The aviation industry’s largest airshow was shifting its focus to military firepower on against a backdrop of tighter budgets, while commercial air carriers were still buying planes in bulk.
Flybe signed for up to $5 billion in planes from Brazilian group Embraer, and more orders were expected for Boeing and Airbus, including talk of more buying by revitalized aircraft leasing pioneer Steve Udvar-Hazy, reports Reuters.
Commercial and military are in sharp contrast — the private sector is spending more freely than it has in the past two years, while Britain’s defence secretary, Liam Fox, was expected to outline plans to cut procurement spending and demand better value for taxpayers’ money at the Farnborough Airshow.
British business secretary Vince Cable said on Monday painful cuts in the defence budget were imminent, and other European countries have made clear their own defence expenditures were under some of the closest scrutiny ever.
While that caution has not stopped ostentatious displays of fighter jet capabilities, it has subdued the tenor of the show more generally.
It has also put more focus on commercial sales, particularly from new markets likely to be growth drivers for the sector in coming years.
“Demand from airliners as opposed to lessors is mainly coming from Asia, South America, Middle East and even Russia, which are all considered growth markets,” said Howard Wheeldon, senior strategist at BGC Partners.
“My question is where are the European and American orders? Will they be here in the next two years? That is unlikely. The airline industry is better than it was but it is still not fit for purpose,” he said.
Fit or not, though, business at the show was expected to come to a temporary halt in the late afternoon when Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner takes off for its return to the United States.
The 787 made its first appearance outside the United States on Sunday. Its morning landing at Farnborough captured the attention of news and social media around the world.