FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Farnborough 2014: Meteor to Meteorology

Posted in England, Farnborough by folkestonejack on July 19, 2014

The forecast for the airshow at Farnborough Airshow was not good – a morning of light rain, turning to heavy rain in early afternoon followed by a full display of thunder and lightning by 3pm. Added to this, the Met Office gave an official warning of the possibility of torrential downpours and localised flooding. It was therefore not without a little trepidation that I set off for Farnborough this morning, doubting that I would see very much. Nevertheless, with a ticket already bought there seemed little point sitting around at home…

I entered the show grounds with a degree of trepidation and a change of clothes ready for the soaking I was expecting! The tarmac was glistening after an earlier downpour and the clouds above us were trying their best to resume play, but this short lived sprinkling turned out to be the most that we encountered in the morning. The commentators in the air traffic control tower confirmed that there was heavy rain around, albeit immediately to our west, promising to give us advance warning when the anticipated rain began to move in on us.

The new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner heads home

The new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner heads home

Astonishingly, the rain never came and the day continued to brighten until we had blisteringly hot sun and blue skies above us. Most of the spectators at the show were caught out by this, having prepared for wet weather, never expecting that sun screen and bottled water would be the order of the day! Needless to say, I was delighted that the forecast was quite so dramatically wrong.

The difference that this turn around in the weather made is perhaps best illustrated by the effect that this had on the display from the Red Arrows. The Red Arrows can fly three types of display, depending on the cloud base – a full looping display (cloud base of 4,500 feet or more), a rolling display (cloud base between 2,500 and 4,500 feet) or a flat display (cloud base less than 2,500 feet). The team had expected to deliver a flat display based on the forecasts, but were actually able to put on their full display. It was great to see them deliver their ever impressive moves midway through their 50th display season.

Red Arrows : ready for takeoff

Red Arrows : ready for takeoff

I am no air show connoisseur, but I enjoyed the spectacle of the Farnborough International Airshow tremendously. The spectacle of the veteran aircraft from Britain’s jet age was a highlight for me, especially the Meteor. It is really astonishing to think that Meteors were first used in action as early as 1944, having been sent into the air to counter the threat of the V1 flying bombs. The futuristic styling of the Meteors feels as though it belongs to a much later time.

An unexpected delight came from the colourful and wonderfully acrobatic Aerostars, in their six identical YAK-50 aircraft, whilst the sight of the Airbus A380 landing a few moments after the Airbus A400M had taken off was quite special too. Other sights included the GOFF petroleum Extra 330LX, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Sea Fury and Super Constellation.

The colourful Aerostars aerobatic display team

The colourful Aerostars aerobatic display team

It is probably fair to say that the Farnborough International Airshow is a shadow of the show that it once was, where remarkable new and experimental planes were displayed to massed crowds, but this is a different age and what passed as acceptable then wouldn’t be allowed today (sparing everyone the tragedy that stalked the show at its peak). There are better flying displays to be seen in the UK, at a fraction of the price, but the blend of military and civil aviation at Farnborough still makes a fascinating mix.

For a day that didn’t appear to promise much, this certainly delivered. I was glad to have made the effort and witnessed some fantastic aircraft flown by very talented pilots.


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