FARNBOROUGH: Boeing keeps options open on future flying displays

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Boeing has not ruled out returning to an air show flying display after a Qatar Airways 787 finally ended the airfrmaer's nearly three-decade absence from aerobatic events.

The 787 flying at Farnborough will soon be out of Boeing's possession. It is returning to Seattle on 12 June to complete final finishes and paperwork before delivery to the Doha-based carrier.

That means another 787 would have to be acquired or borrowed for Boeing to participate in future flying displays.

"I don't know what the future will hold, [but] precedents are sometimes hard to turn around," says Boeing 787 chief test pilot Randy Neville. "I think it will be a case by case decision for the company whether we want to participate in other air shows or not. The timing just seemed right for this one."

The Farnborough event comes a few months after Boeing completed certification tests on the General Electric GEnx-1b, which is the engine that powers the Qatar 787 fleet. Boeing also has just completed a seven-month worldwide tour using the ZA003 flight test aircraft.

The tour was focused on showing off the 787 to the company's customers, some of whom had been waiting several years for a glimpse of the aircraft they ordered.

At Farnborough, "we want to show not just the customers now but the rest of the industry, the suppliers and the aviation community around the world that the airplane is here", Neville says.

Boeing had not contributed an aircraft to a flying display since the 1984 Farnborough air show, when the 737-300 was introduced to the public with slightly aerobatic manoeuvres.

"It was risk without reward, not that an air show is inherently risky," Neville says. But the company "felt the additional risk may not necessarily help to sell airplanes."

Boeing has obviously reconsidered its philosophy, and maybe not for the last time.

"I think the 787 has just changed a lot of things in the way our company thinks, and what we want to do with this airplane," Neville says.