NARRATIVE & IMAGES BY BEN ROURKE
Farnborough International Airshow 2022
July 2022 saw the welcome return of the biennial Farnborough International Airshow after a 4-year gap following the cancelled 2020 event (the first to be cancelled in the show’s 70-year history) due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
A New Look Show
Perhaps the biggest talking point of the 2022 show was the new look 5-day format with the absence of much loved public days at the weekend following the trade show in the week. Initially planned to come into effect in 2020, this move demonstrates the organiser’s dedicated focus on the trade element as described by the CEO of Farnborough International, Gareth Rogers.
“We know that for many, a weekend spent at the Farnborough International Airshow was a highlight, but following the 2018 show, it was clear this aspect of the show is not commercially viable in the long term.”
“There’s a great deal of nostalgia and affection for the public weekend which we understand and are grateful for, but it’s important we continue to evolve and deliver the right kind of Airshow.”
With the tragic events at the 2015 Shoreham Airshow tightening display regulations, manufacturers increasingly keen to fly aircraft and crews back to base after the trade show to control costs, and organisational challenges, popularity for the public event has been waning for several years. The final straw came in 2018 with the show attracting ‘very negative and vitriolic feedback’ from visitors, falling short of expectations with a somewhat lacklustre, drawn-out flying display.
After all, the Farnborough International Airshow is one of the world’s biggest and most successful trade events with the 2018 show seeing a record $192bn worth of deals. Therefore, it seems wise for the organisers to play their strengths however sad that might be for the general public and enthusiasts to lose what was once considered one of Britain’s biggest and best airshows.
Despite this, the organisers clearly recognise the importance of the air display element in helping to inspire the next generation to become part of the aerospace industry. The final day of the show – Friday – is open to members of the public where attention is turned to the Pioneers of Tomorrow event. Talks from inspirational figures, hands-on activities, virtual reality experiences, career workshops and an extended flying programme are aimed to help inspire young people to be part of a multi-billion £ industry that employs over 100,000 people in the UK alone.
With glorious sunshine (and record-breaking 40C+ temperatures), an updated format and in the wake of a torrid time for the aviation industry, the 2022 show represented a real sense of rejuvenation and positivity with manufacturers as keen as ever to show off their innovations, and customers looking for the perfect solutions to their needs.
Despite the display element of the trade show becoming increasingly compact, Farnborough Airshow does offer a unique opportunity to witness a variety of the most cutting-edge aircraft being operated in a fashion not normally seen.
Drawing plenty of attention with its impressive, dynamic display, Boeing’s all-new 777X made its UK debut at the show with one of four test airframes, N779XW. The innovative new widebody features incredibly efficient General Electric GE9X engines (up to 10% more fuel efficient than their predecessors), new composite wings with eye-catching foldable wingtips for wingtip clearance at parking gates, and a whole host of cabin and flight deck features to improve customer comfort and safety. Whilst currently undergoing a rigorous testing programme, the new triple seven is expected to enter passenger service with a variety of airlines including Lufthansa, Emirates and Qatar in 2025, some six years behind the initial 2019 target.
Another Boeing aircraft that put on a fine display was the latest addition to the 737 MAX family, the MAX-10, which made its international debut at the show with airframe N27752 on duty to impress prospective customers. Also currently undergoing a testing programme, the largest member of the MAX family can seat up to 230 passengers filling the void left by the ageing 757 and offering competition to Airbus’s A321 NEO. You can expect to see the latest addition to the 737 family to be in passenger service in as little as six months with customers including United Airlines, Lion Air and TUI. With sustainability one of the main focuses of the 2022 show, both Boeings flew to the event on a blend of sustainable aviation fuel highlighting the manufacturer’s commitment to reducing emissions.
Airbus never fail to put on a good show, with the A350-900 demonstrator F-WWCF no exception, looking incredibly elegant in the Hampshire skies as the Airbus display pilots demonstrated its impressive manoeuvrability for a 200-tonne aircraft. To date, close to 500 examples of the A350 have been delivered worldwide having entered service in 2015.
In an eye-catching shark-themed livery, Embraer E190-E2 Tech Shark 2-RLET rounded off the quartet of commercial airliners showing off their incredible capabilities.
Farnborough is not all about commercial aircraft, with a number of military aircraft participating in the afternoon air display. The biggest contributor was Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) displaying both their T129 ATAK (12-1001), a twin-engined, multi-role attack helicopter manufactured in collaboration with Augusta Westland and the Hürkuş (TC-VCD), a two-seat, single-engine turboprop aircraft designed for basic training and ground attack roles, named after Vecihi Hürkuş, a Turkish veteran pilot and the first Turkish aeroplane manufacturer.
Trade visitors were also treated to a variety of flypasts and short displays from the BBMF Spitfire, an RAF Eurofighter Typhoon, RAF F35B, RAF CH-47 Chinook, Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano, RAF P-8 Poseidon and the Red Arrows across the first four days, with some absent later on in the week.
Having wowed crowds the weekend before at RIAT, with many claiming them to perform one of the best aerobatic displays they have witnessed, the Korean Air Force Black Eagles were also a welcome sight at the show. Completing a flight past with their eight T-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainers, the team flew the short distance from their temporary base for the week, MOD Boscombe Down.
The public display section hadn’t been completely lost with the last day of the show open to the public. Additional displays were put on by the ever-impressive Blades, Aerosuperbatics Wingwalkers, RAF Grob Tutor, RAF Falcons Parachute Team, Red Devils Parachute Team, Royal Navy Black Cat Solo Display, Rolls-Royce Spitfire and the Historic Army Aircraft Flight. Due to ejector seat safety concerns during the week of the airshow, the Red Arrows were sadly unable to perform their scheduled flypast.
On The Deck
Scattered across the 100,000sqm of exhibition space used for the airshow, the static display offers visitors the opportunity to get up close with the aircraft on the ground from Apaches to A350s.
The airshow plays an important role in the defence sector, having attracted close to 100 delegations from over 60 different countries at the 2018 event. Despite the limelight often being shone on the civilian market, there was no shortage of military aircraft on display and deals being done.
The US Military’s strong presence at the show highlighted their commitment to NATO allies & allegiance with the United Kingdom exhibiting a large and varied range of aircraft including the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16C Fighting Falcon, F-35A Lighting II, C-130H Hercules, P-8A Poseidon, CH-47 Chinook and AH-64E Apache.
Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) also provided an array of military aircraft alongside the T129 ATAK Helicopter and Hürkuş turboprop which both took part in the flying display, including the Hurjet, TF-X and T625 Gökbey. All three aren’t currently in operational use, with the Hurjet and TF-X appearing at FIA22 as mockups. Designed to replace the Turkish Airforce’s ageing fleet of Northrop T-38 Talons, the Hurjet will serve as a supersonic advanced trainer and light combat aircraft and is expected to make its first test flight in March 2023. In the same month, TAI plans to roll out the prototype of the TF-X 5th generation stealth fighter, with the aim to deliver the first examples to the Turkish Air Force in 2028 as a replacement for their F16s. The T625 Gökbey, a twin-engined light transport/utility helicopter, is planned to enter service much sooner by the end of this year, with one of four test airframes on display.
Other military aircraft on static display included both M-345 and M-346 trainers from Leonardo, an Embraer C-390 Millenium, Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano, Airbus C295M and Airbus A400M.
At each Farnborough Airshow, the rotary sector is always well represented by Leonardo, with both their latest generation AW149 and AW159 helicopters on display at the 2022 show. A new “multimillion-pound” investment in a manufacturing facility for the AW149 at their Yeovil plant was announced at the show, further demonstrating Leonardo’s commitment to delivering their bid to replace the Puma. Also competing to offer a solution to the UK’s new medium helicopter (NMH) requirements, Lockheed Martin brought along a fine example of their Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk and Airbus with their H175 which was on display alongside their H135T3 & H145M helicopters.
Boeing and Airbus dominate the global commercial airliner sector and the rivalry is always closely watched at Farnborough, with Boeing taking the bragging rights in terms of orders at the show in recent years. Alongside the manufacturer’s demonstrator aircraft to take part in the flying display, a number of airlines were present to represent them both. Qatar Airways had a fine trio on display including examples of their Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, Boeing 777-300ER sporting a special World Cup 2022 livery, and the Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER. Representing Airbus, ITA Airways were in attendance with their A350-900 wearing a striking metallic blue livery and Air Baltic with their sleek A220-300.
The turboprop market has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in recent years thanks to the incredible fuel efficiency, versatility and operating economics, something front of mind for every operator as we enter a stage of recovery following the pandemic. ATR had their latest generation ATR 72-600 on display which is soon to be 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) certified in both engines. Following a similar theme of sustainability, Deutsche Aircraft showcased their new D328eco, a reincarnation of the Dornier 328 which Deutsche Aircraft gained rights to following the insolvency of Fairchild Dornier in 2002. The aircraft is planned to enter service in 2025 and be able to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel including hydrogen-based Power-to-Liquid fuel.
Gulfstream led the way in representing the bizjet market, with an impressive lineup including their all-new G800 which made its international debut at the show and is claimed to be the longest-range business aircraft with a range up to a staggering 8000nm. The experimental airframe, hoped to be type certified in 2023, was nestled amongst other models including the G500, G600, G650ER and G700. Dassault Aviation was also present with their flagship ultra-long-range Falcon 8X business jet, instantly recognisable from the trijet design along with Piaggio who brought along their equally as recognisable P180 Avanti.
Showing off something a little less conventional was air taxi manufacturer Wisk Aero, a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk with the aim to deliver ‘safe, autonomous, all-electric, everyday flight’. On display was the 5th generation of their flagship model, the Wisk Cora, and hoped by the company to be the first electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle (eVTOL) to be certified by the FAA following an extensive testing program. Reaching speeds up to 100 mph with a 25-mile range, it features 12 independent lift fans along with a pusher-prop and will be able to carry up to four passengers with baggage. Those flying car-type vehicles seen in Sci-Fi movies may be closer to existence than you may think!
Achieving anything close to the near record-breaking $192 billion worth of deals announced at the 2018 show was going to be a tough ask with the aviation industry still in recovery mode following the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite this, with deals at the show topping $50 billion, it’s clear that the industry is making a quick comeback even with the supply chain problems and economic pressures mainly induced by the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Industry giants, Boeing and Airbus, once again fought it out at the show, with Boeing victorious this time around with 297 orders versus Airbus’s 85. Boeing also attracted the largest order at the show with Delta Airlines committing to 100 737 MAX-10s and an option for 30 more in a deal worth over $17 billion at list prices. Whilst the 85 orders, including 56 A320 NEOs from easyJet, was welcomed by Airbus, it was a particularly quiet show for them. However, the company seemed rather unphased with executives leaving the show early on day three and CEO Guillaume Faury making the point that Airbus’s current biggest issue is building and delivering aircraft, not attracting orders. Their focus at the show was to meet with suppliers and customers to work on easing continuing supply chain problems.
Meanwhile, both ATR and Embraer had a very strong show, with orders and letters of intent for 58 and 30 aircraft respectively. ATR presented their market forecast which predicts strong growth, with global demand for around 2,500 turboprop aircraft over the next 20 years. CEO Stefano Bortoli said he was “delighted by the level of activity” seen at the show.
Notable orders from the totals included 20 Boeing 737 MAX-8s from All Nippon Airways, 12 more Airbus A220-300 jets from Delta taking their total commitment of the type to 107, 36 ATR 42s & 72s from Japanese startup Feel Air Holdings, with Canadian regional airline, Porter, committed to 20 more Embraer E195-E2s taking their total order of the type to 50.
Whilst military orders are not often reported publically, the show was a busy one for the defence industry. On the first day, an update was given on the progress of the BAE Systems Tempest, the sixth-generation jet fighter planned to enter service in 2035 as a replacement for the RAFs Eurofighter Typhoons. It was announced at the show that a new flying demonstrator will be unveiled within the next five years with Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace commenting “The design and development of the demonstrator aircraft represents an important milestone, showcasing the success and talent of our engineers, programmers and software developers. This programme will go on to attract opportunities for many more great minds and talent from across the UK”.
Airbus announced at the show that they received an order from the Royal Moroccan Air Force for an undisclosed number of their H135 twin-engine helicopters intended for use as a training platform. It was also reported that the Czech and US governments have officially entered negotiations for the sale of 24 Lockheed Martin F-35 fifth-generation fighter jets to replace their ageing fleet of Saab JAS 39 Gripen aircraft.
Whilst somewhat marking the end of an era, it seems like a sound decision by the organisers to play to their strengths and focus almost entirely on the trade aspect of the show with the new 5-day event format. Whilst that may seem strange coming from a team of aviation enthusiasts, recognising when change is needed is important. With the public display becoming a shadow of its former self, entertaining the public is much better achieved by shows who focus on that such as the Royal International Air Tattoo, the Bournemouth Air Festival and the various Duxford Airshows.
As the first major European airshow since the start of the pandemic, despite posting considerably lower sales figures compared to previous years, the show can once again be considered a great success. Bringing the aerospace industry together to work on recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, achieving net zero emissions as an industry by 2050 and demonstrating the latest innovations to improve capabilities, efficiency and safety.
This is nicely summarised by Kevin Craven, CEO of the organiser ADS Group: “Farnborough International Airshow 2022 has returned bigger and better than before. It’s been fantastic to see increased and renewed confidence in the global aerospace industry as sustained recovery from the pandemic continues.”
“Total deals on aircraft made across the show, including firm, options and commitments on aircraft, including business and regional jets, comes to $50.8 bn which is a positive boost for the industry. There is a clear demand for newer, greener and fuel-efficient aircraft alongside increasing market recovery as the sector looks to accelerate progress towards net zero by 2050.”
The Pixelsnipers team look forward to returning to Farnborough again in the not-too-distant future to cover the 2024 show.