Impending aircraft orders, new technological innovations, the Boeing-Airbus tussle for supremacy in the light of the recent acquisitions, and the impact of Brexit on the aviation industry are among the main talking points at the 2018 Farnborough Airshow, which kicks off on Monday.
Static displays and aerobatic performances will be among the highlights of the show that will conclude on July 22. More than 1480 exhibitors from about 50 countries, 300 of them from the United States alone, are participating, with all the industry giants, including Boeing, Airbus, Leonardo, Lockheed Martin, Aero Vodochody, Embraer, ATR, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, United Technologies, Saab, GE Aviation, Rolls Royce, Textron, Mitsubishi and UTC Aerospace Systems in full attendance. Most of the major companies in the fields of space as well as cybersecurity in aviation are also exhibiting.
Farnborough Airshow 2016 saw sales and commitments to the tune of more than US$120 billion, and one can expect a significant number of announcements regarding deals at this year’s show.
Forecast published in recent days by Airbus suggests that the aircraft fleet will more or less double over the next two decades – driven largely by rising demand in the Asia-Pacific region. At Farnborough, orders could be placed for up to 900 new aircraft, according to analysts at the aviation consultancy IBA Group. The majority will be for variants of the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737 MAX.
Czech manufacturer Aero Vodochody is expected to announce additional orders for its L-39NG jet trainers at the show. The company is planning to reveal details of two orders for the new aircraft, according to its CEO Giuseppe Giordo. Launch customer Senegal ordered four aircraft in a light attack configuration in April. The company is currently planning to deliver six L-39NGs in 2020 before moving to 14 aircraft in 2021-22 and then 20 aircraft per year from 2023.
A major storyline that will be followed closely at the event is the impact of the trade war between the US and China on the aviation industry. According to Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg, both the US and Chinese governments understood the importance of aerospace to their economies, despite mounting trade tensions between the two countries. The two trading powers had shared interests as China needed the air transport capacity and the United States relied on the sector for thousands of valuable export jobs.“Aerospace thrives on global trade, free and open trade,” Muilenburg says.
Much of the focus will be on the two preeminent airframers – Boeing and Airbus. While it has only been weeks since Boeing and Embraer announced the formation of a US $4.8 billion joint venture centered around Embraer’s commercial aircraft business, Airbus will be attending the event two weeks after the successful completion of its takeover of the Bombardier C Series program.
The C Series jet, which has now been renamed A220, will be at the show, having already found a new buyer with JetBlue announcing that it would buy 60 planes in a US$5.4 billion deal. More than its proposed new midsize airplane that is expected by 2025, Boeing is expected to stress the market potential of its newly announced joint venture at the event.
Last month, Boeing unveiled its vision for a “hypersonic” airliner capable of flying at five times the speed of sound. That concept is expected to form part of an elaborate exhibit at Farnborough dedicated to how the industry will change in years to come. Boeing could also signal plans for its new midsize airplane (NMA), but reports suggest this could be derailed by the festering global trade war spearheaded by US President Donald Trump.
Embraer is showing off its E-190 E2, a similar, highly-efficient regional airliner, which entered into service earlier this year.
Under Brexit Cloud
Farnborough is taking place in the shadow of Britain’s stalled negotiations to exit the European Union. Organisers warn that aircraft could stop flying if British Prime Minister Theresa May fails to clinch an adequate Brexit deal with Brussels.
Britain remains on course to leave the European Union on March 29 next year.
“Our worst-case scenario is genuinely—and it is not alarmist or scare mongering—that aircraft will not fly,” said Farnborough International chairman Paul Everitt, who is also head of aerospace, defence and space trade body ADS.
“Aircraft will not fly because on… March 30, I am sitting at an airport anywhere in the world, and they have got a piece of paper saying that this is not a certified European product. This bit comes from the UK. And this bit isn’t certified. So the plane does not fly.”
According to media reports, the UK Government is set to announce a number of programs for the aerospace industry as part of an effort to allay fears that there would be a shift in focus away from the industry stories-Brexit. Significant funding for aerospace technologies is likely to be announced, say informed sources. According to BBC, a major announcement is expected from the Ministry of Defence soon, setting out details of its Combat Air Strategy. It is expected to explain its plans for developing and building new fighter aircraft from the 2020s onwards – when production of the Eurofighter Typhoon is likely to be wound down – and protecting the capabilities of the U.K. defence sector, BBC reports.
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