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JF-17 Thunders a big at prestigious UK Air show

Some even say the JF-17 Thunder fighters were a major attraction of the Farnborough International Airshow, which ended here on Sunday.
“For me, they are the stars of Farnborough,” said Piotr Abraszek, aviation editor of Warsaw-based magazine Nowa Technika Wojskowa, who said he had been following reports of the JF-17 for several years. Also interested in the fighter was a Japanese air attache at the country’s embassy in London.

What interests him most about the aircraft?

“Quality and capability. And how it compares with other Asian aircraft,” he responded.

The aircraft has been in development in one form or another since 1991. After several design concepts and name changes, it emerged in its present form.

Since acquiring the first two from China in July 2007, the Pakistani Air Force is now equipped with 14 JF-17s. It has now started its own assembly line, which saw the first aircraft roll out in November 2009.

Despite the early morning hour at the air show, and the fact the planes sit in a corner of the local airport where they are one display, dozens of people have already made their way to see the “mysterious” aircraft from Asia, even when their full-glass cockpits are still covered by canvas.

The two on display here were assembled in Pakistan, said Ali Saeed, the chief of the JF-17 engineering office of the PAF, which according to previous reports has requested as many as 250 of the aircraft from China.
Powered by a Russia-built Kilmov RD-93 engine, the JF-17, according to Saeed, is presently the best plane of the PAF.

For Major Azkaar Ul-Husnain, who had also flown other fighters like the F-6 and F-16, the JF-17 is like his best friend.

He’s been flying them since early 2008, and took to the skies again to bring one to the air show.

“It is quite useful. And it’s a very important part of the PAF,” he said, noting the plane will eventually replace its present fleet of F-7s, A-5s and Mirages.
“We hope in the future 80 percent of the air force will be JF-17,” Ul-Husnain said.

Orders take off

Since 2004, when the air show was first held under civil rather than military oversight, airline orders and defense spending have normally dominated the week-long events.

The last air show in 2008 was a record-breaking year for the business with $88.7 billion worth of orders announced during the show.
This year had an exciting start with a flurry of deals taking place on the first day as airlines “opened up their cheque books”, the London-based Daily Mail reported.

Boeing hogged most of the attention after winning a 6-billion pound ($9.1-billion) order for 30 of its 777 jetliners from Dubai-based airline Emirates.
The leasing arm of GE Capital, which buys planes and lends them to airlines, was another big spender. It ordered 100 planes, 40 from Boeing and 60 from Airbus, at a cost of $7.9 billion.

And Canadian manufacturer Bombardier won an order from Qatar Airways for three business jets worth $121 million.

The highlight of the show, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, on its debut outside North America, has given a further boost to the industry, which has been in the grips of the bleakest downturn since the Great Depression.

Thomson Airways will be the first UK airline to fly this fuel-efficient plane and will take delivery in January 2012, the Daily Mail reported.

“Overall, we are encouraged that 2010 will be a very buoyant year,” says Shaun Ormrod, CEO of Farnborough International ltd., the organizer of the air show.

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