There are several robotics competitions which use the Lego robotics sets. The earliest is Botball, a national U.S. middle- and high-school competition stemming from the MIT 6.270 Lego robotics tournament. Other Lego robotics competitions include Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) for students ages 6–9 and FIRST Lego League (FLL) for students ages 9–16 (age 9–14 in the United States, Canada, and Mexico). Jr.FLL and FLL offer real-world engineering challenges to participants. FLL uses Lego-based robots to complete tasks. Jr.FLL participants build models out of Lego elements. In its 2010 season, there were 16,070 FLL teams in over 55 countries. In its 2010 season, there were 2,147 Jr.FLL teams with 12,882 total student participants in the United States and Canada. The international RoboCup Junior football competition involves extensive use of Lego Mindstorms equipment which is often pushed to its extreme limits.
Other than the planes, I do find it unfortunate that the Friends set focuses on shopping and food like so many Friends sets, and I also think it is unfortunate that the City terminal only has the basics of the airport structure in the control tower and service truck. Having a control tower for the Friends set would have been great. Having a gift shop/cafe for the City terminal would have been a worthwhile addition and not something we have seen in many City sets.
I'm not sure what to make of the set yet. I like the planes (although that biplane really doesn't need the bubble canopy). The idea of adding a hangar is interesting and I don't mind that it's a bit open. But the fact that it'll only house one of the three planes is annoying. Having said that, I'm not sure what you could do about it. Tripling the hangar would make it big and boring and push the price up. Could they have done two planes and a double hangar?
Basically, the only thing that the two sets have in common is that they both have planes. However there is quite a bit of difference on the inside of the planes. There are a lot more details in the Friends plane. In addition to the seats, there is a rolling service cart complete with refreshments, emergency lighting as well as a larger galley and lav in the back of the plane.