The world's biggest air show has kicked off in England on Monday amid pressure on the industry's leaders to juggle growing concerns over jetliner demand and record production plans.
The mecca of international aviation will take place this week at the airport of the small town of Farnborough, southwest of London. Since 1948, an international air show has been held here every two years; it will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2018. The Farnborough International Air Show has developed into one of the most important aviation showcases in the world, alternating with the Paris Air Show every other year at Le Bourget.
At the last Farnborough Airshow in 2014, deals worth $200 billion (180.9 billion euros) were sealed, of which $152 billion were in aircraft orders alone. The focus in Farnborough is clearly on passenger airliners, even though this time the American Lockheed Martin F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, the vertical take-off version, will see its debut in England.
A total of 99 aircraft will be on display throughout the week, from Airbus' electrical aircraft E-Fan, seating two, up to the giant A380, which can transport more than 500 passengers. The air show is open to the public on the coming weekend and reserved for trade visitors earlier in the week.
News from the behemoths
The US manufacturer Boeing takes center stage this year, celebrating its 100th anniversary - the son of a German immigrant had his company "Pacific Aero Products Co" registered in Seattle in 1916. Besides its jubilee pavilion, Boeing will present the first jet to come out in the second century of its history.
The Boeing 737 MAX-8, of which the fourth test aircraft will be flown in England, is another re-incarnation of the venerable Boeing 737, which originally premiered with German airline Lufthansa in 1968. The newest model boasts the innovative geared turbo-fan engines and many features of the technologically advanced Boeing 787. The first one is planned to be delivered to Southwest Airlines in July 2017, ahead of schedule.
Airbus also brings its newest offspring to England - as well as a modernized version of its bestselling A320, which, now equipped with the newest-generation engine, is being offered as A320neo (standing for "new engine option").
Airbus has recently suffered of massive problems with the PW1100G engines, leading to dozen non-delivered and engine-less A320neos being parked in Toulouse
Lufthansa has been operating this version as launch customer since January, but the delivery schedule is off course. "We built gliders," admitted Tom Williams, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Airbus.
But both manufacturers are also displaying their well-established models on demo flights: Airbus the A350 and the A380, and Boeing the 787-9, along with the Boeing 747-8F freighter in the static display. The 747-8 and the A380, both very big aircraft, have been hard to sell pver the last few years, however.
Attractions and niche products
Innovative smaller aircraft, to the contrary, have been doing very well on the market. Brazilian manufacturer Embraer is slated to show its recently modified bestseller E190-E2. It only flew on May 23 for the first time, with all new wings and engines, and is supposed to cover the long distance from Brazil to England as part of the test program.
The real crowd-puller will come from Canada, however: In contrast to Airbus, Boeing and Embraer, Bombardier has brought out the first all-new passenger airliner for decades, after seven years of development,
The C Series for 125 to 145 passengers is labelled as the most modern jet in the skies, halving the perceived noise as well as CO2 emissions, and at the same time burning just two liters of fuel per 100 km per passenger - less than a compact car.
Bombardier's C series gets rave reviews from passengers with wide-body comfort and huge windows, being a full 50 percent larger than those on the A320
Very fittingly, the C Series celebrates its commercial premiere this week: On Friday, the first flight with paying passengers will take place from Zurich to Paris, operated by launch customer Swiss, part of Lufthansa Group. On the opening day of the Farnborough Airshow, the first production aircraft will make a quick appearance in England from Zurich, with C Series chief pilot Peter Koch at the controls.
"Our aircraft will clearly be the star of Farnborough; if not the C Series, what else?" Koch said enthusiastically with regard to the planned appearance.