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Farnborough International Airshow 2014




Its not often I get a lie in on airshow days but with Farnborough just three quarters of an hour away from me I hit the snooze button at 5:45am and eventually got going around 6, all sorted and off I arrived in a very traffic free Farnborough at 07:15 and was directed to the car park in Aldershot and one free shuttle bus later was into the showground by 07:30

The forecast rain was still hanging around but would clear to give a very hot and humid day, so plenty of fluids were the order of the day. Buying food and drinks from the on the site vendors were excessively pricey and I would recommend taking as much as you can carry in your kit bag from a cheaper alternative before you set off to shows like this, I honestly felt I had just been legally mugged by the trader in question.

Farnborough international air show begins with the trade week where deals and buisness relationships are forged from countries around the globe, I have no statistics to hand as I was working my usual job during the trade week which left me only Saturday to attend, though I had heard figures of £472bn at some point during the week. Figures quoted like this are a reasonable indicator that things may be on the up in the aviation buisness world and can only be good news for attendances from “exotics” in the airshow circuit next year (I'm ever the optimist!)

A trip down the flightline to check things out and there were some stunning static displays comprising of to name but a few F15, Black Hawk Helicopter, AV8B Harrier II, Breaitling Super Constellation, F16, A380, A400M, Vulcan XH558, Merlin, and TAI/AgustaWestland T129 attack helicopter of the Turkish Air Force. Eventually after what seemed like an eternal walk I arrived at the Vulcan Village and met Jo Ayres for a quick photo of her good self with the Cold War era XH558 Vulcan Bomber, Jo is one of the hard working team who help keep XH558 where she belongs, as one of the team of individual fundraisers for Vulcan South Central Jo is kept busy with attending fund raising events both at air shows and other events within the region encompassed by Vulcan South Central. I bought a couple of nice Polo shirts while there and the quality is very good indeed.

On my way back and parked up on static was Spitfire MJ627 (9GP) looking every part the elegant concourse thoroughbred with D-Day markings with the Canadian Maple Leaf symbol denoting its country of service, this example was built in Castle Bromwich and entered service with 441 Sqn of the Royal Canadian Air Force in September 1944. Further down I noticed one of the stalls had two gentlemen from the RAF in World War 2 signing “The Bomber Command Memorial” Book published by Fighting High Ltd , I asked if I could take a photo for Airscene and they very kindly obliged, these ex Lancaster Bomber servicemen are Dave Fellowes (Royal Air Force Air Gunner) and George Dunn DFC (Royal Air Force Pilot).

The flying display began with the Gloster Meteor and De Havilland Vampire, even though it turned out to be a very hot day, its a shame the sun wasn't out properly for this duo. Breitlings own Wingwalkers strutted their smoke-on aerobatic finesse with a superb display from the 4 ship of Stearman in the vivid photogenic orange and white livery emblazoned with the sponsors logo. Next up were the “Great War Display Team”, one of those displays where numerous WW1 era aircraft are choreographed into several tail chases and 1 to 1 air combat scenarios, this I enjoyed watching with both eyes instead of through a viewfinder as I was eating a tasty cheeseburger at the time.

Airbus group sent the “heavies” up in the shape of the A380 and the A400M, the A380 display from this Leviathan demonstrated the outright agility and grace that has wowed the crowds since its first public appearance at Farnborough, this was followed on with the A400M, this particular example had marks on the wings which looked like paint but I am not too sure what it was, it just made it look like it had been round the block a few times, and as a demonstrator I expect it has. Nonetheless it was an exceptional display from the RAF's future heavy lifter which we will soon have in RAF markings.

The Aerostars put on a fantastic performance in the Yak aerobatic trainer aircraft with some tight, precise and smoke laden routines which even captivated the interest of hardened fast jet fans sat near to me. As usual when XH558 moves, the crowd jumps to its feet and today was no exception, the former cold war bomber has a seemingly growing fan base who I suspect come to the show just to witness this spectacle and probably moreso with the possibility that she may not be on the airshow circuit for too long, though I hope that is not the case as i am also a big fan of the Vulcan since I saw one land at my local airport as a boy.
Mark Jeffries in the Extra 330SC put on an adrenaline fuelled show with fast spins and full throtlle exitement which at times made me feel as though as was in there with him! I was exhausted just watching the punishing flight envelope from his no holds barred routine. Strangely the Super Hornet display seemed slow, far and very wide compared to the previous display, though it clearly was anything but slow, it just seemed that way after watching the Extra being pushed so hard if that make any sense.

The one show item every one was itching to see today was that of the new Lockheed Martin F35 Lightning 2, not to be as we all know now, however there was a AV8B Harrier II from the Spanish Navy, the ground attack VSTOL aircraft that is the second generation of the jump jet, I was as were so many others extremely pleased to see this and so were many others at the show, cameras jumped into burst mode filling buffers with aplomb for every pass and exceeding the buffer when the Harrier was hovering. What would have made this even better was if we the UK who invented the airframe actually had one flying as well, something very wrong there. But kudos to Spain for sending it.

Midair Squdadron's Canberra PR9 wore the blue skies around it like a stylish overcoat as she made her prescence felt with the reverberating sound of the English Electric powerplants resonating of the various buildings, a delight to see, a and a delight to hear. The Red Arrows always appeal to the crowds and today's display was made better for hearing the commands from inside the cockpit as the leader calls out the choreographed moves that put on such a scintillating spectacle, I must put those frequencies in my scanner to hear that again at the next show. This was followed by a couple of flypasts by the Breitling Super Constellation, a trio of DC 3 Dakotas and Noel Rees in the 29(R) Squadron Typhoon Fgr4, a superb display from Noel closing the show on the saturday with the specially marked example.

Getting out of the show to find the bus for the car park had been comparativley easy in previous years, but there seemed to be something of a big delay this time around, with no real structure to any form of queueing for the buses it soon turned into a free for all, I was parked at the furthest car park in Aldershot as directed by the signs and had to patiently wait for almost an hour to get the bus, why the organisers didn't fill Queens Parade car park first as in years before is a mystery to me, when this car park was used most of the attendees simply walked to this one rather than put more pressure on the bus queue, I have done it myself and would have prefered that option again. A minor niggle really but should be re-instated as the primary car park for future shows.

FIAS2014 was a well balanced show with the right mix of stands and statics on show, but it should be kept in mind that some traders were in my mind unreasonably hiking up the prices which would mean a very expensive day out for the average family. All in all I would say that FIAS pretty much had it bang on with the right mix of old and new, fast and relaxed flying, it was a very enjoyable experience. Finally I would like to offer sincere thanks to all at Farnborough for the media pass to such a prestigious event in the aviation calendar, and also to Miranda Rock in the media department for her organisation in the media area(s). Looking forward to seeing what FIAS2016 has in store.

Review by Ken Brannen
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