Back in 2004, the Farnborough International show opened against a backdrop of uncertainty about its future organization with doubts over how the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) proceeds with an event that it has hosted since 1948. Two years on, these doubts have been laid to rest and today the FI2006 show opens with a new streamlined structure, a visibly improved site and a truly abundant harvest of Grade A exhibits.
The show officially opens an hour later this morning at 10 a.m. and it will close two hours earlier at 4 p.m. to allow industry visitors to get back into central London to attend this evening’s opening ceremony in a venue that could hardly be more traditional: the Great Hall of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn. This will be staged from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. to leave exhibitors time to host downtown dinners for their guests.
According to Farnborough International Ltd. (FIL), the new wholly owned subsidiary of SBAC that now organizes the show, this and all other changes to the event have been driven by exhibitor wishes for greater cost effectiveness. FIL managing
director Trevor Sidebottom has admitted that there had been serious talk of scrapping the Monday part of the Farnborough show altogether. This idea was abandoned largely because the show might then have lost the hugely influential U.S. official delegations who have converged on the complementary Royal International Air Tattoo military show held this past weekend at the Royal Air Force base at Fairford.
Today’s shortened show timetable may deliver the added advantage of reducing Farnborough’s historically dreadful traffic congestion, easing delays entering and leaving the site (largely since there should be less overlap with the local rush hours). However, it remains to be seen whether some industry visitors may view the Monday of FI2006 as optional, and choose to only arrive in the UK today in time for the first full trade day tomorrow. Early indications to Aviation International News is that some firms from outside Europe are indeed taking this attitude, but it is unclear whether this trend will actually materialize.
The Farnborough show now just has three full trade days: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, when the gates will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday will see the new International Youth Day and on Saturday and Sunday vast crowds are expected to arrive for the public days.
The main draw for the public is a vastly improved array of aircraft on static and flying display, after what even FIL admits was a somewhat anemic offering in 2004. For most British aviation enthusiasts, this week will be their first real opportunity to view the eagerly awaited Airbus A380 super large airliner. Excitement has also been generated by the prospect of seeing aerial performances by the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor and the new Russian MiG-29OVT fighter that will match the Kirov ballet as it pirouettes across the Farnborough skies on the tips of its thrust-vector controls.
In a bid to encourage more aircraft to be displayed, FIL reduced the cost of having them here for the full seven-day period by 50 percent. It has also frozen all exhibit charges at 2004 rates.
FIL has invested in a new two-story Hall 1A, which now houses an improved media center as well as a new exhibitors club restaurant with a balcony for viewing the flying display. Also new to the Farnborough landscape are some new combined chalet/ pavilion/outdoor exhibit combinations from companies such as Goodrich, Finmeccanica, GKN Aerospace and Boeing. This trend has freed up space in the main halls for new exhibitors.