“We have learnt a lot from the racecar industry,” admitted the man from Boeing at this week’s Farnborough Air Show (a biannual trade show for the aerospace industry). Details were being given of the forthcoming 7E7 Dreamliner passenger plane, which is primarily to be made of the composite materials that the company currently uses just for the tailplane of the 777.

Boeing (which recently signed a consultancy agreement with Renault F1) claims to have extensive composite experience and is indeed the world’s largest producer of graphite composite structure. However, its debt to the car-racing world is an indication of why the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) has chosen to take a pavilion at Farnborough. It is said that this is the first time that a non-aerospace industry has had such a presence at the event.

The MIA’s presence at Farnborough is
being underlined by the racing car
demonstrations that proceed the flying displays

Composites were just one area of common ground but it is noticeable that of the ten MIA exhibitors, Lola Cars International, Prodrive and Retrac Composites are all involved in this field. Indeed Lola and Retrac already have some aerospace business. The former, through its CTS composites arm has been responsible in bringing down the weight of the Voodoo aerial target, an example of which is at the entrance to the MIA pavilion. Prodrive’s composites manager Turul Taskent points out that as composite structures tend to be more complex in motorsport, there is much that the industry could give to aerospace.

Of course, the synergy is not confined to composites. For example, the similarity between the Michelin tyres for the new Airbus 380 and those used in Formula One is being commented on.

MIA chief executive Chris Aylett is determined to help the SMEs in the association to take advantage of non-motorsport opportunities. The sector is being given a high visibility at Farnborough with runs by racing cars preceding the day’s flying displays. Interest is certainly there; Lola’s Sam Smith reported “several good leads” by Wednesday afternoon. The Farnborough pavilion is the first step in an MIA aerospace initiative that culminates in a trade mission to the Paris Air Show in June 2005.

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Ian Wagstaff

In addition to supplying tyres
for the Airbus A380 -due to make its
maiden flight next year – Michelin is the sole supplier for the A340-600

Racing car technology meets aerospace. The Voodoo aerial target outside the MIA pavilion