Farnborough Scene: Don't Look Down
News Editor, CNBC.com
Anyone attending the Farnborough International Airshow may want to consider some type of protective gear. It's not so overcrowded that you can't move. It's just that nobody looks where they're going. They look up.
It's pretty much a reflex. The sound of an F-22 Raptor roaring just above your head is a tough thing to ignore; even if you're in one of the indoor halls. Add in the fact that while not watching a flyover people tend to be e-mailing on BlackBerries and it's a legitimate hazard.
But in the spaces between supersonic flyovers, there's a chance to get the vibe of the show this year.
Here are a few takeaways from the inaugural day:
- The predictions of austerity as a theme for the show were very accurate. The manufacturers still spent on top-notch static displays, but any wining and dining as seen in previous years was either non-existent or kept well out of site of the press.
One surveillance plane manufacturer explained that they actually shipped a plane over in pieces and were just assembling it at the show, simply because it was cheaper than working out all the logistics for flight planning permission to fly to Farnborough.
- The air displays are really riveting. For those used to commercial travel it can be stunning to see a plane really put to the test on what it can do. The best example of this was the Airbus A400M military airlifter. It's a turboprop designed for carrying large payloads, but curved and dove at what seemed an incredible pace from the ground — capturing the attention of many of the uniformed pilots at the stationary displays.
- The Boeingbuzz continues. After its debut European touchdown Sunday the 787 Dreamliner was a star attraction, with amusement-park-like lines of up to 40 minutes to get a close-up glimpse of the new aircraft. The simulator for the Bloodhound, designed to break the land-speed record at up to 1,000 miles per hour was also popular.
- Despite deals well into the millions being struck and announced a the show, it's hard to resist a little fun. Many in the suit crowd took a spin on the Royal Air Force flight simulator.
- Want to get invited to one of the after-show cocktail parties? The best bet is to be in uniform. Those doling out the invitations made a bee-line for those in the service. A flight suit was the most popular, preferable with a pair of shades. I thought of picking one up from the Royal Air Force official gift shop, but they only came in children's sizes.