The Farnborough Air Show hosted between 16 to 22 July 2018 was once again a showcase of international aviation products and services which included over 600 exhibitors and retailers, 150 aircraft and over 80,000 visitors during the public days on Saturday and Sunday. In contrast to the Royal International Air Tattoo (focusing on modern military aircraft) or Duxford Flying Legends (focusing on historic and iconic aircraft of WWI and WWII), Farnborough was the place to be if you had a big bag of money to spend on a luxury jet or a passenger aircraft. To give you an idea, Airbus and Boeing had firm net orders and commitments for more than 960 aircraft, valued at $160 billion at list prices after day four.
The success of this world-class event started with the organization. To give you an idea, it was clear that the airport could not accommodate the vast amount of expected visitors, so nearby open spaces were prepared as park & ride areas with free bus services to and from these parks. Not once did I see anyone wait more than a minute or 2 for the next bus and colour coded passes ensured that you boarded the correct but at the end of the day.
I managed to get access to one of the exhibition halls before the gates opened to the general public and although the services and product on display was extremely impressive, it was not for aviation weekend worriers like me, unless of course you had an interest to open your own airline or space agency.
Many exhibitors elected to erect their own structures outside the exhibition halls and although these were temporary structures, it certainly did not look temporary in any way.
There were also lots of aircraft on display outside although there were not as many wide-body passenger aircraft as I expected.
The air show at Farnborough only start at 12:30 so there is lots of time to walk around and enjoy the exhibits but with so many visitors, you can't wait too long to take your spot on the flight line to ensure that you have a good view during the show. I did just that and watched some of the less privileged members of the community arriving in their small jets to attend the show.
It is clear that the organisers of the Farnborough Air Show is targeting the commercial aviation industry and not the general public or the sport / general aviator and this was evident during the air show on Saturday. Perhaps we are spoilt by RIAT, Flying Legends, Oshkosh, AAD or even other aviation events in South Africa and to me Farnborough did not live up to its reputation this year. The variety was small with a few acts repeated on the schedule and long breaks between displays on many occasions. The flight line is not longer than other air events of this scale but for some strange reason, all displays except for the A350 and the F16 turned away to the north without passing by the spectators on the eastern side of the field. As the show progressed, I could hear more and more people venting their frustration about this and even leaving early.
A "Red Bull Air Race" demonstration with a short pylon circuit and two participating aircraft was something new and exciting and only after seeing it in real life for the first time did I realise the small radius turns and loops these guys make.
A F16 was one of only two military solo jet displays at Farnborough this year and some moisture in the air ensured beautiful vapour trails during high "G" manoeuvres.
An AV8B Harrier from the Portuguese Airforce made my day and although it did not perform a vertical landing or take-off, it did demonstrate its hover capability and the pilot truly impressed us with the capabilities of this 1960 era aircraft.
The RAF Red Arrows Aerobatic Formation Team took off and departed twice to perform displays at other events but not once performed at Farnborough on the Saturday other than a departure and arrival. This was truly disappointing.
A truly remarkable display by the Airbus A350 was to many the highlight of the day. This gracious giant demonstrated superior flight characteristics as it flew tight turns at a little more than 100kts.
Other acts like the Breitling Wingwalkers and a Boeing 727 spraying display was also something we did not see at the other major events this year and was very entertaining.