TIM ROBINSON and BILL READ provide a look at some of the most exciting news and highlights of the fourth trade day, 14 July and Futures Day, 15 July of Farnborough International Air Show 2016 – as well as a summary and analysis.
Another memorable year...
Another sunny morning met showgoers on the Thursday, and while some aircraft began to depart for home, there were still plenty of things to see and do around the show, with time to explore the halls, check out the static area, or watch the flying display.
Let's take a look some of the top news from the final trade day – as well as some of the highlights from Futures Day on Friday.
Last orders please!
Norwegian converting A320 orders to A321LRs puts extra pressure on Boeing for a 757-class replacement. (Airbus)
Although it was the final day for the trade show part of Farnborough, the orders continued coming. Airbus announced a flurry of last-minute additions, including options to two extra A330-300s from Aer Lingus and an upgrade to 30 A321LRs from a commitment signed by Norwegian in June 2012 for 100 A320neos. Kuwait-based ALAFCO (Aviation Lease and Finance Company has upsized an order of ten A320neos to A321neos. The lessor signed an agreement for 85 A320neos in 2012.
At a wrap-up press conference, John Leahy announced that Airbus had won $35bn worth of business for 279 aircraft, comprising firm orders for 197 aircraft worth $26.3bn and commitments for 82 aircraft worth $8.7bn. In addition to these orders, the show also saw the launch order from DHL Express for the A330-300 Passenger-To-Freighter conversion programme, in partnership with EFW and ST Aerospace.
Boeing announced that it had received and commitments during the week for a 182 commercial airplanes with a value of $26.8bn at list prices. Customers also announced a number of new commercial services agreements, including the largest commercial services order in Boeing’s history. On the defence side, Boeing secured a $2.3bn deal from the UK Ministry of Defence for 50 Apache AH-64E helicopters as well as the purchase of nine P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft for the RAF. Boeing and the British Government also plans to build a new £100m P-8A Poseidon facility at RAF Lossiemouth, increased Boeing capital investment in the UK and additional bidding opportunities on Boeing programs for UK suppliers.
2016 Farnborough Aircraft orders
Airbus orders: Air Asia 100 x A321neos, Go Air 72 x A320neos, Synergy 60 x A320neos, Germania 25 x A320neos, Virgin Atlantic 12 x A350-1000s, Wow Air 4 x A321s, Aer Lingus 2 x A330-300s, ALAFCO 30 x A321neos (upgrade from earlier order), Norwegian 30 x A321LRs (upgrade from 2012 order)
Boeing orders: Xiamen Airlines 30 x 737 MAX 200s (commitment), Donghai Airlines 5 x 737 MAX 8s and 5 x 787-9s (commitment), Standard Chartered Bank 10 x 737-800SNGs, (previously unidentified order) TUI Group 10 x 737 MAX 8s and 1 x 787-9, Air Lease Corporation 6 x 737 MAX 8s, Kunming Airlines 10 x 737 MAX 7s (commitment), Unidentified Chinese customer 30 x 737 MAX and 737NGs (commitment), Volga-Dnepr Group 20 x 747-8F (commitment), Egyptair 9 x 737-800sNG (previously unidentified customer), Ruili Airlines 6 x 787-9, Air Europa 20 x 737 MAX 8 (previously unidentified order),
Qatar Airways 3 x Gulfstream G650ERs
Rockton AB 10 x Mitsubishi MRJ90s LOI
Bravo Industries 10 x Lockheed Martin LM-100Js
AVIC Leasing 30 x COMAC ARJ21s
China Aircraft Leasing 60 x COMAC ARJ21s
Stealth UCAV could reveal itself to save human lives
Despite the sophistication of the UCAVs autonomy BAE want humans to have positive control over any critical decisions.
Over at the BAE Systems pavilion, the company was demonstrating one possible future concept of operations for automouns UCAVs and manned fighters and how they would work together – a ongoing debate that is still evolving. BAEs concept explained how in a hypothetical mission, a stealth UCAV would enter a high threat SAM zone, to remove a missile threat close to the target – allowing Typhoons to strike the main target. This fascinating demonstration raised lots of innovative ideas and issues. For example, once in enemy territory the UCAB will go into ‘silent’ mode and cease transmissions. At that point, while the operator knows it will be in a ‘box’ or defined missionarea, they will not know its exact position. This requires a leap of faith – ‘trustworthiness’ for autonomous UAVs and UCAVs will become as important as airworthiness. Second, far from the media image of ‘killer robots’ run amok – the human will stay firmly in control – especially when decisions involving taking life are involved. BAE’s concept includes a two-step verification process, with the UCAV transmitting imagery to first ask a human operator “have I got the right target” and only then “can I engage?”. The demonstration also showed how control (or more properly command) of this UCAV could pass between a ground station and say airborne Typhoons to allow pilots to synchronise attacks. Here the idea again is not for the Typhoon pilot to be distracted by issuing micro orders to the drone, but to just give it broad mission commands and final approval. Finally, one interesting aspect is the amount of AI that a UCAV might be given. BAE believe that it may be useful to programme it so while silent in enemy airspace (and receiving updates passively via datalinks) if the UAV did detect a new threat (via ESM or electro-optic) that could endanger friendly (human) forces (for example Su-30s heading to the Typhoons) it would break silence and broadcast this vital information back to base. This of course may mean that it is detected and targeted in the process (and a UCAV is not a cheap, disposable) asset –but at what price if it saves human lives? All of these ideas (including aerial refuelling of UAVs) are not set in stone, but BAE said that it has been getting useful feedback as it informs how the military might want to use UCAVs.
Qatar moves into airline ownership
Qatar Airways announced that it had signed an agreement to purchase 49% of Italian carrier Meridiana fly from its parent company Alisarda. Earlier in the week Qatar Airways also disclosed that it is to acquire up to 10% of the LATAM Airline Group.
Diversity debated at Amy Johnson Lecture
Diversity is now everyone's responsibility...
The Thursday also saw the issue of diversity in aerospace debated at the RAeS Amy Johnson lecture at the show. Chaired by TV science presenter and space journalist Sarah Cruddas, the panel included male and female speakers from Airbus, Rockwell Collins, Thales and the RAF to ask – who are the best change agents for diversity? The debate raised a number of fascinating and thought-provoking issues of how to make the workforce more diverse – topically on the first day when the UK had a second woman Prime Minster in power. More than one speaker agreed that it was not just about being PC, or a positive media image, but industry needs to keep up as their customers (whether airlines or armed forces) are also become more diverse. The complex problems of aviation and aerospace and the speed in which innovation is moving also means that diverse teams, able to think differently, will have an inbuilt advantage over homogenous teams. Other points raised were the need to target young girls as early as primary school to get them interested in STEM, the value of role models (and do they need to be female) and whether even female engineers where under too much pressure. Clearly is still room for improvement as one speaker the MD of Rockwell Collins UK noted she still goes to industry events where she is there with 200 men and is mistaken for part of the waitressing staff.
All in all, while there was agreement that change had to come from the top AND the bottom, another valid point is that we are all ambassadors for diversity – especially men themselves. As one speaker said: "Every day nudge a female and say 'go for it' - a little bit of encouragement goes a long way”
Could Protector UAV get dual maritime role?
CPB is gaining extra capabilities. Could the RAF take advantage of this to extend the P-8's eyes and ears? (General Atomics)
While this Insight blog had already reported last year that the UK’s new Protector UAV would be a General Atomics Certifiable Predator B (with a few UK changes) this week it was confirmed. The CPB (or Protector) features longer endurance, extra hardpoints and a new wing with deicing. It also has TCAS and ADS-B fitted and provision for sense-and-avoid radars – to allow it to operate in controlled civil airspace – a major leap forward in operational flexibility of this platform. Interestingly, General Atomics is also working to expand the CPB with new maritime capabilities including a sea search radar (already used in the US by US Customs Patrol Predator Bs) and pods to drop ASW sonobouys. Could some of the 20 Protectors bought for the RAF augment the nine P-8s in a quick change non-kinetic ASW role?
The Icarus Project wingsuit being tested in a wind-tunnel (Southampton University)
Students studying for their MSc in Engineering at Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Southampton have developed a new wingsuit designed to set new world records for human flight. Using computer fluid dynamics the students developed the Icarus Project wingsuit which will be used in an attempt to break the current records for longest fight duration (9min 6sec), highest speed (226mph) and longest distance (18.26miles), as well as to set a new altitude record jumping from 35,000ft. Project co-ordinator of the Icarus Project is Southampton University’s lecturer in astronautics, Dr Angelo Grubisic, who is an experienced wingsuit jumper and the test pilot for the project.
MBDA to offer Sea Venom for export two years early
Sea Vemon will be available for foreign Lynx operators ahead of RN Wildcats
In a unique offering facilitated by the UK’s new Defence Growth Partnership, and supporting Whitehall’s ‘Prosperity Agenda’ – MBDA are working to offer its new Sea Venom anti-ship missile two years early to export customers. Sea Venom will arm the Royal Navy’s Wildcat helicopters in service in 2020, however MDBA, working with MoD, QinetiQ and General Dynamics will flight test it and integrate on a RN Lynx – opening the missile up for foreign Lynx and Super Lynx operators such as Brazil or South Korea. It will then be available in 2018, two years ahead of the in-service date for UK forces. MBDA say that this initiative from DGP represents a ‘sea change’ in export-focused thinking and additionally de-risks integration work on the Wildcat.
Pay to view
Earth-I is a Guildford-based company which provides five-band satellite images of the Earth of up to 1metre GSD resolution. The images come from three SSTL low Earth orbit satellites which collectively cover the entire surface of the world in 24 hours. Customers can specify particular locations and multiple images over time, as well as infrared and 3D images.
Fighters for hire
Another stand was the showcase for Draken International, a US civil operator which offers retired military jets for using in flight training, weapons integration and training exercises. Among Draken’s fleet are ex New Zealand air force McDonnell Douglas A-4K Skyhawks, Aero Vodochody L-39s and L-159s, Aermacchi MB-339CBs and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Fishbeds. Draken recently supported operational testing of the F-35 at Edwards Air Force Base by flying A-4Ks as simulated adversaries. Draken up to five A-4Ks against Royal Netherlands Air Force and RAF F-35A and F-35B aircraft as well as Royal Netherlands F-16 Vipers.
Disabled flyers to soar to new heights with aerobatics
The sky is the limit now at Aerobility.
Over at UK’s disabled flying charity Aerobility, there was an impressive new aircraft for its members to get to grips with – an aerobatic Yak-52. Donated earlier this year, it has been modified with hand controls and approved by the CAA, allowing disabled pilots to perform aerobatics – surely the ultimate expression of freedom. In two years time, could we see an Aerobility Yak-52 flown by a disabled pilot fly in the Farnborough display?
The University of Glasgow is working on a project to use radar to detect unidentified small UAVs and micro-drones. Conventional radar systems are not optimised to sense such platforms which are not only smaller than conventional aircraft but also fly slower and lower. Students are investigating the radar cross section and micro-Doppler signatures of different models of commercial and custom-made drones to improve their detection and classification.
Faster than your average quadcopter
The UAV is being aimed at the infrastructure inspection market.
Reading-based company VTOL Technologies has developed a hybrid quadrotor/fixed wing UAV which can both fly fast and hover. VTOL is working with infrastructure engineering consultant Amey to market the flying wing to be used for aerial inspections of electricity, transport or energy infrastructure. The flying wing can carry a range of sensors, including GPR, HR video and still cameras, infrared, thermal and LiDAR. According to VTOL Director Mark Shaw the UAV can fly at speeds of up to 60km per hour over the same routes regardless of weather conditions. At present the flying wing is being tested using a line-of-sight operator but it is also capable of flying autonomously over longer distances.
Airlander first flight imminent
Although it was not able to be present at this year’s air show, the Airlander hybrid airship is almost ready to begin its first test flights. “It could be as early as next week but it depends on what stage we are at and the weather conditions,” said Chris Daniels, Airlander’s Head of Partnerships and Communications.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a bike
Taking centre stage at the stand of Hover-bike was a quad-rotor UAV large enough to ride on. And that’s just what you can do, if Hover-bike’s plans come to fruition. Designed primarily as a heavy lift logistics platform (120kg payload) to carry supplies to places where it might be too costly or dangerous for a manned helicopter to do, the electrically-powered Hover-bike quadrotor can also be fitted with a seat to carry either a controlling pilot or (in UAV mode) a passenger. The maximum height and speed of the vehicle have yet to be tested but it could fly at speeds of up to 150km/hr at heights of up to 10,000ft. “People thought of it originally as a ground-effect vehicle but it’s really a helicopter,” explained Marketing and Sales Director, Grant Stapleton. However, the current flight time is limited to 45min. As well as recreational transport, other possible uses suggested for the Hover-bike include search and rescue, cattle herding, inserting cargo into confined spaces, and medical evacuation. When being used to carry a human, the fly-by-wire Hoverbike can be flown using simple controls similar to those on a motorbike. However, it is suggested that the pilot might like to take the extra safety precaution
Summary and analysis
So what were the top takeaways from this year’s Farnborough?
1) F-35 makes converts
Flying the flag (FIA)
It may be a cliché, but having your aircraft appear at an international air show and fly before the crowds, does it seem help win critics around. The F-35Bs, party piece of a rock-steady hover, may be just a tiny part of what makes this combat aircraft special – but it certainly made even cynical jaws drop to see this happen in front of chalets at Farnborough. The programme will still have challenges, and no doubt critics, but after this Farnborough it has won lots more friends.
2) Brexit casts a shadow
Despite sign off a major defence deal, was a bittersweet Farnborough for David Cameron. (FIA)
The talking point on many lips this year was, of course, Brexit and how this might affect the UK’s place in the global aerospace industry. While short-term it was business as usual and flurries of orders and announcements lifted spirits, the long-term implications have yet to sink in. In addition, the show had the unusual accolade of taking place while one Prime Minister stepped down and a new one took over. Cabinet reshuffling (or bloodletting) this also added to the uncertainty.
3) Orders slump
Growth in air travel is still going up - accordng to Airbus (Airbus)
Both Airbus and Boeing put a brave face on it, but sales at this year show fell in term of actual firm orders compared to last year’s Paris Air Show. Once announcements of previously unnamed buyers and commitments are removed, the overall headline figure of 461 aircraft sold at Farnborough by both companies shrinks to 186 firm orders for Airbus and just 20 for Boeing. While this might seem a cause for concern, both companies are sitting on record backlogs and are focused on ramping up deliveries to eager customers. And, both Airbus and Boeing agree, that thanks to GDP growth and the growing global middle class, the demand for air travel is not going to go anyway any time soon.
4) A classic year for new aircraft
Diamonds ISR/training aircraft - the DART 450 made its debut. (Diamond)
For veteran showgoers, used to seeing familiar aircraft at Le Bourget or Farnborough each year, this show was a classic one in the number of aircraft appearing here for the first time. The F-35, which, of course, had appeared at RIAT and Leewarden previously, stole the show but others included Boeing’s 737 MAX, Embraer KC-390 and E190 E2, Diamond DART 450, HondaJet.
5) A tale of two widebodies
A cloudy future ahead?
While Boeing’s 747 was thrown a lifeline in with an order for 10 747-8F freighter variants from Volga-Dnepr, Airbus revealed it is to halve production rates on the A380 in an effort to buy time for the slow-selling superjumbo. Does that mean that the A380 is on its way out? Perhaps – but perhaps not. Should oil prices start heading up again and airport capacity limits begin to bite, airlines may well take a second look.
6) Innovation rules
This Airbus cybersecurity concept uses augmented reality to detect malware or attacks in SCADA industrial processes.
Farnborough has a long association with innovation in aerospace, but it was remarkable this year at the show of the extent and wide variety of new technology on show. From using augmented reality to help spot viruses in industrial processes, to a shape memory material that is three times stronger than carbon fibre, to concepts for autonomy with UAVs and hypersonic travel, to the first graphene UAV – they was something to get excited about almost around every corner. The show was also significant in that there was £365m of joint government/industry funding for UK aerospace R&D approved. This is the kind of long-term support to future technology that is vital to keep the UK’s status in global aerospace.
7) Defence deals kick off show
Light at the end of the tunnel for the Nimrod gap. (Richard Deakin)
These days, it is usually commercial deals that dominate international airshows, with defence orders coming a poor second. This was turned on its head at this years Farnborough, where the first day saw the UK confirm $6bn worth of deals for Boeing P-8 Poseidon and AH-64E Apache attack helicopters. As part of this deal Boeing is boosting its UK footprint and will work with the Government for a P-8 training facility at RAF Lossiemouth.
8) Training focus
Top Guns for hire (ATAC)
Another theme to emerge from the show was in training, particularly in new business models, simulators and distributed training. Particularly for the introduction of F-35, air forces are now mulling how to adequately train with it to present challenging and realistic scenarios. Two agreements ahead of the show saw Textron acquire private ‘aggressor’ company ATAC, while CAE and another ‘Red Air’ company, Draken International are targeting foreign governments in need of these tactical training services. With two huge US Navy and USAF contracts for aggressor training up for grabs, expect this market to expand.
9) Anniversaries galore
Inside Boeing's amazing Centennial Pavilion.
No one at Farnborough can have missed that is coincided with the 100th Anniversary of Boeing on the Friday on the show, and a special Centennial Pavilion was one of the top-sites to see this week. However there were other birthdays too – with Dassault, the United States Coast Guard Aviation, SBAC (forerunner of ADS) and industry publication Aviation Week all turning 100 this year. Meanwhile this year the Royal Aeronautical Society celebrates its 150th anniversary.
10) Careers focus boosted by Major Tim
Tim Peake received a heros welcome. (FIA)
Finally the Friday of the show, Futures Day dedicated to inspiring young people was given a special sparkle by the appearance of ESA astronaut Tim Peake. While he had been at Farnborough two years ago – this time around as a household name he was given a hero’s welcome, with crowds of young people and adults there to see him talk. How many young people visiting Farnborough this year will be inspired by Tim?
See you in Farnborough 2018!
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In or out?
Confusion over the Brexit vote and whether the UK will actually leave seems to have spread to the EU’s Clean Sky stand, where a futuristic tiltrotor seemed to be in two minds about whether to hover or enter horizontal flight….