25 July 2010

I didn't know that A380s could dispense chaff... (Farnborough: Part One)

Yesterday, I went to the Farnborough Air Show, one of the big air shows, where big deals are done and new aircraft displayed. Five of the days are dedicated to trade stuff, but the Saturday and the Sunday are open to the public.

As a subscriber to AIR International, I took advantage of an offer they were running to get a ticket to the airshow, including access to the Diamond Paddock, with deckchairs, a position right next to the flightline and toilets that you didn't have to queue for.

Getting there

I made my way from my home in Havering to London Waterloo station; having to go via Bank and the once-BR-run Waterloo and City Line as TfL have shut the Jubilee Line this weekend for engineering works (part of it's like the Tube's version of Charles de Gaulle; barely a decade in service before needing a major refit).

London Waterloo used to be the boarding point for the Eurostar services to the Continent; until a new high-speed route was completed and the services diverted to London St. Pancras, a station that frankly needed some love (refit is seriously impressive). The Eurostar platforms are now being used for performances of the classic children's story The Railway Children.

Boarding a Class 450 EMU (that's Electric Multiple Unit to the non rail fans out there) just as it was about to leave, I travelled in a fairly empty train through the suburbs of South West London and past the headquarters of a certain intelligence agency, before reaching Guildford.

Guildford isn't a particularly well signposted station; I had to ask where the platform was for North Camp.

I started to get an idea of the size of the crowd I would be encountering when boarding the DMU at Guildford; it was standing room only on board.

The organisers were laying on shuttle buses and it took us half an hour to get there due to sheer volume of traffic; a one-way system was in place. Then there was the queue to get in; and this was for the people with pre-paid tickets!

I finally got in around 11.30 am. With an hour until the flying was due to begin, I headed into the exhibition halls to have a look round; the trade stuff was done, but the stalls were still there. I'm pretty sure that most of the attendees weren't exactly in a position to buy fighter-bombers or UAVs, but having the stalls there generates good PR for defence and aviation companies.

First cab off the rank turned out to the Russian section of the hall:


The Russian presence at Farnborough was very limited; there was only one flying aircraft there, a Sukhoi Superjet and it wasn't flying on the Saturday. They made up for this somewhat with their trade stuff; United Aircraft Corporation had models of most of their for-sale aircraft except the T-50.


Not that I'm intending to buy Russian anti-shipping missiles or any others for that matter.

I skipped over most of the rest of the halls; with the exhibition of the Flight Gear-using Tornado simulator provided by Panavia. I took off from Farnborough and headed for Central London before crashing past the end of 27R at Heathrow.

I headed outside at 12.15pm and got pretty close to the flight line on the eastern end - it runs west to east - for the A380 display. The A380 is a very large aircraft, but surprisingly quiet (which they're aiming for) especially to some of the other stuff.

The aircraft powers up and I think a fly has gone in my mouth...

Turns out the engines were blowing dried grass into part of the crowd. It did the same on landing. Didn't get in my food though...

The aircraft takes off and does a graceful impressive display. It'll certainly be popular; orders were announced there.

You wouldn't be moving it around like that in the sky on passenger service though...

Part Two

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