The Farnborough International Airshow is a week-long, biennial event that combines a major trade exhibition for the aerospace and defence industries with a public airshow. The event is held in mid-July in even-numbered years at Farnborough Airport in Hampshire, United Kingdom. The first five days (Monday to Friday) are dedicated exclusively to trade, with the final two days open to the public.
The airshow is an important event in the international aerospace and defence industry calendar, providing an opportunity to demonstrate civilian and military aircraft to potential customers and investors. The show is also used for the announcement of new developments and orders, and to attract media coverage.
It is the second-largest after Le Bourget, ahead of Dubai Airshow or Singapore Airshow. It is organised by Farnborough International Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of ADS Group. In 2012, it attracted 109,000 trade visitors over the first five days, and 100,000 public visitors during the weekend. Orders and commitments for 758 aircraft were announced, worth US$72 billion.
Farnborough in 2006
|Location(s)||Hampshire, Great Britain, United Kingdom|
|Organised by||Farnborough International Limited|
Flying occurs on all seven days, and there are also static displays of aircraft outside and booths and stands in the indoor exhibition halls. On the Saturday and Sunday most of the exhibitions halls are shut, but there is a travelling funfair and children are admitted.
The SBAC air show began in 1932 at Hendon in North London as the “New Types Park” within the annual RAF Pageant. The annual event moved in 1936 to the nearby de Havilland airfield, Hatfield, but the last before WWII occurred the next year. The show recommenced in 1946 at Handley Page works at Radlett in north London until 1947. In 1948, it moved to the Royal Aircraft Establishment field at Farnborough, Hampshire.
The air show has its origins in the annual RAF Airshow at Hendon from 1920. On 27 June 1932, 35 aircraft by 16 companies were exhibited as a showpiece for the British aircraft industry. Farnborough is about 30 miles (48 km) south-west of central London.
The inaugural show took place on the first week of September 1948. Among the aircraft on display was the large Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52 jet-powered flying wing. The de Havilland Comet jet airliner was shown in 1949. In 1950 the huge Bristol Brabazon airliner made its debut, powered by coupled Bristol Centaurus piston engines before the Bristol Proteus turboprops for longer ranges like London-New York nonstop. A modified Vickers Viscount was shown with Rolls-Royce Tay turbojets in a configuration mimicked later by the Boeing 737.
In 1952, the futuristic Avro Vulcan delta bomber was displayed few days after its first flight along the giant Saunders-Roe Princess double-decker flying boat powered by ten Proteus turboprops, one month after its maiden flight, but a de Havilland Sea Vixen disintegrated and crashed into the spectator area, killing 29 and its two crew. In 1958, the Fairey Rotodyne was the star attraction, with its “tip-jet” powered rotors, transitioning from an helicopter vertical takeoff and hover to autogiro flight, exceeding helicopter speeds.
In 1962, the last time it was held annually, the Hawker P.1127, the VTOL precursor to the Harrier jump jet, made its debut, like the corporate de Havilland DH.125 Jet Dragon, the de Havilland Trident and Vickers VC10 airliners. From 1966, foreign aircraft were allowed if that they had British major components, like the Rolls-Royce-powered Aermacchi MB-326 trainer and Fokker F27 turboprop airliner, as the Red Arrows, the RAF aerobatic display team, debuted their Hawker Siddeley Gnats.
In 1970, Concorde was shown after it had begun flight-testing the year before. The double-delta Saab Viggen debuted in 1972 along the Lockheed TriStar trijet widebody powered by Rolls-Royce RB211s in national British carrier BEA colours. The Mach 3 Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, and the show’s largest-ever exhibit, the C-5 Galaxy military airlifter, were shown in 1974.
In 1982, the civil aviation transatlantic rivalry was exemplified by the European Airbus A310 against the American Boeing 767 widebody twinjets, along with its narrowbody sibling, the Boeing 757 while the Rockwell B-1 large swing-wing bomber was the main military interest. In 1984, to demonstrate its short landing, a de Havilland Canada Buffalo made a steep descent but hit the runway and disintegrated without a tragic outcome. At the 1986 show were demonstrated the BAe EAP, the Eurofighter predecessor, and Dassault Rafale rival fighters, as an A300 fly-by-wire testbed flying at very high angles of attack shown the wind-shear stall protection capabilities, later equipping the A320. In 1988, the GE36 propfan powered McDonnell Douglas MD-80 was demonstrated as a precursor for the MD-94X but propfan airliners remain elusive, while the Soviets brought the giant Antonov An-124 Ruslan airlifter and two MiG-29 fighters.
In 2012, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Qatar Airways was in flying display, after a Boeing absence for 13 air shows. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter made its show debut in 2016, two years later than planned, with UK’s first F-35B and two US Marine Corps examples. In 2018, the UK Ministry of Defence unveiled a full-scale Tempest model for its Future Combat Air strategy, as the Mitsubishi MRJ regional jet made its first flying display.
On 6 September 1952, a DH.110 jet fighter disintegrated in flight and crashed into the crowd watching the airshow, killing 29 spectators, and the pilot and navigator on the DH.110.
On 13 September 1964, a Bristol Bulldog G-ABBB, marked (incorrectly) as K2227 and owned by the Shuttleworth Trust, crashed whilst performing a loop - the pilot was only slightly hurt.
On 20 September 1968, a French Air Force Breguet Atlantic crashed into the offices of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) while performing a display at the air show. One of the RAE's civilian maintenance staff was killed, as were all five members of the crew. 
On 11 September 1970, a Wallis WA-117 autogyro G-AXAR crashed, killing the pilot, J. W. C. Judge.
On 1 September 1974, a Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter crashed on the runway after a low roll, killing both crew.
On 4 September 1984, a de Havilland Canada DHC-5D Buffalo, crashed on the runway after badly judged steep approach to an intended short landing in a gusting crosswind with no casualties.
The show was initially an annual event, but has been biennial since 1962. It has become an international event that attracts exhibitors from all over the world — with the exception, during the Cold War, of countries from the Soviet Union.