Aerospace jamboree on tenterhooks over F-35 fighter, Airbus jet revamp

Sat Jul 12, 2014 10:50am EDT
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By Tim Hepher, Andrea Shalal and Jack Stubbs

LONDON (Reuters) - Suspense over the appearance of America’s newest combat jet, a diplomatic chill between the West and Russia and the re-launch of an Airbus jet with a surprise tweak in its name could make the Farnborough 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 Joint Strike Fighter to withdraw from a warm-up event and Farnborough's aircraft list is already crossed through with several high-profile no-shows.

The July 14-20 gathering will go ahead without the brand-new Bombardier (BBDb.TO: Quote) CSeries or popular Russian fighter displays. Qatar Airways has withdrawn its Airbus A380 superjumbo, saying the still undelivered plane is not yet ready.

At the July 11-13 Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in England, visitors were disappointed after Lockheed Martin Corp’s (LMT.N: Quote) F-35 fighter jet failed to make the military air show.

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

RIAT visitors drawn by posters making 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 license.

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

An F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter takes off on a training sortie at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida in this March 6, 2012 file photo.  REUTERS/U.S. Air Force photo/Randy Gon/Handout