Geoff Thomas  

Weather's always a problem for display pilots, especially when the remnants of a hurricane - now demoted to a tropical storm - head across the Atlantic towards Europe- and Farnborough. 

Maybe the best-prepared will be Dassault's chief test pilot Yves Kerherve who says that the Dassault Rafale 001's software is now cleared to fly at 100ft (30m) over water- hands off!  

He might need that technique when he pilots Dassault's fourth generation fighter during the flying display this afternoon, especially if the threatened weather comes to fruition.  

He'll just have to pretend that the Farnborough runway is the flight deck of the French navy's latest nuclear-powered carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is to be equipped with its first operational squadron of the new fighter early in the next millennium.  

Kerherve says that he'll be pulling up to 8g during his display, so watch out for those tight turns.  

The Airbus A330-243 which will be displayed each day will be piloted by chief test pilot Bill Wainwright. Farnborough will be the aircraft's first public appearance with R-R engines.  

Wainwright says his biggest piloting challenge will be slowing down sufficiently to land at the end of the display. He explains: "The aircraft is so incredibly slippery, with minimal drag, that it's difficult to lose enough speed to get the aircraft round onto final approach, especially after a tight downwind turn.  

"During the display I will be flying at between 95 and 180kts (175 to 330km/h) and doing a 'max alpha' pass at just a couple of knots above the stall speed."  

Farnborough '98 will witness the first public appearance of Global Express since it received full certification - and it will also be the first time that the aircraft has performed in a European flying display.  

Pete Reynolds, Bombardier's vice-president flight test, will be at the controls during the display sequence which will feature a short take-off at a weight of 54,000lb (24,500kg). Says Reynolds: "Like just about everyone else in the display, we will be taking off pretty light which explains why we'll be leaving the ground after a take-off run of less than 1,000ft (300m)."  

Perhaps the biggest news story of the flying display is the non-appearance of the Boeing 777-3D7 (resplendent in Thai colours) which will be remaining firmly on the ground - to the unashamed delight of the Airbus team at the show.  

Boeing chief pilot Frank Santoni explains that the company feels it's more important for potential customers to see the inside of the aircraft, which as 242ft (74m) is the world's longest passenger aircraft, than to see it in the air at low level where "-it's far less happy than when it's performing as designed at cruising altitude."  

Powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 892s, developing 90,000lb of thrust, the aircraft received its full certification in May and is designed as a direct replacement for the Boeing 747 'Classic' range.  

Farnborough will also feature the first appearance of an EJ-200-powered Eurofighter EF2000 since it received its additional name Typhoon- purely for export purposes. It will also be the first time that the aircraft has been put through a display in public with full 'carefree' handling, a capability which is now available at all sub-sonic speeds, says test pilot John Turner.  

"My colleague Chris Worning and I will be flying the aircraft in the show on alternate days," he says, "and we'll both fly with a 60% internal fuel load, six real (but inert) missiles, full radar system and a metric tonne of flight test equipment. It's worth bearing this in mind when you see how incredibly agile the aircraft is."  

First deliveries of Eurofighter are scheduled for 2002 and Turner says that the flight test programme is going extremely well. He says: "The new radar system is so good that we have had to change the test programme to cope with it as it's picking up military aircraft at a range of more than 100mi (160km), and large commercial aircraft at twice that distance."  

Turner also says that the aircraft has now been tested to Mach 2 and beyond - and that was when it was still powered by the interim RB-199 engines.  

The display pilot for the Saab JAS39A Gripen is Fredrik Müchler and this is his first visit to Farnborough. The aircraft has been 'borrowed' from the Swedish Air Force and Müchler says that he'll be pulling 9g with 80% internal fuel load to demonstrate the airframe's incredible agility and 'carefree' flying characteristics.

Source: Flight Daily News