The 48th annual Farnborough International Airshow promises to be a special one because a version of Virgin Galactic‘s SpaceShipTwo – a two-pilot, six-passenger craft capable of sub-orbital travel – is scheduled to make its European debut at the show.
It is one of the biggest airshow’s in the world and is now in its 64th year, and the 48th as the Farnborough International Airshow.
It takes place in Hampshire, England, between 9 – 15th July 2012, and is also one of the world’s leading aviation marketplaces.
It’s a time for airline executives to reach for their chequebooks, but this year, some might booking a trip to space.
The show transforms the small town west of London into a major aviation hub, attracting 250 000 visitors with its unique mix of big business and aerial entertainment. Don’t expect Zuma to be splashing on a new jet though, because he’s already done that.
Critics have said the show could lack some of the usual glamour its predecessors had because the UK and other major European markets are wallowing in recession, or have serious debt problems.
But billions of dollars are still expected to change hands as passenger jets, cargo planes, fighter jets and unmanned drones are snapped up. The main attraction will undoubtedly be a spacecraft, though.
In 2010, Farnborough witnessed sales of 157 Boeing and 133 Airbus aircraft. Among these was a $9,1 billion order from Dubai-based Emirates for 30 Boeing 777’s. In total, orders worth $47 billion were placed.
So far 500 people, including at least two South Africans, have pre-booked a $200 000 flight to space.
Murdo Morrison, editor of Flight International magazine, spoke to CNN:
This year won’t be a show for aircraft debuts or actual hardware that we’ll be seeing for the first time. There’s nothing there which will be new and terribly exciting.
It will be more about the business. Farnborough remains an important platform for the industry to meet, for the supply chain to get together and for the companies to meet their customers. It’s also still an important platform for companies to make media announcements.
But on the negative side, it’s a big, costly show and some of the logistics are challenging, particularly for those people staying and travelling from London. It also struggles a little bit against some of the more niche competitors aimed at smaller parts of the industry.
And it struggles because Europe is not a growth market – the growth markets are Asia, South America, the Middle East and even Africa.
Reports have suggested Branson may use the opportunity to reveal some design changes to the craft.
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