Highlights of the Farnborough Air Show

Like every other year, the small Farnborough airfield has become the meeting point for aviation professionals and enthusiasts for around the World. This was not my first visit to the Farnborough Air Show, been here in 2006, when I could first admire the majestic (and quiet!) Airbus A380, and the 2008 edition, when the smaller size of the flying and static displays was an unmistakable sign that the economy was already in trouble.

This time, however, I was able to see Farnborough from an entirely new angle, a professional angle, since I had the chance to experience the air show working together with the  colleagues of the Flightglobal team.

Flightglobal’s chalet at the show was in a privileged position, overlooking the runway, and it had a perfect view of the flight display.  As you might imagine, I did not pass the opportunity to do some planespotting. I must say this year, besides the always spectacular to watch, military jets, the highlight for me was the Boeing 787, an aircraft that I “met” for the first time. Qatar Airways brought its newly delivered Dreamliner and  it did not disappoint. It is a beautiful plane, elegant and very quiet...I can’t wait to fly on it!

But the Boeing 787 was not the only “first” at the show, the Superjet was also there, looking good in Aeroflot livery.

And not exactly a new plane, but I also found quite interesting this Embraer 190 in the bright colours of the Ukrainian carrier Aerosvit.

On the business side of the show, most of the attention was focused on the 737 Max vs. Airbus A320 Neo, with Boeing having the upper hand this time, as it secured 225 firm orders, including those for the 737 Max from United Airlines and leasing companies ALC and ALAFCO, whereas arch-rival Airbus managed to secure only 54 firm orders.

But how long is this dupolistic dominance of the narrow-body market going to last? 

One of the things I personally found more interesting of this show is the performance of the "alternative" manufacturers (by alternative I mean those that are neither of the big two).

It is particularly noticeable the apparent consolidation of Bombardier's CSeries programme, that managed to secure several new orders for its CS300 and has attracted the interest also of AirAsia. Other up-start narrow-body programmes have also generated some interesting news during the show, like Misubishi Aircraft securing 100 additional orders for its MRJ from SkyWest and Comac reaching an agreeement with IAG for the further development of the C-919.

A different story is Irkut's MC-21 programme, that is still generating considerable doubts, not least of them its final branding (for a start, there is not even a consensus among industry observers: should it be pronnounced as “C” or as “S” as it would be if respecting the Russian pronunciation of the cyrillic "C"?). 

These alternative narrow-body programmes face an uphill battle but if they manage to hold their ground we are almost guaranteed to have very interesting air shows in years to come! 

Oh! and almost forgot!...in future air shows I would expect to see more of these too!