Farnborough Air Show 08

Interestingly enough, having heard so much about the Farnborough Air Show, I was left somewhat disappointed after my first experience of it at the 2008 years event. At least this is my experience as a single visitor. I have no doubt that folk who attended with family or friends may have had a different experience.
Sun 20th Jul & I had left home early (05.30) expecting to run into crowds & queues of people waiting to get in. I was at the gate by 06.10, only to find that mine was the sole car in the parking area (there were no parking attendants there yet, but the chap operating the temporary traffic lights suggested where I should park to avoid getting parked in) & that I was the only person at the gate. When the gate was promptly opened at 07.00 I was told that I was the first person in. Where were the masses of people, the enthusiasts rushing for the flight line?
Having passed everything through airport type security (x-ray & body scan) I headed for the flight line, chair, umbrella & camera bags weighing me down & selected a spot along the fence that I guess would put me at around take off mark. (I’m happy to say that I was spot on). Still no other people around.
I decided to have a walk around & see the static displays while the grounds were empty. Having secured my spot with my chair, I picked up my camera bag & headed off. I was barely 40m from the chair when security came running over. No, I was not to leave my chair & umbrella there. The whole ground was being monitored & any unattended items may pose a risk & could be exploded by the bomb squad. Although quite who my “potentially exploding chair” could have hurt I have no idea as there was still nobody in sight.
So, not wanting to have to carry everything through the static displays & halls, I opted to sit & wait until the flight line filled up to where I was & then ask the folk sitting next to me to keep an eye on my chair while I went to have a look around.
The morning dragged on and people started to dribble in. Fortunately I had brought a book which kept me occupied all through the wasted morning. Finally at 11.15, the flight line filled up to my spot & having then asked the nice folk sitting next to me to ensure the bomb squad did not destroy my chair, I was able to make a dash for the toilet, which after 5 hours of sitting in the cold wind was a fairly pressing issue. Business done, I saw that the static display area was now a mass of people, the halls were full & any photographic advantage that I had of arriving at 6.00 was wasted. Knowing the show was due to start shortly & seeing more people finally flooding in at around 11.30 I headed back to my chair. Never did get a chance to have a decent look around the static stuff & didn’t even get to a hall.
By now the place was filling up rapidly & there were unattended “lethal chairs” & cool boxes all over the show. Never did see the bomb squad rushing around because of those.
Well, the air display finally started & although the displays themselves were fantastic, the range of aircraft partaking was not exactly awe inspiring. Sure, an F18 is going to be nifty & a Eurofighter is an eye opener. Seeing the old Lancaster is always fantastic & Vulcan is just so graceful, but none of these stood out as being something truly special as they’re all to all intents, Vulcan included pending funds available, going to be fairly standard sightings at most air shows. A number of displays from Saturday did not even take place on Sunday.
The day for me was further marred when I dashed off to the toilets again later in the afternoon & had a 30 minute wait, to just do a number one!
Getting food was all but impossible. By 14.00 I was starved & timed one person standing in the hotdog queue for hour before being served. The rest of the stalls were facing the same issue. I was not going to miss an hour of the show waiting for a snack.
At about 15.30 the announcer proudly let us know that the attendance was a new Farnborough record & that 80000 people had passed through the gates.
At the end of the show, seeing as all these folk had to get out, I decided to wait until some of the departing planes had left. I then packed up, took a final stroll to the toilets which being at the exit were just as full as earlier, went to buy something to eat (dry roll with watery sausage) for £5 (totally over the top pricing) & headed off to my car. The 5 min walk in, became a 40 min walk out behind a solid wall of people.
Finally at my car & the earlier advice given was correct. I was right in front of the queue, out onto the road & off towards home within minutes.
I can understand that the surge of people arriving after 12.00 took the organisers by surprise, but toilets, food & drinks were wholly under catered for and last minute contingencies did not seem to be planned for. After they’d been saying on telly how hard they had been preparing for the last 6 months?
The over ambitious security worried about exploding chairs in the name of health & safety meant I missed 50% of what I had paid to see & goodness knows how they would have coped/ evacuated all those people if there was a real emergency. Common sense chaps. Enthusiasts arrive at 06.00, not terrorists!
All in all as an enthusiast with around 100 air shows under my belt, I doubt very much whether I will attend in 2010. I don’t think I’d recommend it to others either.
Having been absolutely astounded at RIAT 2007 wrt organisation, facilities & timeous starts to displays I can only ascribe the difference to military organisation with proceeds going to charity against a commercial operation with business out to make a big windfall out of as many people as possible in as short a time as possible.
RIAT, which still has me thinking back fondly to the 2007 event & did not damage my visitor experience by deciding to rather call off 2008 than risk their reputation.
Farnborough on the other hand left me with a bad taste in my mouth (not just from the poor quality hotdog).
A very mediocre visitor experience after all the hype.

Note's re pic's below....
All taken with D300 & Bigma. Cloud cover was a consistent problem throughout the day.
All images resized for web use here by "Outlook" hence grainy noise visible.

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