By Kate Sarsfield at Farnborough

Improved aircraft park broadly welcomed as organiser chases general aviation

Business and general aviation will never be a conspicuous feature of the Farnborough air show. For too long this market sector has been eclipsed by the might of the civil and military aerospace companies that dominate the exhibition halls, flying display and the static aircraft park and have long been regarded as the mainstay of this biennial event.

That said, exhibitors at this year's show were upbeat and in sanguine mood. A reflection of the burgeoning international market perhaps, but also a realisation that organiser Farnborough International, a wholly owned but autonomous exhibitions company, is starting to deliver "a large international audience along with an environment conducive to doing business", as pledged by the show's former organiser and industry trade body the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC). Furthermore, business aviation seems to be increasingly regarded by Farnborough as vital ingredient in the success of the event.

The focus of business aviation was for the second time a dedicated aircraft park. The previous three-day offering in 2004, with its hastily arranged booths, remote and fenced off location on the show site, gave the impression that business aviation was merely an afterthought. Such short-sightedness by the SBAC did little to convince the industry, already on the retreat to dedicated and successful regional business aviation events such as May's European Business Aviation Association Convention and Exhibition, that Farnborough was worth supporting.

Now, however, with the organising gauntlet firmly in the hands of Farn­borough International, there was a notable difference in the feel and appearance of the park this year, a view supported by the manufacturers, which, despite reservations, returned to the show enticed by the growing and important business aircraft market in the UK, arguably business aviation's largest European market outside Germany.

While teething problems continue, with a number of companies feeling the park was still too isolated and calling for the three-day event to start a day later, the overall response was positive, with many companies sealing new sales over the three days. Raytheon says: "We took several orders at the show with a number of excellent prospects that will result in orders in the coming weeks. The business park worked well and was a huge improvement on 2004."

Farnborough International admits it is pursuing a "determined marketing drive" to build the exhibition and this commitment is clearly manifested in the 25% increase in business and general aviation aircraft on display this year either in enclosed company enclaves on the dedicated aircraft park. The 30 aircraft on display were a clear attempt by exhibitors to exploit the might of Farnborough as a platform to showcase new aircraft never seen before in Europe, or to assert their dominance within this increasingly competitive and innovative marketplace.

"We would have loved to have seen the Boeing Business Jet and the Airbus Corporate Jetliner at the show. Other than that we felt we had a really good spread of business aviation manufacturers and distributors," says Amanda Steiner, Farnborough International exhibitions and events director.

Farnborough debutantes included the recently certificated Sino Swearingen SJ30 light jet, which also set a world record en route to the show. Raytheon's Hawker 850XP mid-size business jet and upgraded Premier IA were also on display for the first time at Farnborough, alongside the 1900D in corporate shuttle configuration. Bombardier, which has been a long-standing proponent of the show, also displayed its Global Express XRS for the first time and announced orders at the show with a combined value of more than $220 million.


It is hard to see Farnborough as a signi­ficant showcase for light general aviation aircraft given its proximity to July's AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin - the world's largest general aviation gathering - and May's EBACE convention. This is a key reason for Cessna's continued absence, although it was represented at the static park by the Citation CJ3 and XLS business jets, Caravan single-engine turboprop and the 182 Skylane light single.

Farnborough International continues to work behind the scenes to position the historical event as a truly international trade show and admits that business aviation is key to its continues success. Steiner says: "We are looking to entice the bigger business jets and also the [nascent] very light jets that will be making their appearances in the next two years." The organisers must, however, continue to heed the requirements of business and general aviation companies if it is to continue to retain the loyalty of the business aircraft companies and lure new ones to their fold.

Source: Flight International