2018 Farnborough International Airshow in Review

Sept. 20, 2018
The Farnborough International Airshow celebrated its 70th birthday this year and went through its 51st edition.

In few words the expectations of the organizer and of the international press were not high, but as usual with these large international aerospace events, the result was much better than expected.

Although not a maintenance-focused event, the Farnborough trade event was, and still is, the platform for the aerospace industry to do business and is in the focus of many airlines, aviation companies, and airframe and engine manufacturers from around the world. What is seen at these events will someday be ours to operate and maintain. Regardless, we feel it's important to provide a few highlights of what's happening on the world stage. 

FIA is held on even years and tries to reach and compete with the Paris/LeBourget Show importance which is held in uneven years. The biennial air show has its origins in the annual RAF Airshow held in Hendon from 1920. FIA is held in Farnborough, which is conveniently located some 30 miles (48 km) southwest of central London. As other shows in this field, the FIA has its tradeshow, and its public show parts, held respectively July 16-20, and July 21-22, 2018.

The 2018 Aerospace Media Awards

For me and AMT Magazine, FIA began the night before the official opening at the Aerospace Media Awards Dinner. Two of AMT Magazine’s recent articles were on the short-list of nominees for an award; one written by myself and the other by Gerome Chandler. Even though we didn’t walk away with any top honors, this is the third year in a row that AMT Magazine has been recognized at this international media event. Yes, we are proud!

The Big Manufacturers Big Numbers Game

Something interesting at this FIA in the order-race. Nearly one-third of Airbus and Boeing commitments came from "undisclosed customers". What is the reason for airline customers keeping their commitment in a "stealth mode"?

Boeing wins sales race

In its wrap-up press conference at the end of the trade show, Boeing announced a total of $98.4 billionin orders and commitments for commercial aircraft, together with $2.1 billion in commercial and defense orders and agreements. The U.S. manufacturer gained 673 orders and commitments, including 48 for the 777F, five for the 747-8F, 52 orders for the 787, and 564 for single-aisle 737 MAX.

... and Airbus ends on a high note

At its wrap-up press conference, Airbus disclosed it had received orders for 431 commercial aircraft (93 firm orders and 338 MoUs). These comprised 60 A220-300s, 304 A320 Family aircraft, 42 A330neos, and 25 A350 XWBs.

Airbus - Bombardier

Airbus showcased its newly re-branded A220 family, after securing a major deal on the eve of the show from JetBlue Airways. Airbus acquired a majority (50.01 percent) stake in the C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership (CSALP) on July 1 – and re-branded the CS100 and CS300 to the A220-100 and -300, respectively. Two A220-300s were exhibited at the show – a test aircraft and one in the colors of Air Baltic still registered as experimental.


Bombardier also showcased its brand-new "Atmosphere" named cabin which is addressing the comfort on a CRJ900 painted in Delta Air Lines colors. The Atmosphere cabin has larger entrance way, more shoulder space, wheelchair accessible lavatories, and larger luggage bins. The move comes as Bombardier is trying to re-focus on the regional aircraft market after the move with Airbus searching for its own identity in that field. Bombardier sees rising demand for regional aircraft and a recent increase in Q400 sales.

Blossoming Cargo World

Another pretty significant trend in civil orders was a boost in orders coming from the cargo world, with Boeing as a clear winner with 53 commitments for freighters from DHL Express, Qatar Airways, Volga-Dnepr/CargoLogic, and GECAS. Even the "cargo exhibition" at FIA reached its hoped-for effect.


Embraer is continuing its air show tradition, decorating another E-Jet E2 with a shark-themed livery that was almost intimidating to some FIA visitors. The “Profit Hunter” series began in Paris last year with an eagle, continued with a tiger at the Singapore show in February.

Embraer "predators" entered the FIA 18 having lost out to Airbus A220-300 in a crucial contest for 60 aircraft with JetBlue. Earlier this month, Boeing and Embraer unveiled a memorandum of understanding to create a joint venture focused on the Brazilian commercial aviation business and the deal should be closed by the end of 2019.


The MRJ90 made its first airshow flying appearance at FIA 2018 and made a clear statement that the much delayed regional jet program is on track and ready for final take-off.

Total Count 1,329 (including 476 undisclosed)

Boeing: 673 (208 undisclosed), Airbus: 431 (268 undisclosed), Embraer: 176, Bombardier: 4, ATR: 25, and CATIC 20.

Boom Technology

Boom plans to fly a supersonic demonstrator the XB-1, called "Baby Boom," for a future Mach 2.2 airliner two years later as predicted, by the end of 2019. Boom fell behind its initial schedule by taking more time to optimize the aerodynamics of the XB-1 and switching to a different variant of the GE Aviation J85 engine. The $200 million airliner will be built in a factory operated by Virgin Galactic in California.

Tempest (BAE Systems)

On the military front the dominant topic was a full-size mock-up of the UK's Team Tempest - a sixth-generation fighter concept which may enter service somewhere by 2035. FIA week was the launch of the "Tempest Jet" Britain's Combat Air Strategy, which now stands out from the flood of other FCAS-named projects. The Tempest should be affordable and flexible and its significance will go well beyond the UK military world; this means that the U.S. F-35 is no longer the "only game in town" for a stealth fighter program in the decades ahead. The UK invited other countries to join them in this program.

Aero Vodochody

Back after the stop of production of its successful jet-trainer, Czech Aero Vodochody has launched a new version of the L-159 advanced jet trainer called F/A-259 Striker which is a late bid for the U.S. Air Force’s potential OA-X close air support requirement. The company’s show stand included branding for the new designation and a cockpit simulator, together with its other trainer aircraft, the lighter version L-39NG.


The Italian airframe manufacturer unveiled plans to produce a revised version of HammerHead UAV and started to strengthen relationships with Leonardo and stronger investing in marketing of its twin pusher P180 Evo. Chief executive Renato Vaghi said to us that the cash injection from its partner has helped to restructure and to focus on business, special mission, and unmanned aircraft, with plans to diversify its engine parts manufacturing operations.

Piaggio already started to widen its Avanti exposure through increased air show participation and demonstration flights on remote markets like China. Vaghi confirmed that a widely publicized push to promote the P.1HH may have caused some business aviation operators to question the company’s ongoing commitment to the business aviation sector. Piaggio recently revealed it is working with Leonardo on a new version of its P.1HH HammerHead UAV.

Rolls-Royce Ultrafan

R­olls-Royce reported that it has frozen the design for a demonstrator version of its future UltraFan engine program, which is expected to be run in ground tests in 2021. After the powerplant's basic architecture has been defined, engineers concentrate on detailed design and on the manufacturing of components. Rolls-Royce is proceeding with demonstrator testing of individual sections of its future engines.

Compared with RR Trent XWB, the new core will have a larger high-pressure compressor, a shorter intermediate-pressure compressor, and a lean-burn combustor with two separate fuel systems to optimize combustion in cruise and high thrust flight phases. The core has been equipped with the fan system from Trent XWB-84 and a Trent 1000’s low-pressure turbine. The core could be ready for a new engine program and enter service by 2020. The core will be employed on the future UltraFan engine family, which will have a geared, IP turbine-driven fan, and no low-pressure turbine; possible service entry by 2025.


Liebherr Aerospace group is clearly on the "E-flight trip" and recently announced that it has started collaboration with the car giant GM to develop next-generation APUs based on fuel-cell technology.


Satair is expanding in the UK as its parent Airbus moves to further integrate its aftermarket parts activities. Satair is expanding in Great Britain close to the Heathrow airport.


Garmin marked its comeback to FIA with the debut of its tandem cockpit and integrated flight deck for the light attack, military trainer, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance markets. Garmin was more than prepared for this FIA edition having offered us the possibility to test-fly the tandem simulator a day prior to the show. Garmin is widening its focus to the government and military aircraft sector. The tandem cockpit featured the G3000 touchscreen avionics suite, which interfaces with L-3’s Widow Mission execution software.

The E-flight world at FIA

This FIA 2018 edition will enter in the records of successful exhibitions helped widely by the newcomer, the "electric" movement. The British industry has until now not created many headlines in this field and seemed almost to have overslept this trend. The FIA 2018 proved that they have jumped on this train in an impressive way. As the quantity and their relevance was so high we have decided to present the most important new projects in our Electrification and E-Flight series article.

About the Author

Marino Boric

Marino Boric graduated with a university degree as an aeronautic engineer, and acquired degrees in business development/trade and commerce and in journalism. He is a civil and military pilot and has built experimental aircraft. As a journalist, he specializes in aviation and propulsion and travels worldwide, flight-testing UL, LSA, Experimental, and certified aircraft. He is writing for U.S., European, and Chinese media companies.