Boeing is considering bringing both the 747-8 and 787 to the Farnborough air show this summer in an event-stealing move unparalleled since the double-heading international debut of the 757 and 767 in the UK in 1982, or the startling appearance of the 747 at Paris in 1969.
The potential display of both is entirely linked to the rate of progress with the two flight test programs, but the fact Boeing is even contemplating showcasing the aircraft at Farnborough reflects a growing sense of confidence that was decidedly absent in 2008 and 2009.
Dynamic duo. Will the 757 and 767's rare show outing at Farnborough 1982 be eclipsed by the 747-8 and 787? (Boeing)
Boeing, unlike Airbus, has historically held mixed views over the value of sending valuable hardware to major air shows, particularly during test programs – but senior 787 program officials have indicated the PR and marketing benefits could be massive - particularly if the certification effort is still going to plan. A spokesman for the 747-8 program meanwhile says the decision to send the aircraft to the show has not yet been made but does not deny it is being considered.
Crowd pleasers? The first 747-8 (above) and the second 787, ZA002 (below). Guy Norris and Joe Walker photos.
The preliminary plan may see the trans-Atlantic flights for both integrated into the functional and reliability phase of the test programs, as well as - possibly - the early stages of ETOPS work for the 787. If they make an appearance, the pair is not expected to stay for long, or even leave at the same time. However under the provisional timetable it is believed they will be displayed together for the first few days of the show.
Remarkably you have to go back to 1996 to find the last time that Boeing brought an all-new commercial airliner to a Farnborough show. This was, of course, the 777-200 which made its international debut at Paris the previous year. Boeing had fought hard to bring the first aircraft, WA001, to the 1994 show as it fought a tooth-and-nail marketing battle with the A340. Unfortunately for those of us covering Farnborough then, Boeing’s plans changed when it opted to focus on completing the certification program - leaving Airbus to have the show to itself.
Not including the 1998 appearance of the stretched 777-300, and the later showing of the -200LR and -300ER (and MD-80/DC-9 derived 717 at Paris), the last major new Boeing commercial airliner to be displayed at Farnborough was the 737-300 in 1984. Two years before this, Boeing had grabbed the headlines at the show by bringing the brand new 757-200 and 767-200s. Although this was a classic double act, most historians seem to agree the company’s biggest PR success was the moment – in 1969 – when the 747 first loomed out of the low cloud at Le Bourget and into the consciousness of the world at large.
One thing is for sure, if Boeing does manage to bring its new babies to the show there will be no Concorde (as there was in Paris in ’69) to steal away or share the limelight.
Boeing took a huge risk getting the problem-plagued early 747 to Paris, but the marketing impact was profound. (Boeing)