Farnborough International Air Show 2022
AS I write this, the Farnborough International Air Show has opened its doors to the fourth day of five that the show will be on. All credit to the organisers, they have worked hard in extremely difficult circumstances made all the worse by some of the warmest days in England since records began.
Noticing these things as I do, the mood at Farnborough this year was very positive. That was certainly pleasing to see and the air of positivity from those exhibiting was very noticeable despite a full understanding that the aviation industry is far from being out of trouble yet.
It was also good to see that there has been some considerable investment at Farnborough since we all last attended. The place no longer looks run down and tired as it has for so many years past and despite Farnborough and its parent company, the trade association ADS, having to struggle for resources like everyone else, they have done a great job since the actual show was last held in 2018.
This year of course there are no family days on Saturday or Sunday and while I know that these changes have hurt, it is the right decision to abandon public days at the weekend. The cost of flying displays, the cost to the aerospace industry of bring planes and flying them in what is because of time and change, a very limited amount of available airspace at Farnborough (due mainly to the expansion of commercial and private flights on a scale that could never have been envisaged back in the 1940’s, we must accept that while it is possible to have plenty of aircraft on the ground to walk around, the days of planes displaying every 15 minutes will never return.
None of that stopped Boeing for one, putting on a splendid air display of its 737MAX and 777X airplanes. If by the way there were other displays then I for one didn’t see them because I was busy elsewhere but I do know that there were plenty of flypasts including on the initial day from the RAF Red Arrows.
One can always find the odd gripe and for me it was probably failure of the air conditioning on Tuesday afternoon in the sheds (Exhibition halls). Yes, these were unusual circumstances but why does it always happen at Farnborough and seemingly nowhere else. On the other hand, all credit to the organisation for the entry points and the ease of getting in. Clearly many lessons have been learned from 2018.
Farnborough is without doubt a place for those who make the commercial, military and fast-growing UK space industry what it is. It is a place for them to meet their customers and militaries, to network and to better understand what makes the industry tick.
Do not be under any illusion that Farnborough doesn’t still have a very important place in the future of the aerospace industry doing what it does now or as a specific trade show. I would certainly welcome full transformation of Farnborough into the latter category and I sense that may well be what will occur in the years ahead. Alternating with DSEI, another exceptional not to be missed event held every two years and which is solely a ‘defence industry’ show would make good sense along with moving Farnborough back to the month where it used to be when I first attended the event back in 1968 – in September.
Nonetheless, Farnborough management has done well to ensure that all those who should be at Farnborough exhibiting this year are there. Yes, I know that there are one or two of the bigger names missing but that is the same at any large trade event. Justas DSEI is, albeit a very different show because it is ‘defence’, Farnborough is about commercial aerospace and increasingly space. As all good exhibitions should do, it has a day (Friday) reserved for skills and getting the message of what a brilliant aerospace industry we have in the UK out to future generations of young people that we will need.
RIAT 2022 – (The Royal International Air Tattoo)
I am not sure that there is really anything more that I can say about the Royal International Air Tattoo that I have not already said year after year!
Without doubt, the best international military air show event in the world by a long chalk, RIAT this year was once again – exceptional in every respect. This is THE military air show that no-one within the industry or military would ever miss if they can. It is a place where we in the industry, military or who observe and work with them closely, spend three days catching up , exchanging ideas, learning and playing our part in encouraging and motivating youngsters to realise what a brilliant military air industry we have in the UK, what it is doing and looking to do in the future (space) and in putting the world to rights.
RIAT does not set out to compete with anyone because quite simply, it is unique. Why else would 67 air force chiefs from all over the world who come initially to London to attend the Chief of the Air Staff Conference at the IET on the preceding two days of RIAT ( the annual Conference is organised jointly by the Air & Space Power Studies, Directorate of Defence Studies AND the Air & Space Power Organisation) before most if not all make their way down to RAF Fairford for RIAT.
I have been attending all three days of RIAT since 1996 and all that I can say is that in every respect, RIAT is brilliant. I must be careful what I say of course, but the bottom line is that anybody who is anybody in the military air industry or air forces will I am sure tell you what an exceptional event on the annual calendar this is.
Neither should we forget that RIAT is organised by the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust, an organisation that does so much for young people encouraging them to fly, encouraging air mindedness, providing grants and flying scholarships and STEM related grants as well as grants that support RAF personnel and promote the Royal Air Force.
The Gala Dinner, sponsored by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, had quite excellent speeches from the Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Tony Radakin, the Chair of BAE Systems, Sir Roger Carr and the new President of RIAT, Air Marshal Phil Osborn.
They and in the case of the RAFCT and the immediate predecessor s as presidents – Air Marshal Sir Kevin Leeson and prior to him, Air Chief Marshal Sir John Cheshire, have all played a very important part of the development of RIAT and importantly, the RAF Charitable Trust. We thank them all for what they have done just as we do the hundreds of volunteers including many members of Birmingham University air squadron whose turn it was this year, without whose work and dedication an event such as RIAT could not take place.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, to our many friends in the United States Air Force at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire who make the airbase available to RIAT year after year. We are all eternally grateful to you in this your own 75th anniversary year.
CHW (London 21st July 2022)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785