Farnborough looms large

23 May 2014 – You either love it or hate it. Some see it as a great networking opportunity and a genuine place to do business; other perceive it to be a complete waste of time and resources. However, regardless of your opinion of the Farnborough International Airshow I guarantee that if you are professionally engaged in the UK aerospace and defence industry you will be there in July!

In a couple of months (the show opens to trade and professional visitors on July 14th and to the public on July 19th) the Farnborough International will be well under way. Be in no doubt that from the perspective of trade, political and visiting military delegations the event is of crucial import. This year, as yet, I know of no plan for David Cameron to attend and I hope that this is merely a lack of insight on my part; it would be an egregious error for the PM not to attend.

Alternating with the Paris Airshow, Farnborough has been a biennial event since 1968. There is still an element of the old flying spirit left in the air displays of today but unfortunately – for the romantics among us – the test pilots who graced the early displays have long since departed.

These days both Farnborough and Paris are, in essence, trade and networking events designed to attract not only aircraft manufacturers, specialist technology and avionics equipment suppliers but also those right across the various supply chains associated with aerospace and defence. Thankfully military delegations still visit the event; a significant boon this year given that the Eurofighter Typhoon and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be on display.

In the massive commercial aerospace segment I suspect that the new Airbus A350 will be there too along with its somewhat larger cousin, the A380. I would also be very surprised if Boeing’s 787 and 777 jets were not in attendance. No doubt as always press and media will concentrate on new order announcements from the big plane makers. You name it, from Airbus to Boeing, from Bombardier to Embraer, from BAE Systems to Rolls-Royce, from Lockheed Martin to Raytheon, from Thales to Finmeccanica and from L-3 to Northrop Grumman all the big boys in the aerospace and defence industry will be there.

For years the suggestion that Farnborough was perhaps losing its attraction has been trailed and yet this year I suspect that the show will be busier than ever before. Not so long ago Paris and Farnborough were alone in terms of international aerospace and defence trade – no longer! Today there are dozens of shows competing for the same exhibitors, visitors and VIPs and yet Paris and Farnborough (along with DSEI) still stand out from the crowd as the ‘must do’ events.

To survive Farnborough has needed to be flexible and whilst it is true that in recently it has rightly stood accused of looking slightly dilapidated, this years’ event will – as a result of new investment – witness some interesting new developments. In the still fast growing world of the aerospace industry, emerging events in Dubai and Singapore have demanded this investment to ensure that Farnborough remains an undisputed first division event.

In what is a busy month for conferences and air show events one notes that Farnborough International is immediately preceded by the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford.  With far less restriction on airspace RIAT has established itself as an excellent event in which military aircraft can be displayed and flown without disturbance (the weather being the only occasional restriction!). Consequently the future for Farnborough is, in my opinion, increasingly in the highly successful commercial and business jet air sectors.

Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
Email: hwheeldon@wheedostrategic.com
Tel: 07710 779785

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