Farnborough International Airshow returned in 2022 after a four year hiatus and was the largest aerospace exhibition held in Europe since 2019. The past three years have been very tough for the aerospace sector but there are signs of recovery as both the civilian and military worlds look to modernise and adapt their needs. Farnborough 2022 was the first show in a brand-new five-day format for the event which also introduced the Aerospace Global Forum described as the ‘Davos’ for aerospace.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from the Tuesday and Wednesday of the five day event. All photography by the author.
Lockdowns, border closures, conflict and rapidly rising costs are all significant challenges to the aviation sector. That was immediately apparent walking through the gates at Farnborough with notably less aircraft and models parked up in Leonardo’s corner of the static display. Farnborough had already planned to slim down its event in 2020 dropping the public weekend. That meant the showground footprint was reduced no longer extending so far west. The public still had a chance to visit the show on the Friday which was dubbed ‘Pioneers of Tomorrow’ with a focus on attracting new talent to the aerospace sector.
As is tradition, the show was opened on the Monday by the current Prime Minister of the UK, Boris Johnson. His opening speech and other ministerial announcements during the event included commitments to the Jet Zero Strategy, the Aerospace Growth Partnership Destination Net Zero Strategy and a new Future Combat Air Strategy – all positive news for the UK’s aerospace industry. Completing the opening ceremony was a flypast by the RAF Red Arrows and the patriotic ‘Blackjack’ Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 from 29(R) Squadron.
The exhibition halls were as busy as ever with hundreds of different companies exhibiting their wares to the global audience. A particular focus was on laid on sustainability and advanced air mobility. One of the centrepieces of this theme was the Vertical VX-4 E-VTOL project which is being backed by a number of UK based aerospace companies. Boeing is also developing the Wisk E-VTOL project which had its own prominent exhibition. The sustainability theme pervaded much of the show including the Aerospace Global Forum, a new part of Farnborough for 2022. This event within the show aimed to promote collaboration throughout the aerospace sector with a particular aim to take “actionable steps to a cleaner, more efficient generation of aerospace.”
The commercial sector also had a good Farnborough with both Airbus and Boeing able to announce major deals throughout the week. Between them there were 277 confirmed aircraft orders and a further 81 options announced during the five days which will bring $4.5 Billion to the UK sector alone. Kevin Craven, CEO of ADS Group added, “Total deals on aircraft made across the show, including firm, options and commitments on aircraft, including business and regional jets, comes to $50.8 bn which is a positive boost for the industry. There is a clear demand for newer, greener and fuel-efficient aircraft alongside increasing market recovery as the sector looks to accelerate progress towards net zero by 2050.”
Even with the Royal International Air Tattoo the week before Farnborough, defence remains an integral part of Farnborough. Notably the UK’s Tempest project received a boost with the announcement on the opening day that the UK will build a flying demonstrator by 2025 and is deepening collaboration with Japan and Italy on the project. BAE Systems also highlighted a revised configuration for the aircraft with an LED illuminated model in their hall. The Republic of Korea had a big presence at the show with their KF-21 Boramae fighter taking to the air for the first time as the show took place. The centrepiece of Martin Baker’s stand was a cockpit section of the KF-21 used to test the KR18A ejection seats fitted to the aircraft.
Another country with a major presence at the show was Turkey with Turkish Aviation Industries having a dedicated large outdoor exhibition area for the first time. As well as examples of the TAI Hürkuş, T625 Gökbey and a number of UAVs, the area also included mock-up of the proposed new Turkish Fighter and Hurjet trainer.
Closer to home, Leonardo concentrated their efforts on promoting the AW149 helicopter for the future UK medium helicopter requirement as well as the AW159 Wildcat to international customers. With many European air forces looking to renew their training fleets, Leonardo also showcased their T-345A and T-346A Master jet trainers. Airbus dominated the centre of the static display with a very glamourous ITA Airbus A350-900 surrounded by examples of the A220-300, Royal Air Force A400M Atlas, CN295W, H175M and H135M.
Qatar Airways also returned to Farnborough highlighting their ever closer relationship with Boeing. They took over what was the Cargo area in 2018 with a Boeing 777-300 wearing special Football World Cup colours and a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. They also had one of their executive Gulfstream G650ER aircraft on display adding to a large collection of business jets at the show. Gulfstream themselves had a row of aircraft on static display including the G500, G600, G650ER and G700. On the far side of the airfield, their G800 jet was a very late addition to the show still carrying its test probes and pitot tubes. Other executive aircraft included the Dassault 8X and the Piaggio P180 Avanti.
Brazilian aerospace giant Embraer had a mix of commercial and military aircraft in the static displays with their E195-E2 on show alongside the EMB-314 Super Tucano and KC390 Millennium. However much of the military displays came from the US Department of Defence with its ‘corral’ opposite the brand-new Hall 1 complex at Farnborough. Taking pride of place was one of the 48th Fighter Wing’s new Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II which was surrounded by legacy types such as the McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle and Lockheed Martin F-16CM Fighting Falcon. Completing the US Air Force line-up was a modernised Lockheed C-130H Hercules from the Georgia Air National Guard. US rotary power was represented the US Army’s Boeing CH-47D Chinook and AH-64E Apache while the US Navy exhibited an example of the Boeing P-8A Poseidon.
The daily flying displays remain an important feature of the Farnborough Airshow taking place during the afternoon of each day. Friday’s display was expanded for the public audience with appearances by the Historic Army Aircraft Flight, Royal Navy Black Cats, Rolls Royce Heritage Flight Spitfire XIX, Blades Aerobatic Team and Aerosuperbatics Wingwalkers. There was some disappointment however as some emergency safety checks on some types of ejector seats prevented flypasts by the Red Arrows and a RAF Typhoon.
During the week, it was the big airliner displays by Airbus and Boeing that really caught the eye. Airbus’ display never fails to impress and their Airbus A350-900 demonstrator certainly looked very elegant in the air. However, more recently it had been Boeing’s displays that have really become to talking point of trade show flying displays. Their Boeing 737-10 put on quite a spritely display, but it was the dramatic take off and display of the Boeing 777X-9 that stole the show. That such a large aircraft can leap into air in such breath-taking fashion and then wheel around the skies of Farnborough so elegantly is incredible. Despite its long fuselage, it is a very good-looking airliner too with its extended curved wings glinting in sun. Embraer also got in on the airliner displays with a superb account of its latest E195-E2 ‘Profit-Hunter’ demonstrator wearing a novel shark-nosed colour scheme.
The other major contributor to the flying displays was TAI with two displays from its military aircraft range. The TAI T-129 ATAK attack helicopter has been a regular at Farnborough in recent years. Based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta, TAI has significantly modernised the design and have won a number of orders from the Turkish Army, the Philippines and Nigeria. The type has also attracted interest from the armed forces of Brazil, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Joining the ATAK was the TAI Hürkuş flying at Farnborough for the first time. A turboprop training aircraft is the same class as the Pilatus range and the Beechcraft T-6, the Hürkuş-B will fulfil the basic training role in Turkish Air Force fitted with an avionics suite similar to the F-16C currently in service. An armed version, the Hürkuş-C, is also in development and the type has attracted orders from Libya and Niger. There is also an unmanned variant is also in development for counter-insurgency missions.
The Royal Air Force made a notable contribution to the flying displays. At various points during the week the Grob Tutor T1 and Boeing Chinook HC6 Display Team flew in the flying programme and there were flypasts by the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 and Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1. The first three days of the Farnborough week saw 207(R) Squadron fly a Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning into Farnborough. One Tuesday and Wednesday, the F-35B landed on and the departed later making full use of Short Take Off and Landing abilities in front of the audience.
The finale to the daily flying displays were flypasts from the Republic of Korea Air Force’s Black Eagles flying eight KAI T-50B Golden Eagle advance jet trainers. Their Farnborough flypasts came off the back of triumphant appearances at Southport Airshow and the Royal International Air Tattoo and ahead of interesting ‘tour’ back to their homeland. Tour stops included Poland and Egypt with the former announcing its intention to purchase 48 F/A-50 variants to replace its fleet of soviet era Su-22 fighter bombers. They also intend to visit the Philippines which already operate the F/A-50.
2022 may have seen a slightly smaller and leaner Farnborough International Airshow, but it was no less significant to the global aerospace industry attracting a huge array of international companies and visitors. The addition of the Global Aerospace Forum and the world class exhibition centre mean the Farnborough still retains it position as one of the most significant global aerospace events,.