If you’re on foot, airfields are big spaces. The township on one side of the old Farnborough aerodrome that springs up to support the air show every two years is pretty extensive in its own right, and during the trade days its one-way traffic grid system is permanently logjammed with powerful, expensive cars going nowhere with air conditioned people inside resolutely refusing to walk. Meanwhile fleets of electric buggies are trapped among them, unable to move either.
There is a better way: bikes. But this year, for a couple of days, it looked as if Farnborough’s organisers had decided actively to reject cyclists, which didn’t exactly harmonise with the green theme that the show and its exhibitors have been claiming to have embraced.
Using a bike to get around the airfield during the Farnborough air show is something of a tradition at Flight. I know former editor JM (Mike) Ramsden used one each show during his long sojourn from the 1950s to the 1980s, and I bet he was not the first.
So this year fellow biker and Flight colleague Andrew Doyle and I were surprised to be refused access at gates we had previously been allowed to use, and some cyclists were told they had to dismount on site and walk their bikes around. That seems to have been a perverse interpretation by the on-site security and traffic army which was the reverse of their actual instructions. I have been left with the distinct impression that these armies, once dispersed to the gates and around the airfield, make up the rules as they go along.
Motor vehicles need to be directed via specific gates and routes because they have to get to their parking space with minimum disruption to the life of the core show area.
But pedestrians and cyclists do not have parking requirements, and they don’t clog the show’s arteries.
SBAC, don’t forget that Orville and Wilbur Wright were bicycle manufacturers. The experience of making and using these simple devices was where aviation engineering expertise started.