While over US$120 billion of orders were placed at the Farnborough International Air Show, there were few major space deals announced. Probably the biggest was more of a reheat than a genuine new deal: the release of €10 million, as an initial tranche, of the cash that the UK Government promised Reaction Engines Limited for its SABRE air-breathing rocket engine prototype demonstrator.
Skylon, for which the SABRE engine was originally designed, was on show in model form in the space zone arena – its pointy cone inlets nearly impaling this writer as he accidently backed into one during the lecture by UK/ESA astronaut Tim Peake.
Peake, who has just returned from the Principia space mission aboard the International Space Station became the headline act for space as he described his flight to the press and to hoards of eager school children.
While Farnborough’s ground display had lots of military and commercial jets to pour over, including old favourites such as the very well sold F-16, the air display was a bit of a damp squib. Much of the display was curtailed by the weather (low cloud and very heavy showers which even caused flooding on day 1).
Meanwhile, following last year’s fatal air accident at the Shoreham air show, the crowd line had been moved further back from the flying. Still, there was one star turn worth watching. Despite its g-load manoeuvre and payload/range limitations, the F-35B still wowed the crowd with its Harrier-like hover manoeuvres.
The hall exhibits were not as good as they once were. One exhibitor tried to make boring products – aluminium aircraft panels – just a little more interesting by using a robot to do the sales pitch.
This could spell the end for the pretty young model girls (“dolly birds”) that some firms hire to give their stands and products a little more pizazz and “sex appeal”.
Those companies with more interesting wares ranging from missiles to ejection seats had stands with actual examples on them to catch the eye.
Those with offerings too large to fit in the hall, used models of the wooden variety to show them off.
And for those that wanted one of their own to take home – there were shopping stands on the front rank selling aircraft models. These included a very large one of Concorde which was selling for a cool ten thousand quid. However, getting it in your car would be tricky – and putting it on the roof might induce an unintended lift off.