Farnborough, there was little in the way of future RAF types in the display. In fact, the RAF was just represented by Sentinal R1 and a Eurofighter FGR4 for most of the week before the arrival of a pair of Tornado F3 aircraft from 111(F) sqn for the weekend. It had been hoped these aircraft from 111(F) could have joined some Hunters in the air for a unique salute to the "Black Arrows" who went down in history for looping the largest formation of aircraft at Farnborough with 22 Hunters.

Two large airliners dominated the static park for much of the week - both in the colours of Indian based airliners. The Airbus A330 dominated the areas in front of the halls wearing it's Kingfisher Airlines livery. Another Kingfisher aircraft was an ATR72 parked over towards the business aircraft park. Shadowing much of the US aircraft area was the Boeing 777-300ER, the most fuel efficient B777 yet. Curiously however, both these aircraft were pulled out of the static areas before the weekend with the Airbus leaving on Friday morning while the Boeing departed Saturday night. This is another of the frustrations for those attending Farnborough - many aircraft only appear on a few days of the show. Examples this year included the Airbus A310MRTT and an Israel AEW&C Gulfstream G550.

Best of British

Always a highlight of a Farnborough Show  is the participation of the Red Arrows., Like the Blades, it was a busy time for the team who were deployed to Farnborough for much of the latter half of the week though they carried out further displays  at private military events as well as the Sanicole Airshow in Belgium during their stay.

The daily flying displays are Farnborough during the week are much shorter affairs than those seen from the Friday and into the weekend scraping barely over the two hour mark. This is ideal for the traders as it leaves many more hours in relative quiet for all the meetings that take place across the site. Part of the display throughout the week were the Shooting Stars parachute display team - an all-women team from Italy. Their appearance at Farnborough was sponsored by Aero Sekur. During the public days they were joined the British Army's own Red Devils.

Opening the main aircraft displays most days was the extraordinary Airbus A380. This giant of the skies is now entering service with both Singapore and Emirates Airlines and is a regular sight in and out of London Heathrow. Airbus came to Farnborough displaying a new "green" message on the tail of the A380 which they hope will attract customers deciding between the A380/350 families and Boeing's 787 Dreamliner which seems ever further from flight.

American contribution to the flying displays throughout the week remained strictly military. Boeing was on display was the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Again, it was a standard aircraft borrowed from a front line unit though it was pleasing to see it was again fitted with a representative weapons load of AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for it's display. The display itself was the usual mixture of brute force and impossible angles of attack in the hands of Boeing test pilot Ricardo Traven.

The other US fighter displaying was the F-16CJ Fighting Falcon. Though not strictly an heritage participant, the F-16 has been appearing at Farnborough Airshows since the 1980's and it's heritage is almost half of that of the entire show. The aircraft on display have not been the same though. The multi-role variant on display at Farnborough 2008 is far removed from the simple agile air defence fighter that first appeared at Farnborough. What has not changed is the incredible agility this aircraft this aircraft shows during it's displays.

The only European aircraft to match the F/A-18F and F-16CJ was the Eurofighter Typhoon F2. Unlike the American aircraft it was not displayed by a dedicated test pilot but was the RAF's own solo display flown by Flt Lt Charlie Matthews. As ever is was an exciting account of the aircraft and more than matched the American opposition.

Displaying on Monday only was the F-22A Raptor. Like the Typhoon it is displayed by a normal service pilot - Major "Max" Moga and like his "practice" at RAF Fairford it was a truly dramatic display for all that saw it. Sadly though, the F-22 Demo Team had to be back in the US by the end of the week for the Dayton show. The other US frontline aircraft in the flying display was the B-1B Lancer. As with the F-22 it was at RAF Fairford for the cancelled RIAT as well but also appeared throughout the week at Farnborough. Despite a rather dramatic appearance on Tuesday, the B-1B remained rather high and flat throughout.

Other European military involvement was disappointing. The Aermacchi M346 gave a noisy account of itself but it's not an aircraft that really impresses. Much more impressive was it's stalemates from the Finmeccanica Hanger - the C-27J Spartan and BA609. We have seen the C-27J at Farnborough for a number of years now and it's always been a lively performer but this years display was something else and topped with a true knife-edge pass! The BA609 is rather like a small, sleeker V-22 Osprey that is being jointly produced by Bell-Boeing in the US and AgustaWestland in Italy. The makers hope this aircraft will be able to fulfill many military and civilian roles. It's display is certainly more dynamic than that of the V-22 two years ago.

Vulcan's Return

The mere fact that Vulcan XH558 proved to be the star of Farnborough 2008 says a lot for the show as a whole. However, the impressive silhouette of this aircraft holding over towards RAF Odiham was a reminder of Farnborough's golden past when Vulcans performed some of the most iconic displays in Farnborough's history.

TVOC were eager to tap in the gathered aviation industry in search of a long term sponsor to keep this project alive. Sadly, there seems  to be no "white knight" just yet as we approach the end of the 2008 season. .

The Indian aerospace industry made a welcome return to Farnborough. The Indian Air Force Sarang Helicopter Display Team finished off their European tour at the show displaying on several different days. Also display was a solo HAL Dhruv helicopter, this time in the markings of the Indian Army. While it's no match for a Chinook or Lynx display, it's a much more dynamic machine away from the confines of a formation display.

One of the newest types on display most the Kestral-Farnborough JP-10. This aircraft started off life as a form of air taxi developed as the Farnborough F1 by Richard Noble. Since then the design has been refined with financial backing from the Middle East and 2008 marked it's Farnborough debut in the flying display.

Also flying during the trade days were the FR Aviation pair of Dassault Falcon 20ECM aircraft highlight the role they can take on in training the armed services.

The public day display were augmented by a number of aircraft from the airshow circuit, some of which had historical ties with Farnborough. Perhaps the most talked about of these was the Avro Vulcan B2 XH558. The project to get the Vulcan flying at airshows again finally bore fruit earlier in July when the aircraft debuted at RAF Waddington. Due to the cancellation of RIAT, Farnborough proved to the second outing for the aircraft which performed four times over the week in the hope of catching the eye of a potential sponsor.

The newly "rebranded" Blades display made their Farnborough debut with their usual slick display in their new Barclays Commercial colours. The Aerostars also put on an excellent display. They arrived each day with a couple of other interesting types which included a Yak-55 and a Fiat G-46. Joining them were the Swift Aerobatic Display Team with a full compliment of Pawnee, Twister, Swift and Lo-100. It was a debut at Farnborough for the Swift, Pawnee and Twister, and a display first - a roll on dual tow. (Lo100s displayed as the syncron pair 15 years ago)

There were a fair number of warbirds and other historic types in the display. The first world war was represented by the Great War Display Team who flew in from other airfields for their displays due to high crosswinds. Crosswinds almost completely caught out the Vickers Vimy 19/94 replica on Saturday when the aircraft was seen to be blown around by the wind ending in a short trip into the Farnborough grass with nothing much more than a dented ego!

There were two different displays by Spitfires - Carolyn Grace in her Spitfire IXT and the Rolls Royce Spitfire PR XIX. More Spitfire action came from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in company with the Lancaster and Hurricane. Another warbird in the flying was Plane Sailing's Catalina.

Post War historic types included the Douglas DC-6 and Hawker Hunter PR11. The PR11 was due to have been joined by two other Hunters, a T8 and a GA11. They failed to validate on the Friday prior to public days due to weather and finally managed to validate on Saturday evening after the main flying had finished for the day but even then just the PR11 made it in to Sunday's flying. The Royal Navy Historic Flight also displayed their Sea Hawk FGA6.

Displays by the RAF, Royal Navy and Army Air Corps have long been part of Farnborough historic though they seemed sadly lacking in 2008. The Army sent their latest font line aircraft, the Apache AH1 while the Royal Navy sent their Black Cats duo of Westland Lynx helicopters. The week at Farnborough was closed with the traditional display by the RAF's Red Arrows who never cease to capture the imagination of the crowds.

Farnborough 2008 is a difficult show to sum up. There was nothing wrong with the choice of aircraft on display but something was very defiantly missing. The "different" flying regulations cause a number of problem, not least airspace issues which meant all of the fast jet displays have to be grouped together and that some displays very distant. While Farnborough remains a very successful trade show, it's public days lack the atmosphere of other large UK shows like Biggin Hill and Kemble where a similar display would have far more impact on the crowds.

Military Displays
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge


>>Click Here for Airshow Previews and Reviews

>>Click Here to Return to Homepage

AVIATION TOP 100 - www.avitop.com Avitop.com

copyright Flightline UK