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Farnborough flying displays still well worth the trek

written by Dave Unwin | July 20, 2018

While the main course of Farnborough’s Trade days had already been polished off by the fourth day of proceedings, there were a handful of bright spots. Thursday was likened to a hiatus before the airshow throws open its gates to the public, writes Dave Unwin from Farnborough.

When Australian Aviation’s team turned up at the world-famous Farnborough airfield in Hampshire we immediately felt at home, as it really was rather hot!

Sadly though, although the ambient air temperature was distinctly toasty, the same couldn’t be said of the show on the fourth day.

I first came to Farnborough more than 50 years ago, and although as a trade show it still takes some beating (and literally billions of dollars of business is done in the huddled chalets) as an airshow its glory days are long past.

Indeed, as a spectacle Thursday’s show would vie with the one at AERO Friedrichshafen for being the most pedestrian display your correspondent has seen.

As Noel Coward might’ve observed, “my dear chap, good isn’t the word!”. It was as if the show’s organisers had never heard the word “choreography” as some of the gaps between each aircraft were long enough to enable your reporter to grab a crafty nap!

That said, one undoubted highlight was the very spritely performance put on by the Lockheed Martin. This performed some really quite remarkable aerobatics for such a large aircraft, and it really was well worth seeing.


As the C-130 Super Hercules rolled to a stop at the end of its display the commentator announced that it was the test pilot’s final display, as he was retiring tomorrow – and the crowd around me erupted into spontaneous applause. I doubt that chief pilot Wayne Roberts heard us clapping, but he thoroughly deserved the accolade!

VIDEO: The C130 Super Hercules flying display at Farnborough 2018, from the Australian Aviation YouTube channel.

Paucity of new types for general aviation

In the vast trade halls every conceivable grommet, widget, and hydro-electric-pneumatic one-way-double return reverse-thrust relief valve with double overhead-underhang was on display, but who cares about that?

One of the disappointing aspects of the modern Farnborough (and also every other comparable show) from a general aviation perspective is the paucity of new types.

Out on the flightline, one that your reporter had not seen before – Embraer’s new KC-390 – was being made ready to depart.

Described as “the new generation multi-mission transport aircraft”, this futuristic-looking twinjet features 4th-generation Fly-By-Wire controls and can perform an impressive array of missions, including airlift up to 26 tons, air-to-air refuelling (it can both give and receive) firefighting and SAR.

Embraer’s Guy Douglas told Australian Aviation that as the KC-390 is a twinjet it “can go further, for less fuel”. We were certainly impressed by the wide range of missions it can undertake.

Diamond DART 550

Another type making its Farnborough debut was the new Diamond DART 550. A very new design (the aircraft on show was S/N 003), this sleek, powerful turboprop trainer generated a lot of interest.

Your correspondent hopes to fly this exciting-looking aircraft soon for Australian Aviation, and tried the cockpit on for size. Very much aimed at the military market (it even has ejection seats) I couldn’t help but feel that it would also make a wonderful sportsplane!

Viking Aircraft acquired the Canadair CL-415 amphibious waterbomber program from Bombardier last December, and Viking’s Peter Walker told Australian Aviation that the company is heavily engaged on the CL-515 program.

This aircraft, an updated version of the famous firebomber will be a true multi-mission machine that would be a useful tool for antipodean aviation.

Viking also owns all the Type Certificates for all the out-of-production de Havilland Canada types, from the classic Chipmunk and immortal Beaver, to the legendary Twin Otter. Revered by bush pilots all over the world, the iconic “Twotter” is sold by Viking as the Series 400 Twin Otter, and is available on wheels, skis, straight floats or amphibs.

As the crowd of punters made its way towards the exits at the end of a long, hot day, the general consensus was that although perhaps it hadn’t been a classic Farnborough, it was still well worth the trek.

Today was the last of the trade days and tomorrow is the first of the public days. Will the airshow be a lot better? Stay tuned to find out!

Some more images of the Diamond DART 500 from photographer Mark Jessop


  • Adam


    Went along to the Saturday public flying day which was my first visit to Farnborough. Whilst any aircraft are good for an aviation addict, the whole day was a little lackluster.
    Large gaps in the display, some acts performing stupidly high up, doubling up on acts to fill spaces, large areas of missing static aircraft, no F35/Typhoon/Hornet, can’t get close to aircraft, and I might as well throw in poor commentary and over inflated food prices.
    Gives me new appreciation for how lucky we are with the show that Avalon provides. It is heaps better.

  • Bob


    Wow saying Avalon is good means Farnbourgh must be really poor. IMHO RIAT is the show to go to in the UK.

  • Stephenb


    Have to agree with Adam. My second (1st in 2010) and last. Happy to tick off some types I had not seen before. I went Saturday and pulled up stumps early on Sunday.

  • Paul Merritt


    Sadly the Farnborough flying display is 100% lacklustre. The close proximity of residential properties is one of the main reasons due to noise and safety. Gone are the days of the Vulcan performing it’s amazing routine in front of 1,000s of spectators.

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