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British Air Show Displays Innovations

  • Jennifer Glasse

Boeing 787, 'Dreamliner'

Boeing 787, 'Dreamliner'

The Farnborough International Airshow, held every two years in Britain, is a key event where new planes are displayed and flown and where orders are placed. This year there are indications that commercial aviation may be recovering from a year of losses, with tens of billions of dollars in new orders.

Boeing's newest aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, was the early star of the show, where it made its international debut.

The passenger jet is built mostly of plastic composites known as carbon fiber, which is lighter than aluminum, and it has new wing and engine designs to make it more fuel efficient. Boeing calls it the first all-new plane this century. Orders for it and other commercial aircraft are encouraging, says Randy Tinseth, Boeing's Vice President of Marketing.

"Clearly with the economy around the world growing again, passenger traffic coming back, cargo traffic coming back, we're in a much better position today than we were last year and as we look forward, we're very optimistic about the future," said Tinseth.

Boeing's rival Airbus put on a show of its own, with its A380 double-decker soaring above potential buyers.

Airbus has also racked up good business at this show, a marked improvement over 2009, when the entire industry was plagued by losses.

Orders for new planes here are encouraging for commercial aviation, but with countries across Europe announcing cuts in defense spending, the future for military aviation does not look as bright.

European countries and the United States are cutting back on purchases of expensive jet fighters. And the long-awaited Airbus A400M, a military cargo plane, is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

The delays mean countries have bought or leased other planes in the meantime. But there are areas where military sales are growing, says aviation analyst Howard Wheeldon.

"Whilst we might be cutting back, China is increasing its spending, India is increasing its spending on defense," said Wheeldon.

Russia too is spending more, puchasing some of its equipment from other countries. Analysts say defense spending is changing along with strategies - with an emphasis on intelligence and deterrence rather than on combat.

The Farnborough Airshow is about putting the best on display. Even if military and commercial aviation aren't moving in tandem, sales here could indicate that at least parts of the world economy might take off soon.