Stakes high at Farnborough air show as Airbus chases A350 orders

Airbus needs to trumpet sales for new A350 at Farnborough after losing big order, and F-35 fighter jet eagerly awaited, though it may not appear

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 July, 2014, 4:19am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 July, 2014, 8:57pm

A lot is at stake at Britain's Farnborough International Air Show, the aviation industry's biggest event, which opens today.

The biennial trade show is expected to showcase new commercial aircraft as well as a host of new technological advances that promise to give a glimpse of the future of flying. But the first presentation of the world's most advanced fighter jet is in doubt.

Held just outside London, the show features 1,500 exhibitors from 40 countries and some 100,000 industry representatives. Manufacturers who attend find their closest comrades - and their most bitter competitors. Aviation giants Boeing and Airbus are expected to announce a string of new orders in their annual race for the title of the world's biggest plane maker.

Above all, there are two planes that aviation experts want to see at Farnborough - the F-35 Lightning II fighter and the Airbus A350 - two feats of engineering that offer a contrast in the world of the skies.

The wide-body A350 has various configurations designed to seat 250 to 400 passengers and compete with a variety of Boeing aircraft. Airbus says this is the first commercial aircraft built mainly from "advanced materials", which will make it 25 per cent more fuel efficient than existing planes. It's also supposed to be very quiet and offer more room for passengers.

Airbus is under pressure to give it a good showing and announce some new sales after Dubai-based airline Emirates cancelled a huge order for 70 of them last month. Qatar Airways, launch-customer of the A350, plans to unveil its plane's interior at the show.

"Manufacturers are showing particularly high order books," equal to more than eight years of plane production, noted Alain Guillot, an aerospace analyst at consultants AlixPartners.

But the Farnborough air show could see a slowdown in orders compared with previous record years, even though the industry is far from threatened.

The US group Boeing, which typically goes head to head with its European rival Airbus at Farnborough, forecast last week that global passenger numbers would grow by 5 per cent annually over the next 20 years.

While Farnborough focuses mainly on civilian aircraft, there is also room for the military sector to show its latest models. But Farnborough might miss out on the US F-35 fighter jet - which would be a blow to organisers.

The first international appearance of the F-35, set for Britain last Friday, was cancelled as the plane remains grounded in the United States in an embarrassing setback for the costly programme.

It had been due to take part in a British military aviation display, the Royal International Air Tattoo, ahead of its formal presentation at Farnborough.

Lorraine Martin, general manager of the F-35 programme at US defence firm Lockheed Martin, said she still hoped the plane would make it to the air show.

Both the US air force and navy have ordered a halt to all F-35 flights following a June 23 engine fire on one of the planes, which at US$400 billion is the most expensive weapons project in US history.

There will also be drones, which have a reputation as military aircraft that kill people. But manufacturers are hoping they can project a new image, promoting an array of other uses, from policing and surveillance to sports photography and wildlife monitoring.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse


Russia not invited to Farnborough air show in British protest at Ukraine crisis

Britain has delivered a diplomatic snub to Russia by failing to invite any Kremlin officials to this week's Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) in protest over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

The biennnial show south of London is a key event in the aviation calendar to which Russia usually sends a large contingent in the search for foreign sales.

In a statement on Saturday, the Foreign Office said it would not be offering Kremlin officials their usual invitations and was taking steps to tighten military export rules from Britain to Russia.

"It is a commercial matter for the organisers to whom they sell exhibition space," the Foreign Office said.

The government, it said, did invite representatives from certain foreign states to attend the show as guests.

"But due to Russian actions in Ukraine, no representatives from the Russian government have been issued [government] invitations to FIA 2014," it said.

The statement added that Russia would be removed from the list of countries able to use Britain's most flexible type of strategic export licence to discourage Russian attendance at the July 14-20 show.

"No foreign government representatives attending FIA 2014 as guests of [the British government] will be escorted around the Russian pavilion by officials," it concluded.

No immediate comment was available from the Russian embassy in London.

Britain and Nato accuse Russia of supporting pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine but Moscow denies the claims.