A3XX and JSF are going to be key talking points as the world's aerospace industry gathers at the Farnborough air show

DeeDee Doke/LONDON

Making its July debut one month from now, Farnborough International 2000 has already shattered its own previous records for exhibition space and exhibitor interest, and the air show and trade exhibition is poised to record other firsts during its seven-day run.

At press time, the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC), the show's organiser, reports a waiting list of 50 hoping for last-minute dropouts. Because of the high demand, the SBAC arranged 13% more indoor display space and 14% more chalets for the 2000 show than were available at Farnborough '98.

From the industry's point of view, Farnborough 2000 will be a milepost along the racetrack of globalisation. EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space) will debut as a fully-fledged multinational group appearing with its own pavilion, after the French-German-Spanish giant's planned market flotation on 10 July. Its UK rival in the global ranking stakes, BAE Systems, will also make its first public appearance as the newly-merged and re-branded group following British Aerospace's merger with Marconi Electronic Systems. EADS and BAE are expected to play down plans for strategic links with US giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin as they concentrate on consolidating their businesses, even though both groups admit that there will only be two, perhaps three, big groups in the future.

At the second tier supplier level, other new companies will present themselves for the first time. The USA's new Honeywell aerospace systems group incorporating AlliedSignal's business, Hamilton Sundstrand and France's ever-growing Thomson-CSF, with its recently acquired UK-based Racal and Shorts Missile Systems businesses, will also debut at the show.

In addition to the gathering of the world's new aerospace titans, the spotlight is also set to fall on high-profile civil and military programmes. First Farnborough showings in the air transport market include Boeing's 767-400ER airliner, Bombardier's CRJ700 regional jet and a prototype of Embraer's ERJ-140 regional airliner.

Also signed up for first-time visits to Farnborough are new entries in the business jet field, the Boeing Business Jet, Cessna CJ1 and Raytheon's Premier 1. Meanwhile, military debutants include the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the Northrop Grumman RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle (UAV). Also making a first-time Farnborough showing are the LMATTS' C-27J Spartan and Alenia's maritime patrol derivative of the ATR42.

As visitors scrutinise the latest aerospace developments in the exhibition halls, the chalets will likely be the scenes of major battles for business - notably, Airbus and perpetual rival Boeing locked in a fierce fight with, respectively, the 550-seat A3XX and the 747X stretch. This will be accompanied by debate over whether such superjumbos have a market - debate refuelled by yet another delay (Flight International 13-19 June) by the Airbus partners in deciding on the A3XX's commercial launch.

Questions over the A3XX and 747X launches will spill over onto the propulsion front, with the Engine Alliance's GP7000 and Rolls-Royce's Trent 900 vying to be first at the starting gate to establish a top market position. At the same time a number of new engines are gearing up for key milestones, including the Pratt &Whitney PW6000, due for first flight in August in preparation for Airbus A318 testing.

Airbus' interests are likely to challenge Boeing in the military transport market this year as well as on the long-fought civil battleground, pitting the Airbus Military Company's A400M transport against Boeing's C-17 Globemaster and Lockheed Martin's C-130J.

Fighter engagements

In the fighter arena, much debate will centre on the impending submission of engineering and manufacturing demonstration bids by the Joint Strike Fighter competitors Boeing and Lockheed Martin. As well as the competition to supply the next generation fighter, the outcome could shape the future of the industry depending on the outcome of the US Defense Department's review of the "winner take-all strategy".

Meanwhile, the Eurofighter will engage such competitors as the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-16 and the Dassault Rafale in the fight for new orders. There are plenty of fighter competitions in the offing with South Korea being the most pressing. It requires around 40 twin-engined aircraft in a first tranche.

Although Russia has been well represented at recent international shows, at the time of going to press only the Sukhoi Su-32FN side-by-side two-seat strike bomber, is due to appear at Farnborough this year.

The UK's selection of the Matra BAe Dynamics Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile is seen as giving the Eurofighter an advantage - it can be offered for export with a weapons package not reliant on the USA, avoiding a potential Congressional embargo.

Concerns that Eurofighter and the six-nation Meteor programme could be hampered by European governments' lack of co-ordination on export approvals should be resolved by a framework agreement which France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK are due to sign during the show.

Boeing is expecting approval shortly to begin offering the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for export, allowing it to offer the aircraft to Chile, which has a long-running fighter procurement programme, as well as NATO's three newest members, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Other competitions are building in the Netherlands and Singapore - both of which are participating in the JSF concept demonstration phase - while Brazil and Saudi Arabia both have long-standing requirements.

NATO's Defence Capabilities Initiative aimed at redressing the balance between the US and European military, combined with US moves to ease technology transfers to its allies, means that programmes such as NATO's air-to-ground surveillance requirement are picking up steam.

After scoring major orders at the Berlin air show, regional aircraft could again move to show front and centre. Embraer's ERJ-140 - a 44 seat derivative of the 50-seat ERJ-145 - neatly slots in under the US scope clauses and is targeted at US regional airline American Eagle. It debuts at Farnborough, which will be a busy event for the Brazilian manufacturer as it will be emphasising the virtual development tools used in its 70-seat ERJ-170, which was launched last year by Crossair.

With its ERJ-170, Embraer is going head-to-head with Fairchild Dornier's 728JET, which was launched by Lufthansa. Both regional jet makers will also be looking for customers for the 70-seat jets and also planned stretch 90-seat ERJ-190 and 928JET derivatives.

Bombardier will be seeking a launch customer for its similar-sized CRJ900, following a commitment by General Electric Capital Aviation Services as part of a larger CRJ buy. The air show could also be the setting for debate over the merits of Bombardier's BRJ-X entry in the 100-to-110-plus seat category. Elsewhere in the booming regional jet market, Avro needs a blue-chip order to consolidate its launch of its RJX, and Alliance Aircraft is trying to get its proposed 70- and 90-seat StarLiner 200 and 300 regional jets off the ground.

On the business aviation front, the attractions of fractional ownership will be promoted by Bombardier in the form of its FlexJet Europe programme. The manufacturer will also hope to boost Learjet 31A orders in Europe. Meanwhile, Embraer will be pushing its ERJ-135 Corporate Jet, the business aircraft variant of its ERJ-135 regional jet, and competitor Fairchild Dornier will be offering its corporate 328JET derivative, the Envoy 3.

For e-commerce, one of the newest sectors in aerospace, Farnborough will serve as "kind of a coming-out party", says Irvin Lucas, vice-president for marketing and sales at Aerospan.com. As the scene is set for Farnborough, the USA, Irvin suggests, "is probably ahead in the formation of ventures in the e-commerce world, but the interest is just as heavy in Europe and Asia as in the USA". Over the next year, he adds, the global e-commerce industry will probably enter a cycle of competition, consolidation and co-operation.

Aerospan.com itself is "within weeks" of launching a product into operation - first with beta customers, then commercially, Irvin says. At Farnborough, he adds, the aerospace industry will have a major opportunity "to see some products to judge what kind of different content is there on different sites".

The 767-400ER, the largest airliner to make its Farnborough debut this year, will be spotlighted in Flight International's special Farnborough issue 18-24 July in a cutaway drawing, flight test and programme update.

Source: Flight International