Farnborough flies into turbulence of jet withdrawals, Russian visa delay

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London - Suspense over the appearance of America’s newest combat jet, a diplomatic chill between the West and Russia and the relaunch of an Airbus jet with a surprise tweak in its name could make the Farnborough International Airshow one of the least predictable for years.

While the world’s largest aerospace event is traditionally a cauldron for new technology and dazzling flying displays, technical problems forced the F-35 fighter jet to withdraw from a warm-up event and Farnborough’s aircraft list is already crisscrossed with several high-profile no-shows.

The industry gathering from today until Sunday will proceed without the Bombardier CSeries narrow-body jets or popular Russian fighter displays. Qatar Airways has withdrawn its Airbus A380 superjumbo, saying the still undelivered plane is not ready.

At the Royal International Air Tattoo at the weekend in England, visitors were disappointed after Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet, a product of the Joint Strike Fighter programme, failed to make the military show.

An engine fire has triggered a fleetwide grounding of the Pentagon’s newest warplane – and the world’s single most expensive weapons programme – but officials are still hoping the stealth fighter will be cleared to fly at Farnborough, in Hampshire, UK.

Air Tattoo visitors drawn by posters that made it one of the most anticipated aviation events had to settle for a “stress ball” shaped like an F-35 but saw a dazzling display of other planes.

“It was the main reason for us to come here – to see the F-35; it is a big disappointment,” said Jan Corstjens, a retired Dutch pharmaceutical executive with a private pilot’s licence.

The US Navy said on Friday it was not ready to lift the flying ban on F-35B and F-35C models.

Tensions over the crisis in Ukraine have also depleted this year’s Farnborough show, with Russia opting for a scaled-down presence, focusing on civil displays and the space industry.

“It’s obvious that because of tensions with Western governments over differences between Russia and Ukraine, the military presence is really scaled down,” said Alexander Velovich, the sales representative for Russian and Ukrainian clients at Farnborough.

More than 100 of the expected 450 Russian delegates had yet to obtain visas, he said.

Somewhat more predictable is the drumbeat of civil orders led by leasing firms, despite fears of airline overcapacity and a peak in the aerospace cycle that have caused the US aviation sector to underperform wider stocks by 10 percent this year.

Airbus will kick off the show by launching a revamped and rebranded A330 jetliner. – Reuters


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