Just after midday a C130K in RAF colors took off from the main runway and, after a couple of low level passes of the airfield, slowly began climbing. At around 5,000 feet the Royal Air Force parachute display team, the Red Devils, leapt from the aircraft and pulled their parachutes, forming into a neat stack before stall turning and breaking to land by a flare next to the main runway. The C130 then did a quick flyover before landing to pick up its cargo for another display in Scotland.
After the relative peace and quiet of the parachute display Airbus were set to display something a bit more impressive. With the Airbus’ current financial problems filling the newspapers at the moment it was clearly a relief for the company to shrug these aside, at least for the duration of the airshow, and focus on what the company is best at, making passenger planes. The A340 showed just what power it had available to it with an impressive near vertical climb after take off, it then induced a stomach churning negative G roll out before stall turning and bringing the aircraft back across the display line. The A340’s display would have been impressive in a small aircraft; in a four engine passenger plane it was incredible. Despite this the crowd knew that this was merely the aperitif for the main course — the A380. The A380 thundered down the runway, its size did not seem so incredible until it got close, it then thundered into the air, producing the same near vertical climb as its smaller sibling! Once in the air it gave an impressive display (though it must be said that the near identical nature of the display coupled with the size of the aircraft being difficult to see at distance made for a less impressive performance than may have been expected. It was a shock being near it when it landed however!
The two Airbuses landed and there was a minor break while we awaited the next aircraft, Rockwell’s mighty B-1B. Flying in from the West the B-1B did two fairly high level passes, one with wings forward and then one with wings back and afterburners on. With the Concorde and Blackbird now relegated to various museums around the world the B-1B must surely be the prettiest plane in the sky. The V22 Osprey showed its amazing capabilities, spiraling, hovering and buzzing the airfield to demonstrate its unique place within the world’s aviation market. Like the Harrier the Osprey is unique in its ability to hover but also like the Harrier it seems likely that very few countries will ever operate the aircraft which seems to be a terribly poor tactical move.
Chunx’ office was next! An FA-18F powered into the sky and produced an awesome display — the noise from the aircraft just made me wonder why everyone serving on board a US aircraft carrier does not suffer from tinnitus! The SuperHornet display at the previous Farnborough show was memorable because of the aircraft being fully loaded out. Although that must have been great in accruing sales, it was wonderful to see the clean lines of the aircraft as it swept in for another growling flypast.