Despite the United States’ dominance of the aerospace and defense industry, the UK’s biennial Farnborough air show, along with the Paris show, remains one of the biggest events on the calendar.
Held this year from July 9-15, Farnborough is unusual in incorporating both a five-day trade show and two days of aerobatics displays for the public, as well as thrill rides and interactive displays aimed at children.
Nonetheless, industry insiders will be watching the event with eagle eyes to keep abreast of who is winning orders from whom, and whether sales can match those seen at 2010’s Farnborough when $47 billion worth of business was completed during the week. More than 1,400 exhibitors are expected from 40 countries, with 116 companies coming from the UK alone.
Below are some potential highlights of the event to look out for:
Boeing of the U.S. took the lead in grabbing headlines from rival Airbus when it confirmed its flagship 787 Dreamliner would be flying in Qatar Airways colors at Farnborough. Boeing will hope to clock up orders for its 737 MAX at the event, and may announce further details of its new 77x, designed to challenge Airbus’s A350, for which so far there are few orders.
Attention will still be on Airbus (a subsidiary of EADS ) however, given its recently announced plan to launch its first U.S. production line in Alabama. Industry players are eager to learn further details, in particular the rationale behind the plan, given that Airbus’s other production lines are in France, Germany and China. Airbus will also hope to restore confidence in its A380, which has been working through serious issues with wing cracks .
Despite depressed defense spending in both the U.S. and Europe, all the major players will be present at Farnborough with the exception of Northrop Grumman , which cited “affordability and cost reduction goals” for skipping the show.
Highlights will include the unveiling of the Saab Gripen’s new AESA radar, plus the Irkut Yak-130 making its debut appearance at Farnborough.
Airbus’s A400M transporter will be present, but will only give a static display due to engine issues, while the Russian Knight’s (the Russian Air Force’s aerobatics team) Su-27s have pulled out completely.
Commercial space transport will be in focus at Farnborough after SpaceX’s Dragon proved in May that space travel is no longer just for governments by successfully reaching the International Space Station .
Double the numbers of space companies are expected compared to 2010’s show, with attention on the European debut appearance of Virgin Galactic’s tourist spacecraft SpaceShip2 — albeit in (full-scale) mocked-up form.
Virgin Galactic’s billionaire owner, Sir Richard Branson, hopes to fly tourists on SpaceShip2 by 2013, and flights can be pre-purchased for $200,000. Branson will give a press conference at Farnborough on Wednesday at which he is expected to announce changes to SpaceShip2’s design, plus a restart of Virgin Galactic Cargo, his project to launch small satellites commercially.
By CNBC.com's Katy Barnato