The UK aerospace community’s leading lights were out in force last night at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel to attend the Royal Aeronautical Society’s glittering annual banquet. Nothing unusual in that, you might think, but for a fair number of the guests there were other, more burning matters to consider beside the fine wine, oriental crab and keynote speech from Thales chief executive Denis Ranque. The big question of the evening was, of course: what was happening in the Champions League final – a tantalising battle of wills between Arsenal and the mighty Barcelona?
Strangely, not everyone in the audience appeared to be behind Arsenal, although Emirates – sponsors of the club’s new Ashburton Grove stadium (which has already earned the nickname “Dubaibury”) were doubtless “gunning” for the English team.
I can reveal that a number of the EADS representatives present were actively pleading for a Barcelona win. This was not necessarily because the company is more protective of its Spanish interests than its UK operation, but because the final could have a catastrophic impact on the main British news event of today: the first landing of an Airbus A380 at London Heathrow. With a huge media scrum anticipated at the airport to witness the arrival of Europe’s headline-grabbing “Superjumbo”, the last thing EADS wanted was to have half of the assembled journalists and camera crews go sprinting after the returning Arsenal team, which was scheduled to arrive back from Paris around the same time.
Luckily for EADS, Barca’s late brace did more than perhaps bring to an end Thierry Henry’s remarkable Arsenal career (although I doubt he will leave). It also made sure that all the headlines will go on the UK’s first opportunity to have seen the giant A380 up close and personal. The company must be relieved that the World Cup will be well and truly out of the way before the aircraft gets to wow the crowds at July’s Farnborough air show.