Civil Aviation Dominates the Sky at Farnborough Air Show, 2018

Issues Details: 
Vol 12 Issue 3, Jul - Aug 2018
Page No.: 
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A brief on what happened at the air show
Ashwani Sharma (with inputs from) Arzo Nooristani
Friday, August 3, 2018

For one week every other summer, Farnborough Airport in Hampshire, England becomes the epicentre of global aviation where aerospace majors show off their latest and greatest. This year South Asia Defence and Strategic Review’s team was there to cover the eventful show.  The Airshow which was  held from 16 to 22 July boasted of success in commercial terms, though the same may not be said in terms of footfalls and overall enthusiasm. Combat aircraft were conspicuous by their absence. Their mighty roar was missed, though somewhat made up by the larger, yet quieter jets of civil aviation. The US contingent mustered up enough courage to field some attack helicopters and fly the F35 and F16. The slow fly-past by F16 - F35 combine was a bit of a dampener, even though Lockheed Martin was the only company to at least showcase their combat aircraft. Even the Eurofighter made do with just a flight simulator – and that too at a charge; as if the mighty multirole combat aircraft is reduced to giving joyrides in the absence of orders. 

On the other hand, Airbus was out in force. Its display contingent included the new A330-900neo along with Two A220-300s. Particularly interesting was the presence of Mexico, a small nation yet so progressive in  military hardware

One of the A220-300s came from Lativan carrier AirBaltic. Airbus also showed off a Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1000, being the new rival for Boeing’s hot-selling 777-300ER. The first second-hand Airbus A380 operated by Portuguese airline HiFly also landed in Farnborough and the mere size and sight is awe inspiring, particularly as seen from close quarters.

As the curtains fell on the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow over the weekend, exhibitors and attendees took stock of what was the most important aviation trade show of the year.  In terms of commercial figures, it certainly didn’t disappoint.  Exhibitors announced deals worth an estimated $192 billion during the week-long show. That’s up more than $67 billion for the last time the biennial show was held in 2016. 

According to a Morgan Stanley analyst, the roughly 900 orders and commitments announced by Airbus and Boeing far exceeded their projections of 300 to 500 aircraft. In total, show officials said more than 1,400 commercial airplanes valued at $154 billion were ordered.

There were also more than 1,400 aircraft engines ordered worth another $22 billion. ese low-cost airline VietJet for 100 Boeing 737MAX aircraft worth $12.7 billion at list prices.

Highlights from the show include a $10.1 billion order for 34 Airbus A330-900neo airliners by Malaysia low-cost carrier AirAsia X and a commitment from Vietnamese low-cost airline VietJet for 100 Boeing 737MAX aircraft worth $12.7 billion at list prices.

“Going into the show, the industry backlog is at a record high, in excess of 14,000 aircraft on the books,” Gareth Rogers, Farnborough International CEO, said in a statement.

“The major deals announced this week demonstrate how confident the aerospace industry is and the role of Farnborough as an economic barometer.” 

Is there a message in the absence of military aircraft at the show and soaring sales in civil aviation? Perhaps, yes.

It appears to be more of a geographical issue. Europe with its Gripen, Eurofighter and Rafale jets appears to be saturated with combat power, particularly in the aftermath of Cold War era.

A similar show in Asia, let us say the Bangalore Airshow in India, reverses the trend. You get to see much more of the military aircraft as compared to private and civil (passenger and cargo) aircraft.

Demand drives the show, as is apparent. A few years ago, there was always a healthy mix, regardless of locations and threat scenarios.

Innovations are another area of concern. There were innovations on display, particularly by way of drone variants. But there was not enough on display as one would expect from an Airshow of this stature. Are the incentives becoming low, or are the innovators keeping their secrets close to their chests? We look forward to the answers at the Bangalore Airshow in 2019!


Military Affairs