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The Farnborough International Airshow, held once every two years, is one of the world’s most important aerospace and defense events. Situated around 40 miles southwest of London, the show encompasses five trade days and a weekend, during which the exhibition is open to the public. It brings together the biggest players from the commercial, business and military aviation industries.
The last event in 2010 saw $47 billion worth of completed deals and 120,000 business visitors. This year, though, Farnborough is being held in the midst of defense budget cuts in Europe and the U.S. and growing worries about a slowdown for the global economy. Major manufacturers are showcasing their most important products, hoping to lure cash-rich Asian and Middle East buyers.
Click ahead for highlights from the show including state-of-the-art private jets, a tourist space ship, and some of the latest military aircraft.
By Bianca Schlotterbeck
Posted 11th of July 2012
The airshow opened with a joint flypast of the Red Arrows (the U.K. Airforce’s aerobatics team) and the world's last airworthy Avro Vulcan bomber. A relic of the Cold War, the historic plane was the first of its kind to be delivered to the RAF in July 1960, and the last Vulcan to leave military service in 1993.
The Vulcan initially carried the U.K.'s first nuclear weapon, the Blue Danube gravity bomb, and was equipped to attack the former Soviet Union.
Boeing’s flagship aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner grabbed headlines by opening Farnborough with a flying display in Qatar Airways colors.
The flyby marked a switch for Boeing, which for 28 years kept its commercial planes on the ground at air shows. The world’s second-largest commercial aircraft maker by sales was tipped to dominate this year’s show in terms of orders.
On the first day of the show, Boeing announced an order worth $7.2 billion in terms of list prices with Air Lease for 75 new fuel-efficient 737 MAX planes. David Baxt, global head of aerospace at Jefferies, told CNBC, "This year, we do strongly believe it is going to be the year of the Boeing 737 MAX. Boeing hopes to end the year with potentially 1,000 orders, and at this show Jefferies expects to see up to 400 commitments turned into orders for the Max."
Airbus Military gave a flying display of its A400M airlifter at the Farnborough Airshow. Last seen in static display at the Paris Airshow, the plane is designed to carry military cargo and troops, and is currently undergoing tests ahead of its first delivery later this year.
The airlifter is designed to replace aging fleets of American-made C-130 Hercules and French- and German-made C-160 Transalls currently in service around the world. It features more than twice the payload capacity and volume of older aircraft types.
Prime Minister David Cameron marked the opening of Farnborough by becoming the first British leader in recent years to attend the show. He said he would support the British aerospace sector, despite the government’s recently announced plan to axe 20,000 regular army troops and 17 major units by 2020.
Bombardier’s LearJet 45, Challenger 300 and Global 6000 Business Jets are seen on the tarmac at the Farnborough Airshow. Last month Reuters reported that NetJets, a private jet-sharing company owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is to buy up to 425 new business jets from Bombardier and Cessna in a deal worth $9.6 billion.
The purchase, which NetJets described as the largest in private aviation history, includes up to 275 Bombardier Challenger business aircraft, the second time in 15 months that NetJets has placed a large order with the Canadian planemaker. The Bombardier portion of the order is valued at $7.3 billion at list prices.
Eric Connor, CEO of NetJets Europe, told CNBC that the private jet market was recovering despite a global economic slowdown.
Airbus’s A380 the largest passenger plane, took to the skies in Malaysian Airlines colors at Farnborough. Airbus has been dogged by problems with its superjumbo A380s, including hairline cracks found on the plane’s wings, which were traced to a manufacturing issue at the planemaker.
The company recently said fixing these cracks could take eight weeks for each aircraft; however it added that most customers would make the repairs gradually as part of regular maintenance check. The company has also asserted that the cracks pose no safety threat but the problem is estimated to have cost Airbus more than 250 million euros ($306 million) in repair and service costs.
Swedish defense company, SAAB, showcased its Gripen fighter jet in a flying display at the airshow. A version of the Gripen fighter is already in operational service with the Swedish, Czech Republic, Hungarian, South African and Royal Thai Air Forces.
The jet flown at Farnborough carried a newly installed Active Electronically Scanned Array radar (AESA). The improved radar is reported to be a pivotal factor in closing an expected 22-aircraft deal with Switzerland, with pilots from the nation set to assess the technology in flight testing around late August or early September.
The T-50 supersonic light-trainer jet, developed jointly by Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin, made its Farnborough debut this year.
The planes were flown by the South Korean Air Force’s Black Eagles display team. The jets were flown into the UK in a dismantled state, before being transported to RAF Leeming by road and then being rebuilt by the team’s crew of engineers. Although the T-50 trainer jet was designed with its export potential in mind, it has had limited success with customers outside South Korea.
Commercial space travel is a significant focus at the Farnborough 2012 show after the 2010 show boosted orders for this sector. Virgin founder Richard Branson unveiled a replica of his SpaceShipTwo - a two pilot, six person craft capable of sub-orbital travel for the first time in Europe (Seen here flying in North America). The space craft is currently undergoing flight testing.
SpaceShipTwo could be carrying its first passengers into orbit as early as next year, with over 500 people, including movie star Aston Kutcher, having already signed up for the $200,000 flight.
BAE Systems, the British aerospace company showcased Demon a stealth-like unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV). UAVs are being increasingly used around the world to track terrorists and spy on enemies.
The Demon’s unusual design includes the ability to use jet propelled blasts of air blown over its wings to maneuver, rather than conventional wing flaps. That allows it to have smaller wings and lower maintenance costs.
The demonstrator aircraft, seen on static display at Farnborough, weighs approximately 90kgs (200 pounds) and has a wingspan of 2.5 meters.
Russia’s Irkut displayed its Yak-130 combat trainer for the first time at Farnborough. The Yak-130 has been active in the Russian air force since 2010 but is now being sold as “fully integrated training system” and was demonstrated in a fly past.
Nicknamed the “flying computer” by Russian air force officers, the Yak-130 can be re-programmed to replicate the behaviour of various combat jets. It is the first military aircraft developed from scratch in Russia with extensive use of computer-aided technologies.
Anglo-Italian helicopter maker, AgustaWestland showed off its military and commercial fleet at Farnborough. The company’s products include helicopters used for search and rescue, transportation and military operations.
The company announced a number of orders for its new A169 helicopters, which can be used for emergency missions, at Farnborough.