Farnborough – An Impactful Childhood


Growing up in Farnborough, England, across the road and a fence from the Farnborough International Airshow, was a defining time in my life. A love for aviation was born, which today finds me running PR and marketing for the Spirit of St. Louis Air Show & STEM Expo, and a few years ago in the backseat of a Blue Angel F/A-18 performing high-G maneuvers.

And today, as the 2014 Farnborough show approaches, I ran across this great article on the history of that amazing event. And the highlight for me, of course, was reading about the shows in the 80s which I vividly remember. Including the first Western appearance of a Soviet Mig-29, the Soviet An-24, the Boeing E-3A and many, many others.

Celebrating 50 years since that first SBAC show at Hendon, the 1982 event saw 480 exhibitors in the New North Hall on the site of the radar terrace, which was now behind hospitality chalets. The Airbus A310, which was in flight test, went head-to-head with rivals from across the Atlantic, the Boeing 757 and 767 twinjets. A new British aircraft was the Slingsby T67, derived from a Rene Fournier design.

Of 79 aircraft flying in the 1984 show, more than 20 were making their maiden appearance, with 14 debutants in the static display. The event saw the first presentation of Russian aircraft: the Antonov An-72, Ilyushin Il-86 and Mil Mi-26. The de Havilland Dash 8Embraer Brasilia and Saab 340illustrated the competition for regional airliner sales.

Many remember Bill Loverseed’s spot-landing in the de Havilland Buffalo after a strong tailwind reduced elevator effectiveness. The crew climbed out of the wingless wreckage.

Two new chalet lines in 1986 took the total to almost 300. Rearrangement of other facilities permitted construction of a fourth exhibition space, the New South Hall, pushing the total area to 42,700m2. There were 140 static-display aircraft, including the Antonov An-124, the world’s heaviest aircraft.

New aircraft flying in 1986 included the Airbus A300 “fly-by-wire” demonstrator, BAe’s EAP single-seater research aircraft, ATP, and Harrier GR5, Boeing E-3A Sentry, Dassault-Breguet RafaleFokker 50, and Sikorsky S-70. On the ground were an Aero Spacelines “Super Guppy” transporter and 13 military trainers.

A 1988 highlight was the first Western display appearance of the MiG-29, including a dramatic tail-slide. But Soviet participation was offset by, first, an An-124 engine failure and then a runway departure by an An-22 bringing replacement engine parts. When the MiG-29 did not fly later in the week, the flying control committee grounded the pilot.

A new powerplant concept demonstrated at Farnborough was General Electric’s ultra-high bypass unducted fan on a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 testbed.

The Optica was joined in 1988 by other ill-starred British light aircraft: the Orca/Trago Mills SAH-1, Island Aviation/ARV Super 2 and the Norman Fieldmaster, Freelance and Turbo Firecracker. More site development added two-storey chalets and exhibition areas renamed Halls 1 to 5.

You can read the entire article at http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/60-years-of-farnborough-air-shows-225056/. And if you ever get the chance, get yourself to Farnborough.