Air Show Report : Farnborough International Airshow 2014
Farnborough International Airshow 2014
Report and photos by Jiun Yap from the exhibitions and flying displays from both the trade day and the Farnborough Airshow 2014 for the public.
The 49th Farnborough International Airshow was held on the week of 14 to 20 July 2014, with the weekdays being a trade show and the weekend being a public show. This airshow was held at Farnborough Airport of the United Kingdom. The airshow can be considered as one of the largest in the world, with more than 1600 exhibitors taking part and occupying the sprawling exhibition halls and chalets. British Prime Minister David Cameron opened the show with an announcement of a £1.1bn investment into defense and space capabilities for the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the show organizer revealed that deals totaling US$41.9bn were made on the opening day.
The first day of the airshow saw the launch of the new Airbus A330-800neo and the A330-900neo as well as the Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engine which will be exclusively used by the A330neo. These two aircraft are new members of the Airbus wide body family, and received aerodynamic enhancements and new cabin features. It was reported that the A330neo can reduce fuel consumption by 14% per seat, making it the most cost-efficient medium range wide body aircraft in the market. In addition to fuel savings, the A330neo can see an increase in range of up to 400 nautical miles. Deliveries of the A330neo will start in Q4 of 2017.
The Airbus A350XWB flight testing was expected to complete by August 2014 and the European Aviation Safety Agency airworthiness approval was expected in the following month. The route proving campaign would be conducted using A350 MSN 005. In July 2014, this aircraft had accumulated almost 36 flight hours since taking to the air one month ago. It was planned that the aircraft would undertake a series of operational flight tests that include a series of Singapore-Hong Kong return flights with 1.5 hours of turn-around time. This aircraft was also planned to visit Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, U.S, and several airports in Asia and Europe.
Qatar Airways dominated the commercial dealings at the airshow with the signing of contracts with Boeing for its 777Xs worth up to US$37.7bn. Boeing also announced deals with China’s Hainan Aircraft, leasing group MG Aviation, Air Algérie. On the other hand, Airbus had Air Mauritius signing up for four more of its A350XWB. ATR also signed a contract with Myanma Airways for up to 12 ATR72-600. It was reported that by the end of the trade show days, the amount of commercial aviation deals was estimated to be around US$155bn.
The biggest news of this year’s airshow was the planned international debut of the F-35B Lightning II. However, an unfortunate engine issue had grounded the fleet prior to the show. It was reported that the F-35B Lightning II may make this much awaited international debut at next year’s Royal International Air Tattoo. Nevertheless, BAE Systems unveiled a new version of the Striker integrated display helmet for pilots of F-35. This version of the Striker helmet has high accuracy, low latency head tracking system that can slave sensors or weapons. The binocular display overlays flight parameters, sensor data, weapon status and night vision. The helmet weighs 1.9kg without night vision and provides positive pressure breathing to overcome potential loss of consciousness in high g maneuvers.
Upgrades for the F-16 Fighting Falcon continued to be in the news. BAE Systems was reported to be wooing the air forces of Greece, Turkey and Chile. It was likely to be a combined proposal from BAE Systems and Raytheon consisting of new avionics, mission systems and radar. Despite the appeal of newer generation of fighter aircraft, the F-16 is likely to be operated for many more years. The market for F-16 upgrading is thought to consist of up to 1300 airframes. The South Korean Air Force has already confirmed their F-16 upgrading with BAE Systems. The first two airframes, which are designated for design and development, are already with the facilities of BAE Systems at Fort Worth, USA.
The British Taranis Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle demonstrator was reported by BAE Systems to have undertaken full stealth mode flying in the second phase of testing in Australia. This £185 million UCAV was thought to be the most complex air system built in the UK. It was designed and built by BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation, QinetiQ and British MoD scientists and engineers. However, details of the program remain high classified.
The programs for the flying display on trade and public days were different. On a trade day, the flying display program consisted of Trekka UAVs, Parajets, Boeing 787, P-8 Poseidon and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Airbus A380, A350, A400M and E-fan, Eclipse Jet EA500, TAI T-129 Attack Helicopter, Eurofighter Typhoon and Alenia M346.
Boeing has been pushing for the sales of the P-8 Poseidon. During the flying display, Boeing test pilots flew the aircraft with anti-shipping missiles attached to hard points on the wings. It also opened the bay door of the aircraft during flying to demonstrate the dropping of sensors. Another impressive display from Boeing is the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. This aircraft flew with anti-air missiles on the wings and this was a rare sight as most airshow flying are done without external stores. It was reported that Boeing was trying to woo potential customers of the F-35 with this upgraded F-18 Hornet.
A non-military aircraft that had generated a good amount of interest was the Airbus E-fan. The E-fan is an electric powered small aircraft. The aircraft created a sound unlike that of propeller driving or jet powered aircrafts.
The stars of the public airshow days were the Avro Vulcan XH558 and a Boeing AV-8B II Sea Harrier from the Spanish Navy. The British made Avro Vulcan first appeared in the 1952 edition of Farnborough Airshow. The XH558 is the last flying example of this unusual by magnificent bomber. It was a favorite of many British aviation enthusiasts but it was thought that this was the last time an Avro Vulcan would fly at Farnborough as the aircraft was not expected to have sufficient spares to keep her flying beyond 2015. The other star was also an aircraft of British heritage. The AV-8B is the American version of the British Harrier Jump Jet. This AV-8B from the Spanish Navy was supposed to fly to showcase how jump jet technology has progressed to the state that is used in the newer F-35B. Unfortunately the F-35B did not make it to the airshow. Still the hovering of a Harrier was much missed in the UK after the retirement of the type by the British armed forces in 2011.
The Farnborough International Airshow had grown from strength to strength. The number of exhibitors and the amount of signed deals were the dreams of other airshow organizers around the world. The flying display was a good mix of civil and military aircrafts although the show had better flying displays in previous years. However, this seems to be the ongoing trend for many airshows around the world and is likely to continue in view of budgetary constraints and lesser variety of aircraft being developed. A fellow aviation enthusiast reckoned that maybe the F-35 will be the mainstay of flying display in the future considering that it will be replacing various fighter aircraft types. Hence, it will be the onus of non-government outfits to keep some of these current generation aircraft flying for the enjoyment of future generations of military aviation enthusiasts.
Report and photos by Jiun Yap ( view portfolio )