End of an era: Farnborough Airshow axes public weekend

FARNBOROUGH | One of aviation’s most prestigious events, the Farnborough International Airshow, has scrapped its public weekend, it was announced today.

For decades, the Farnborough International Airshow has delighted millions of fans with stunning air displays on the weekend following the main trade event. However, in recent years, the show has come in for heavy criticism and has been hit by new safety restrictions that severely impacted the flying displays.

“This decision has not been taken lightly and we understand that the public weekend has been a part of many people’s lives for a long time,” Farnborough International said on Facebook. “Although this marks an end to this aspect of the Airshow, it is an opportunity for us to create a more engaging event for young people and the public on Friday of the trade show.”

In 2016 and 2018, the Red Arrows performed only flypasts at the event following a safety review. Other performances were scaled back as building developments encroached on the airfield. Visitors also criticised the public days for high ticket prices and featuring too many  civilian acts, many of which could be seen at free airshows across the UK.

A spokesperson for Farnborough International told BBC News that the 2018 show received “very negative and vitriolic feedback” from visitors. She also said that the effects of the Shoreham Airshow crash in 2018 “expedited” their decision to cancel the weekend show.

According to ITV News, the airshow organisers had also been losing money on the public weekend. The trade event – which includes a smaller flying display – will go ahead, with the last day of the show also being open to public visitors.

Farnborough through the ages

  • 1940s: The first SBAC show at Farnborough was held in 1948. Over the following years, debut displays came from the de Havilland Comet and Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52, among dozens of others. Only British aircraft participated.
  • 1950s: 1952 saw Farnborough’s worst ever tragedy, when 29 spectators and two pilots died as a de Havilland Sea Vixen disintegrated mid-flight. Appearing for the first time in 1952 were the Avro Vulcan and SR.45 Princess, followed by the Fairey Rotordyne in 1958. Also in 1958, the Black Arrows flew a record-breaking 22-ship loop and barrel roll.
  • 1960s: 1962 saw the debut of the Harrier “jump jet” prototype. Later in the decade, several classic British airliners joined the show, including the VC-10 and de Havilland Trident. For the first time, aircraft with major British components could also take part.
  • 1970s: Concorde appeared at the show in 1970. In 1974, US aircraft participated, including the SR-71 Blackbird and C-5 Galaxy, as the show opened itself fully to international aircraft.
  • 1980s: The first of the modern twinjets appeared at Farnborough, including the Airbus A310 and Boeing 767. Military displays included the Dassault Rafale, MiG-29, BAe EAP (Eurofighter Typhoon prototype) and the Rockwell B-1 Lancer.
  • 1990s-2000s: The Eurofighter Typhoon made its Farnborough debut in 1996. More modern airliners then began to take part, including the Airbus A380 in 2006 and the Boeing 787 in 2010.
  • A decade of decline: In recent years the show’s public weekend has increasingly made use of civilian acts such as the Breitling Wingwalkers and Mark Jefferies’ Extra 330SC. In 2016, the RAF Typhoon Solo Display and Red Arrows stopped performing full aerobatic displays at the venue. The 2018 show saw long gaps in the flying programme and was recieved badly by visitors.