DSJ’s five big take-aways from the 2018 Farnborough International Air Show were as follows:

(1) In contrast to pre-event hype, the Trump Administration and its strong “Buy America” thrust was a no-show at this year’s key international aerospace trade show.  Peter Navarro, the White House’s National Trade Council Director and the architect of President Trump’s “America First” protectionist trade agenda, cancelled his previously planned participation and UnderSecretary of Defense Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, diverted to an event in India.

(2) The Farnborough flight demos were so-so.  With a British F-35B offering only an early first day fly-by and other modern fighters taking a pass at the opportunity to impress international buyers and industry partners and competitors, the most compelling flight demonstration at Farnborough was arguably provided by an (American) fighter jet (the F-16) introduced in 1977. In second place: Lockheed Martin’s C-130J airlifter, which performed a 360 degree Superloop.

(3) Farnborough was virtually bereft of significant military sales announcements while heavy on civil sales news.  Of a total of 1,400 aircraft sales worth $154 billion announced at Farnborough, Boeing reportedly booked 532 commercial aircraft commitments (including 112 widebody aircraft) and Airbus announced some 431 (including 67 widebodies).  More than 200 of these sales bookings were attributed to unidentified customers.. which were whispered to be the Chinese.  In news that wasn’t, the Airbus 380 was entirely shut out, and Boeing demurred on launching new middle market plane (797) for the present.

(4) The Russians weren’t displaying at Farnborough — owing to UK sanctions over the invasion of Crimea, high profile poisonings on British soil, and other bad behavior by the Kremlin — but the Chinese certainly were.  The participation of Chinese aerospace and defense companies reached an historic high, doubling (from 13 to 26 companies exhibiting) their previous presence at the biennial event.  And, with Boeing forecasting that China will pass the US as the biggest air travel market within 10-15 years, driving a big rise in aircraft sales that has already commenced, international vendors were focused like never before on the burgeoning Chinese market.

(5) Farnborough participation was at record levels in many regards:

  • Farnborough drew a record level of 2018 visitors (80,000+) from a record number (100+) of countries.
  • The number of companies exhibiting at Farnborough climbed a remarkable 25% from 1189 exhibitors in 2016 to 1482 exhibitors in 2018.
  • Farnborough’s Delegations Programme witnessed 20% growth this year with a total of 156 civil and military delegations.
  • Military delegations to Farnborough increased 30% to 133.
  • Airline customer attendees to Farnborough increased by 163%, and included ten airline CEOs.