TIM ROBINSON previews this year's Farnborough Air Show to be held on 11-17 July 2016, including EXCLUSIVE news about this year's Red Arrows appearance..

The place to be for aerospace professionals and enthusiasts in July. (Farnborough)

Once again it is that time of the year when the global aerospace industry descends on the town of Farnborough, west of London, for the traditional week-long biennual jamboree of flying displays, trade deals and the latest aerospace technology on display.

The show organisers say that 90% of exhibition space is now sold out, with 22 nations now having their own pavilions – including an increased show presence from China – and the first attendance in recent history from post-sanctions Iran, now looking to expand its civil aerospace sector considerably. 

Over 50 military delegations are expected and the organisers also report that 32% of direct exhibitors are new to the trade show. Some 80,000 visitors are expected to attend on the public days at the weekend. To cope with this growth, the organisers are also investing in more permanent exhibition spaces – with the intention of being ready for Farnborough 2018.

Aircraft making their very  first visit to Farnborough this year include the Lockheed Martin F-35, Airbus A350-1000, Bombardier CSeries, Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX, Antonov An-178, Bell 505, Embraer E190E2 and KC390, Comac ARJ21, Diamond DART-450 trainer, HondaJet.

What can we expect this year in terms of news and highlights to watch out for?

Reds wings clipped in safety fears

Will the Reds be reined in? New safety rules mean they will only perform a flypast (Farnborough Airshow)

With new CAA safety regulations introduced after the 2015 Shoreham disaster and the recent spate of military flying display team crashes in the past week, the flying display this year at Farnborough could look different than in previous years. Insiders now confirm that the Red Arrows traditional aerobatic display at Farnborough has been dropped due to safety fears from RAF top brass. 

The Farnborough organisers have already modified their flying display rules – with a smaller dedicated aerobatics zone – and roads closed underneath. An electro-optic tracking system will also monitor display flying for any transgressions. In a statement earlier this year organisers said: “To further increase the safety of people not attending the air show, whether passing by the perimeter, through the local area or living in the vicinity, we have also reduced significantly the area where aerobatics are permitted.” 

A RAF spokesman confirmed that the Red Arrows would be attending and are "going to be flying" at Farnborough, but when questioned directly whether this would include their usual aerobatic display, declined to answer, referring instead to a short-notice special media briefing to be held this week. 

More than one highly placed source has now confirmed that due to the new post-Shoreham CAA rules and a review of the safety and risk case by RAF Duty Holders, the Red Arrows flying at Farnborough will be limited to straight and level passes (possibly in conjunction with the F-35B) and no aerobatics . 

While the RAF has yet to officially confirm this ahead of this special media briefing, if verified it will be a major blow for the UK's premier aerospace exhibition and air show. Farnborough's case as a major air show, encroached on by a town may be unusual - but this does show that the tightening of air show safety in post-Shoreham environment, primarily aimed at vintage jet displays, can have unexpected consequences - even for the UK's trade aerospace showcase and highly skilled and ultra-professional military display team. Indeed, the embarrassment of the Reds not being able to perform their full display at Farnborough, according to one insider, has led to anger at No10 Downing St. 

UPDATED - 15 June. In a press release from Farnborough Intenational Airshow they state:

"We can confirm the RAF Red Arrows will still be flying at Farnborough International Airshow this year and will be engaging with the young people attending Futures Days and the public during the public weekend. In light of the accident at Shoreham last year the nature of their display will change.  The RAF has conducted an assessment of the risk associated with flying their display at Farnborough. Due to the high speed and dynamic nature of the Red Arrows aerobatic routine, the RAF has decided it will not be possible for them to perform their traditional display at Farnborough this year."

Meanwhile a statement issued on 15 June from the Red Arrows says: 

"The Red Arrows will be flying at the Farnborough International Airshow and engaging with both adults and young people on all three days that are open to the general public. However, the high speed and dynamic nature of the traditional Red Arrows' display is no longer appropriate due to the large amounts of local housing, business areas and major transport links underneath the planned display area. In addition to the Red Arrows flypast with the new F35 Lightning II aircraft on 11 July, further Red Arrows flypasts in different formations are now planned for 15, 16 and 17 July."  

However, even though the Red Arrows are restricted in their flying, there will be plenty of other exciting displays to see, including the F-35B, F-16, F/A-18, potentially the CSeries as well as Pitts Aerobatic Team, Blades and Breitling Wing Walkers on the public days. In particular, the F-35B demonstrating its VTOL capability in the hover is likely to be a highlight of the show. 


Defence to the fore

Time to finally retire the plastic F-35 mock-up?

This year at Farnborough, expect the defence side of aerospace to take a more prominent role, as civil airliner sales slow. Sabre-rattling from Moscow, an arc of instability across the Middle East and tensions in the South China Sea, means that military requirements and procurement have a higher priority than in recent years. Even Germany and Sweden, perhaps the two least bellicose nations in Europe, are boosting their defence spending after years of neglect.

The big draw this year will, of course, be the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. After the embarrassing no-show of the stealth jet in 2014, and the announcement in the UK SDSR in November 2015 to commit to the full amount of 138 aircraft – the appearance is highly anticipated. It will not, however, be the first international, or even the first UK air show appearance of the F-35 – those honours goes to Leewarden, Holland, and the Royal International Air Tattoo, respectively. 

However, while five F-35s (two F-35Bs and three F-35As) are set to travel to the UK for July, only the F-35Bs will appear in the air show. The USAF F-35As which will be at RIAT are set to miss Farnborough as, reportedly due to an arcane rule, they are only authorised to fly as part of a ‘heritage’ flight. Expect to hear a few jokes at the USAF’s expense around the chalets.

Although the F-35 is a US aircraft, its high-level of British-made content from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce (for the B), Martin-Baker among others will make it a highly important moneyspinner for UK industry for decades to come – and make its appearance at Farnborough especially significant.   

Could Farnborough see a firm contract for UK P-8s signed? (Boeing) 

Another platform featured in the SDSR 2015 and set to appear at Farnborough is Boeing's P-8 Poseidon MPA. After the axing of the Nimrod MRA4, maritime power experts breathed a sigh of relief when last year’s SDSR defence review announced that the UK would acquire nine of these sub-hunters. With US Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of both P-8s and AH-64Es for the UK approved by Washington, what is needed next is a contract signature. Could Farnborough be the venue where these both might get inked? 

The Anglo-French FCAS programme is an important stealth drone project. But could Brexit undo cooperation between London and Paris? (Dassault)

With the third phase of testing BAE Systems Taranis completed, another defence platform to watch for at Farnborough is the Anglo-French FCAS project. Though this is still in the concept phase, it may be that at Farnborough more details are released on the configuration, or even a mock-up might be unveiled. BAE has already said that it will display a next gen UCAV mission control system. Hanging over this joint project, however, at the time of writing, is, of course, Brexit – which could have unknown ramifications for European defence projects. Mutual defence requirements may, of course, override any political fallout or posturing in the event of a 'leave vote' – but who knows at present how far the collateral damage to international programmes might spread?

Embraer will be hoping to break into the global military transporter market with the KC390. (Embraer)

Another new military type set to appear is Embraer’s KC-390 tactical transport/tanker - set to make its international air show debut. Having conquered regional and business aviation markets, can Embraer's jet transport start making inroads into the C-130 market?

Set to miss Farnborough this year is Russia – and in particular the Russian defence industry – due to worsening relations between Moscow and NATO nations. It might be argued, that with having deployed its latest military equipment (such as Su-34 Fullbacks, Mi-28s and Ka-52) in Syria, Russia has already taken part in a (lethal) defence exhibition.

Finally, this year’s Farnborough will see Textron Airland’s Scorpion Jet return. This low-cost combat ISR platform has so far failed to secure a customer, despite a lot of interest in this affordable solution to many missions today. Will this be the show where a launch customer steps forward?   

Commercial aviation

Boeing will have its 737 MAX, now undergoing flight testing on display at Farnborough. (Boeing)

In commercial aviation it is set to be another slow air show for Airbus and Boeing, compared to the big airline mega deals of recent years, as airlines digest purchases and manufacturers race to boost production levels.

CSeries scored a big deal earlier this year with Delta, but can it keep the sales momentum going? 

One bright spot might be for other manufacturers such as Canada's Bombardier CSeries and Embraer’s E2 regional airliners – both of which are tipped to appear at the show. After securing a life-saving order from Delta Air Lines earlier this year, the CSeries has earned itself a breathing space. Will any orders at Farnborough add to this and turn the programme into a success?

While Airbus has not confirmed it yet, the static aircraft show map also shows a space for its A350-1000 – currently yet to fly. 

Meanwhile, the air show will also be the place to see Boeing’s new re-engined single-aisle 737 MAX appear - which will be on display at Farnborough with its arch rival, the A320neo. Though Airbus’ A320neo family still commands a sales lead (particularly in the larger A321) the MAX is now catching up and Boeing may even make deliveries early. Airbus, meanwhile, is racing this year to catch up with A320neo and A350 deliveries – and the presence of one very vocal demanding customer, Qatar Airways, at the show could make for some awkward headlines during the week.  

Qatar Airways will be present - but could be asking tricky questions about A350 deliveries....

Both airframers have tricky product decisions to ponder – and this could make for interesting news on the sidelines. For Boeing it is the question whether they address the MOM (middle of the market) slot that the 757 used to occupy and which the A321 is now dominating.  Leave as be, and Airbus racks up more sales, but the alternative could be spending a significant amount of money on what amounts to a niche market. Airbus, too, has its own dilemmas – whether to attempt to match the upcoming 777-9X with a super stretch of its own A350-1000, dubbed the 'A350-2000'. What is true is that one can expect the usual verbal barbs to be traded between these two giants during the week.

An Airlander appearance?

One flying display you won't need binoculars for.... (HAV)

As well as the traditional airliners, fighters and helicopters on display – expect to see a big focus on innovation this year. One flying machine that will be hard to miss, if it does make it, is Hybrid Air Vehicles' Airlander next generation airship. Though HAV has said that it would like to fly the giant 82m long airship at Farnborough (and show organisers too are keen that it appears) its appearance (even as a flyby, rather than on static) depends on how much of the flight test programme HAV can get through. As pixel goes to page, it is yet to fly and HAV say it needs a minimum of 20 flight hours before it would be allowed to appear at Farnborough. With just over a month to go now, 20 hours may not seem like much, but unexpected surprises in flight testing means it is best not to get ones hopes up. That said, a Farnborough in which the world’s largest aircraft appears (even if it looms in the distance) would make for a memorable year.

UPDATE: On 27 June, HAV announced via its Facebook page that Airlander would not be appearing at this year's Farnborough - saying: "We can confirm we will not have the relevant clearances nor have done the necessary flying hours before FIA16, and therefore will not be flying there. We're sorry for all those many supporters of ours who will be disappointed by this news. Our progress to First flight is good and we expect it to be soon."  



Down to earth - Tim Peake has raised expectations for the UK Space industry. (NASA)

This year at Farnborough will see a new spring in the step of the UK Space Agency after the planned return to Earth on 18 June of the UK's first official ESA Astronaut, Tim Peake. Industry will be hoping that his mission to the ISS kick-starts a bold new chapter in UK spaceflight, with Britain mobilising its expertise to take advantage of Peake's high-profile mission. Though 'Major Tim' is still set to touch down, it is fair to say he (and the UK Space Agency) has raised the bar in terms of outreach and STEM education in the UK. The question now, is Tim Peake’s ISS flight a one-off, or the start of a growimg trend?

In addition, this Farnborough also will see a focus on the UK's spaceport plans – as outlined earlier this year in the Queen's Speech. The decision (to rely on individual spaceports making their case) may seem a cop-out to some but it does heighten competition among those locations aiming to secure the UK's first spaceport.

As well as a potential appearance from the UK’s first ESA astronaut, this year’s Farnborough will also see Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden attend, to help promote STEM through the  Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF).

General and business aviation

The Hondajet promises to be a game-changing light jet. (Hondajet)

The show will also feature a business aviation park, with aircraft from Dassault Aviation, Dornier Aviation, Britten-Norman and Bombardier. New this year is the HondaJet which received its certification in 2015. Meanwhile, a planned change in single-engine IFR rules for commercial purposes means that both Pilatus (PC-12) and Textron (Cessna Caravan) will be hoping that this could kick off a sales boom in the UK business aviation sector. Also part of the GA line up will be rotorcraft from Bell, including its new 505 and 529 helicopters.    

Drones carve own niche 

This was the venue for the World Drone Prix in Dubai earlier this year - a fast-moving racing UAV sport now coming to Farnborough in July. (World Drone Prix)

UAVs (or drones) continue to advance in ways that were unimagined even only five years ago. From stealth UCAVs destroy enemy air defences to defiblator drones to save lives in urban areas, the list of applications grows ever longer.

Major air shows, of course, have had UAV zones before, but this year perhaps is the first year in which drones are starting to carve out their own identify. For example, Farnborough will see a 'drone racing' course added to the exhibits. This, using first person goggles, is a combination of extreme sport and video game. It is also worth keeping an eye on for another reason. In the past it was air racers and aerobatic champions who sometimes went on to carve careers as fighter aces, test pilots or air power evangelists. Are new sports like FPV drone racing, the breeding ground for tomorrow's UAV Top Guns?

Amazon has big plans for delivery drones - but what are the challenges? (Amazon)

This Farnborough will also see perhaps more meat put on the UK's ambitious plans to drive the commercial UAV sector forward. A decade ago, this predicted larger UAVs, perhaps carrying cargo as a future business niche. Now the rise of (low-cost, but capable) consumer quadcopters has changed all that. If the UK intends to lead the world in a 21st century drone economy (for example door to door Amazon UAV deliveries) what needs to happen in the technology, regulatory and public perception side of things?

With so many people now buying consumer UAVs, there will also be a Drone Safety Awareness Weekend – helping pass on useful tips and guidance about how to fly these safely and still have fun.     

Aviation anniversaries

Boeing has been celebrating is centenary with a special exhibition Above & Beyond at Greenwich.  

This year's Farnborough will also be significant for a number of aviation anniversaries. SBAC (now ADS) which was the original organiser of the show celebrates its 100th year this year. 

Also reaching its 100th birthday (and in fact celebrating the actual day on the Friday of the show is Boeing). While its links with the UK dates back to 1938, in recent years Boeing has significantly upped its investment and footprint in the UK. It may not be a 'British' company but this year’s Farnborough will see it cement Anglo-US ties even further. Expect to see a big line-up of Boeing (and legacy company aircraft) to appear at the show. Boeing too will have a special centennial pavilion to visit.  

Also celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016 is Dassault, which traces its lineage back to 1916 and the Éclair propeller designed by a 24-year-old Marcel Bloch.  Though not its home ground of Le Bourget – Dassault continues to create aviation milestones – only on the 4 June it flew the first UCAV, its Neuron, at a public air show in Istres, France. 

Come and find out the benefits of RAeS Membership.

Finally , of course, this Farnborough sees the Royal Aeronautical Society celebrate 150 years – the oldest and most recognised professional aviation membership organisation in the world. In its 150th year it is healthier than ever, growing new members and its multidisciplinary approach now perfectly suits the mature global aerospace industry we live in. If you are an aerospace professional, considering a career, or just interested in aviation, the RAeS will have a stand there (Hall 3, Innovation Zone) where you can find out more about the benefits of membership. As well as its traditional Farnborough reception on the Tuesday night, the RAeS will also be holding its Amy Johnson Lecture on the Thursday. 

STEM and Futures Day

At the 2014 Farnborough Air Show, the RAeS/Boeing Schools Build A Plane flew in the flying display. 

The RAeS, along with manufacturers and other organisations, will also be taking part in the ‘Futures Day’ on the Friday – where the emphasis shifts to showing young people, the wide range of exciting careers and opportunities that exist in today’s aerospace industry.  

Better TV coverage of Farnborough?

Is there enough aviation news here for a dedicated global TV channel? (Farnborough)

Those older readers may remember the glory days of Farnborough week where the trade show was covered by BBC TV in a week-long series are long gone. These days, of course, everyone can be a TV reporter with smart phones, YouTube, Vine, Periscope at their disposal and there is no shortage of video content from professional publications, amateur bloggers and even manufacturers themselves.  But could there be a niche for a dedicated aviation business TV channel aimed at professionals and passengers? A new start-up, Aviation Television News (www.avtn.tv) thinks so, and is currently in the process of seeking backers. If successful, it could well transform the aviation media landscape and bring the business stories and technology of this huge global industry to a far wider audience.        

Stay ahead of all the news!

To follow all the news at Farnborough don’t forget to bookmark www.aerosociety.com and follow the daily airshow news on the Insight blog. For those on Twitter, follow @AeroSociety and use the hashtag #FARN16. Editor-in-Chief Tim Robinson will be tweeting live from the show on @RAeSTimR

14 June 2016