It was the big jets that got the attention as the 2010 Farnborough Air Show got underway this week, and the bulk of the gazes were directed at one in particular: Boeing’s 787. Its arrival at Farnborough in the early hours of Sunday marked its international debut – the first time it’s been seen in the flesh outside the US – and the aircraft positively sparkled in the sunshine, parked in the most prominent spot in the static display, with a queue of people outside its barriers hoping to have a look inside.
Perhaps in light of the woes of the aviation industry over the past couple of years, the mood in general was overwhelmingly positive, as nearly $30bn (€23.2bn) worth of orders rolled in during the first two days. “It’s a sign of economic recovery and it’s going to be positive news for the airline industry moving forward,” said Max Sukkhasantikul, aerospace analyst at Frost & Sullivan, echoing a bullish outlook felt around the airfield.
The majority of these orders were for smaller jets and it’s this narrowbody market that looks set to become increasingly interesting over the coming months. Traditionally Airbus and Boeing have dominated this sector, and it’s a major contributor to their bottom line. So it makes sense that others might want to get in on the action and several projects are in the works from different parts of the world that aim to put pressure on the Boeing and Airbus duopoly.
Bombardier’s C-Series, which is still in the development stages, will potentially offer economics that Boeing and Airbus won’t be able to match without a brand new aircraft to replace their current offerings. Meanwhile, Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi drew attention at the show with their Superjet 100, which took part in the flying display. It received orders from an Indonesian and a Thai carrier at the show and Sukhoi hopes to add a European airline to its books this year.
On the terrace of the Sukhoi chalet as the Superjet flew over the crowds, a mostly Russian gathering applauded, their excitement evident. Asked about entering into what will surely be a crowded market, Olga Kayukova, director of communications for Sukhoi Commercial Aircraft said with a grin, “A crowded market is an opportunity to enter with a better product.”
Standing under the wing of the 787, Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing, was all smiles. “Last year, we were at the bottom of the market. Farnborough 2010 will be remembered as the beginning of the upturn,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon as the 787 lifted off into the sky to head back to Seattle, performing a fly-past flanked by two Spitfires, it was tempting to believe that he was right.