Fighter aircraft almost always provide the most eye-catching and impressive of flying displays at air shows, but can the expert eye compare competitors by watching these aerobatics?

Two people who do know how to assess a flying display, as well as how to perform one, are Neil Anderson and Bland Smith of Lockheed Martin. Anderson, now the company's director of worldwide customer development, is a former General Dynamics chief test pilot while Smith is making his fifth appearance at Farnborough as the current F-16 display pilot.

Lockheed Martin is aware that it has a number of competitors here at Farnborough, including the Eurofighter EF2000 and Dassault Rafale, which are newer than the F-16, but is convinced that it can demonstrate combat capability at least equal to its competitors.

Its display, therefore, is designed to show a good thrust-to-weight ratio, agility to out-manoeuvre enemy aircraft or modern missiles, as well as the ability to sustain energy.



A high vertical climb straight after take-off, followed by a slow-speed pass demonstrates a good thrust-to-weight ratio, says Smith, but a real telling point is what happens towards the end of a display.

"We build up to a very high G - 9G -turn and vertical climb, which demonstrates sustained energy," says Smith.

Another speciality of the F-16 display, known as the Falcon turn, brings the aircraft toward the crowd, then turns tightly and goes over the top.

"It is some of the best agility you will ever see at a show," says Smith.

Anderson agrees that unique "show-stopper" manoeuvres, such as the "magnificent" Pugechev Cobra, keep certain aircraft in people's memories, but feels that these are mostly for entertainment.

Sustained turns and the ability to change height quickly, and a tight performance that keeps the aircraft in front of the crowd, are perhaps more valid indicators of overall combat capability.



Source: Flight Daily News