The economic downturn has not dented the aerospace and defense industry’s eagerness to gather for the Farnborough International airshow. This year’s event is completely sold out, with more than 1,000 exhibitors booked to show their wares from July 19 to 25.
Farnborough’s separate Business Aircraft Park has once again proved popular, with the following manufacturers booked to exhibit: Bombardier, Cessna, Cirrus, Dassault, Diamond, Hawker Beechcraft, Pilatus and Emivest (represented by distributor Action Aviation).
Business Aircraft Park exhibitors have the option to keep their aircraft on display for just the first three trade days (July 19 to 21), which makes it easier for customer- and sales-demonstration aircraft to be made available (see box). They can also perform demonstration flights outside the daily flying display hours.
But the star of this year’s Farnborough show will undoubtedly be Boeing’s long-awaited 787 airliner. Barring any further glitches in the widebody’s flight-test program, the Dreamliner will make its full public debut at the UK show.
The appearance of the 787 should break a decade-long pattern in which Airbus has dominated the international airshow circuit with a succession of high-profile displays by its new aircraft. However, Boeing is maintaining its conservative policy of not allowing its aircraft to participate in flying displays. Airbus will be flying the A380.
Another troubled new aircraft looking to have its day in the sun will be Airbus Military’s new A400M troop carrier. Earlier this year, the long-delayed program came close to being abandoned by European governments frustrated by a succession of technical problems and cost escalations.
Two other Farnborough debutantes will be Viking Air’s new Twin Otter 400 utility aircraft and the Chinese JF-17 fighter. Antonov’s new An-158 regional airliner and the Russian SuperJet 100 will also feature in an extensive exhibit list that is expected to exceed 110 aircraft.
Farnborough International chief executive Shaun Ormrod said at a May 12 press conference that it has been a “phenomenal achievement” to sell out this year’s show given the steep market decline the industry has suffered since the 2008 event.
This year the show will welcome no fewer than 96 new exhibitors and 22 national pavilions, including first-timers Morocco, Taiwan and Egypt.
Ormrod acknowledged that organizers have been somewhat surprised at the extent to which demand to exhibit at Farnborough has held up in the downturn. “I think we have sold out again because we are always looking to do something new and interesting,” he commented, emphasizing that Farnborough’s trade-only days are focused strictly on business-to-business connections.
According to Ian Godden, chairman of UK trade association AeroSpace, Defence and Security (ADS), the industry is beginning to turn the corner on the downturn but it remains to be seen whether this will be reflected in an uptick in orders announced at this year’s Farnborough show. Farnborough International is a subsidiary of ADS, the new body incorporating the Society of British Aerospace Companies, the Defence Manufacturers Association and the Association of Police and Public Security Suppliers.
“We have been eating into a phenomenal order book that came to an end [in terms of new orders] just before the last show [in July 2008],” Godden told the press conference. “Now we are at the beginning of the order book rebuilding, and production has not fallen by anything like as much as we would have predicted. It [the volume of orders at the 2010 show] might be better than expected, but I would be shocked if we get to $82 billion again [the sales tally for the 2008 show].”
Godden pointed to the increased profiles of the Russian and Chinese aerospace industries at the Farnborough show. The president of Russia’s United Aircraft
will attend this year’s show and will take the opportunity to sign a memorandum of understanding to increase cooperation between the Russian and British industries.
The strong emphasis on opportunities for direct contact with prospective buyers at Farnborough now includes 36 official national delegations from around the world and a stronger presence from the UK’s own military. The show’s Meet the Buyer Business-to-Business service has already planned more than 800 meetings. For a registration fee of £100 ($150), companies are guaranteed at least four pre-arranged meetings.
An improved conference program has been built around themed days so that aerospace will be the focus on Monday, July 19, followed by defense on Tuesday, space on Wednesday and security on Thursday. The highly concentrated sessions will run for just 90 minutes each morning.
The show site itself has been improved with a new one-way traffic system and a new roadway that should help to keep traffic moving. There have also been improvements to signage, catering and entry-pass procedures, as well as a new hard-standing area for aircraft.
For more information visit www.farnborough.com.