I used to visit Farnborough Air Show regularly either by train to Farnborough station to be shuttled by the “Pants and Corsets” (Hants and Dorset) buses to the display. I narrowly missed the day that John Derry’s de Haviland 110 crashed killing a number of onlookers. As a youngster hearing that aircraft breaking the sound barrier (as in the film of that name) was a common occurrence at the time. This was until the practice was banned. (I think of the Palestinians today who have to suffer as Israeli jets deliberately do this as one of the means of making their lives unbearable).
On one occasion my Father took me with a friend to Wattisham air base in Suffolk where we sat in the cockpit of the then new Hawker Hunter. Even the Hunter pilot cowered as we were driven to a nearby farm by the farmer as he drove his large and powerful car at what seemed terrific speed along the narrow lanes! One of the features of Farnborough was the display by the Red Arrows with red, white and blue smoke leaving trails in the sky as they loped and dived over the airfield. Four helicopters from the Fleet Air Arm performed a barn dance and one year we were introduced to the “flying test bed” (obviously nicknamed the “flying bedstead”) which I think itself crashed later on) long before vertical take off became a reality. Aircraft of all shapes and sizes, military and civil took to the skies and skimmed at a;most head height along the runways to roar upwards, afterburners blazing. Valiant, Vulcan Victor were all present and every year there were new surprises, not least the English Electric P1 which some wag renamed the “English Electric Shock”.
The air of romance lingers from these memories, but I am brought crashing to earth with reality of the arms industry and the big business it represents. British Aerospace today manufactures a whole range of deadly arsenal with very little of its output for civil purposes.
If ever the industry was thought to be glorious the news that BAE are being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office on huge bribery charges is a reminder of how stained the whole enterprise is. Once again money looms large with humanity relegated to where? What is the purpose to which all the technological advance has been placed?