I posted recently about the Donington Aeropark near East Midlands Airport, and it seems, given the comments on Twitter and Facebook, that aircraft are a popular choice of topic. I thought that I would mention some other aviation stories. Rather than some of the more interesting aircraft that I have flown on – helicopters, domestic flights in Russia, Nigeria, and other interesting places, and a couple of emergency landings – I thought that some more pictures of aircraft may be interesting, and that made me think of the Farnborough Airshow. For those who don’t know it, the Farnborough Air show happens every two years, and is one of the key trade shows for aviation. There are public days and trade days, and in 2010, I was lucky enough not just to be at a trade day, but to have a VIP ticket to the enclosure at the end of the runway.
During the morning, there was the opportunity to walk around and see some of the aircraft on display. If you ever wanted to buy a C130 Hercules, a private jet, or the like, then this is the right place to be.
Not that I was in the market for an aircraft at the time, but if I was, then some of those on display may be a little too powerful for any needs that I could possibly imagine. I cannot envisage a reason why I am likely to need to buy an Apache gunship, but if I did, then this was the right place to be.
An interesting development in military – and to a growing extent, civilian – aviation is the introduction of drone, or unmanned aircraft. There were a number of UAVs – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – on display, most of which I did not photograph, but here are a couple of drones at the Farnborough Air Show of which I did manage to get pictures.
After – a rather nice – lunch, the air display started with the drones. It was quite incredible to see the size and maneuverability of some of the unmanned craft. Next up was the A400M, the Airbus military transport. It was interesting being at the end of the runway watching aircraft of this size take off and perform some aerobatics.
Next down the runway was the huge Airbus A380, the new commercial aircraft of the time, and in much demand from the world’s airlines at the time. Some people were at the Farnborough Air Show specifically to see this.
If that was not big enough, then next up was the B-52 Stratofortress. Most of the aircraft took off, did a few laps around the Farnborough Air Show, and then landed again, but not the B-52. It flew in specially for the show, and did a single pass over the airfield, so it was easy to miss, even given its huge size and ominous noise. These mighty aircraft have been in service since 1952, and in the 1970s, some B-52s were adapted to carry up to twenty nuclear missiles. However, they are best remembered – or perhaps most notorious – for their part in the Vietnam War. The US lost 31 in the conflict, and it was these aircraft that were at the forefront of carpetbombing, with Operation Line Backer II seeing the B-52s dropping over 15000 tons of bombs over a 12 day period over Christmas 1972, causing huge loss of life on the ground.
After these huge flying vehicles, next up was a small plane, and from that small aircraft, a series of dots became clearer as people dropping from the sky, as the ever popular Red Devils parachute team performed for us.
For those who are familiar with them, this was the rather excellent Blades display team, performing some incredible flying stunts in aircraft that rely on the pilots being able to manually control their planes rather than using all electronic assistance.
This series of military aircraft included the Hercules C130J, which has been a mainstay of military transport for decades. The C130J is a relatively new model, was attracting plenty of attention at the Farnborough Air Show, and no doubt will continue to be popular.
More aircraft took to the skies to entertain some of the crowd, and to convince some others to make a purchase.
After the flying programme finished, there was an opportunity to spend some more time looking at the aircraft on the ground. It was odd being a visitor at the show when other people there were obviously from a military background, as there were plenty in uniforms wearing more medals than you can imagine, being driven around in very impressive cars. Equally, there were wealthy individuals coming to look at potential purchases, also being chauffeured around the site in a series of rather nice cars. I found that walking around was much better to see as many aircraft as I could. I mentioned in my post about the Donington Aeropark about the key role that the Avro Vulcan played in liberating the Falkland Islands, and among the aircraft on display was XH558, the Spirit of Great Britain, an Avro Vulcan. The person with whom I was walking around was a former member of the V fleet, and he looked at XH558 with even more admiration than I could.
The Farnborough Air Show is an excellent opportunity to see not just the newest aircraft in the aviation world, but some of the stars of the past, both civilian and military, and to see them at close range. If you do get the opportunity to go to the trade days, and particularly if you get the opportunity to get close to the action, then I am sure that you will enjoy it every bit as much as I did.