Day one at Farnborough International Airshow

The 2012 Farnborough International Airshow kicked off in Farnborough, U.K., on July 9 and featured flight demonstrations of the A380, 787 Dreamliner, V-22 Osprey and Vulcan.

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Persistent rain throughout all of England threatened to dampen the 2012 Farnborough International Airshow (July 9-15, Farnborough, U.K.), but the first day of this popular show remained dry and productive.

Day one flying demonstrations included an Airbus (Toulouse, France) A380, a Boeing (Chicago, Ill., USA) 787 Dreamliner (for the first time at Farnborough), a V-22 Osprey and, to the delight of Brits and aircraft enthusiasts, an Avro Vulcan — the delta-winged bomber that was one of the mainstays of the Royal Air Force from 1956 to 1984. 

On the ground, initial attention was paid to Ray Conner, who was recently named presdient and CEO of The Boeing Co.'s Commercial Airplanes business unit. He provided an update on his business segment, reporting that Boeing has a seven-year, 4,000-plus airplane backlog and that the company plans to increase its commercial aircraft build rate by 30 percent before mid-2014. 

Conner also noted that Boeing has delivered 13 787s to date, with "a number of airplanes in change appropriation." These are the already-built, undelivered 787s that require updating or repair to correct material and manufacturing problems discovered after several of the craft were assembled. The good news, he says, is that Dreamliners currently coming off the assembly line are full functional and free of these problems. Boeing is currently making 3.5 787s a month, with a goal of 5/month by the end of 2012, and 10/month by the end of 2014. Asked about maintenance of the 787s in service, Conner said there have been "a couple lightning strikes" on 787s in service, which prompted successful repair. Also in the pipeline is the 787-9, a longer version of the original 787, which has begun assembly and should come on market in 2014. 

Conner said that the 737 MAX — the 737 re-engined with CFM International (Cincinnati, Ohio, USA) Leap engines) —  has more than 1,000 orders on the books. Thsi model is showing a 13 percent fuel burn improvement compared to the 737 Next-Generation aircraft and is on target to enter service in 2017. Looking further down the road, Conner said Boeing is assessing design and build of two new craft: the 787-10x, which would extend the 787-9 and seat 300-330 passegers; and the 777X, a redesigned version of the popular 777, which would feature new wings, new engines and possibly a new fuselage. Boeing, said Conner, is "absolutely committed to these airplances going foraward.

On the composites front, prominent at the show was the CFM Leap engine, which will be featured exclusively on the Boeing 737 MAX, and on about 50 percent of Airbus A320neo aircraft. The engine features carbon fiber blades and a fan shroud manufactured via resin transfer molding (RTM) by Albany International (Rochester, N.H., USA). Albany, a specialist in weaving and preforming, says it is building a new 250,000-ft2 (23,336m2) facility in Rochester, and a nearly identical factiliy in Le Havre, France, for the manufacture of the engine structures.

Also at the show, GKN Aerospace announced that it is providing composite structures for the forthcoming 525 Relentless helicopter, under development at Bell Helicopter Textron (Ft. Worth, Texas). See link under Editor's Picks" at right for the complete story. Images at left are from Farnborough 2012.