THERE was a pleasant surprise for local motorists as Farnborough Air Show got under way this week with shorter traffic hold-ups and far less congestion than in the past.

Some of the improvement can be attributed to increased security measures following the September 11 attacks in America. The number of cars allowed on site was slashed from 4000 to 1200 with regular shuttle coaches running from off-site car parks.

PICTURE: Special Star photo by David Searchfield at the close of Monday's Air Show display.

Visitors faced airport type security with metal detectors sensitive enough to detect the foil on a stick of chewing gum. There is a beefed up police presence on the site with regular searches throughout the show area.

This weekend sees the two public days and the usual large influx of traffic so local motorists are advised to avoid the area unless their journeys are absolutely necessary.

The usual crowds gathering in Ively` Road to watch the display for free this year found their views somewhat restricted -not only by the new Business Park buildings erected on the edge of the airfield but also by large earth mounds. For those who could see there was the usual impressive range of aircraft.

QinetiQ, the successors to the old RAE, hope that a new invention will help to cut the security queues at airports and perhaps at future air shows. It is a millimetre wave imager that can detect weapons and explosives concealed under a person's clothing or in their baggage. It is currently being trialled at Gatwick North Terminal.

Among other QinetiQ developments announced are a runway debris monitoring alert system that will pick up objects as small as a wheel-nut and an aircraft sensing system designed to monitor passengers' health and behaviour.

Aircraft orders in the early part of the week were lighter than usual - perhaps reflecting the current international economic situation. But the many languages heard around the exhibition area showed that Farnborough still retains its pulling power as the world's aviation showcase.