With the pandemic having put paid to the bi-annual Farnborough International trade show event last year it made good sense that the show organisers, Farnborough International, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the trade organisation ADS, decided to replace this with a digital based event that they called FIA Connect which aimed to bring industry, government and academia together for an airline conference that would focus on the technology and ingenuity driving business growth. A great idea and a great success and one that to me may point the way forward to the future.
Farnborough International said that the 2020 FIA Connect event saw more than 250 senior executives, academics and politicians joined by 14,000 delegates from 97 countries and that the event served as a crucial opportunity for industry to come together during a time of unprecedented challenge as the impact of COVID-19 took hold.
One year on and today following opening remarks from ADS President and CEO of Meggitt plc, Tony Wood and Gareth Rogers, CEO of Farnborough International, the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy gave the opening address at the three-day long FIA Connect 2021.
Now described by the organisers as the world’s leading digital trade event for the aerospace and defence industries, featured speakers this year include Willie Walsh, the newly appointed Director General of the International Air Transport Association. The list of speakers across the three day event includes many other interesting speakers such as Mark Scully, Head of Technology, Advanced Systems and Propulsion at the Aerospace Technology Institute, Paul Stein, Chief Technology Officer at Rolls-Royce plc, Elizabeth Baker, Business Development Director Thales UK, Sean Newsum, Director of Environmental strategy at Boeing, Air Marshal Andrew Turner, Royal Air Force, Dep Commander Capability, Caroline Donaghy, Director Defence ADS, Dr Sam Healy, Group Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Director at QinetiQ, Raymond Li, Director Strategic Marketing – Air at Thales UK, Rick Ambrose, Executive Vice President Lockheed Martin Space, David Rawlinson, Head of Business Development, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare at BAE Systems – apologies for the many others that I cannot list due to time.
You get the message and now for remarks made very much tongue in cheek.
Likely coming on top of what I am told was the huge success of last year’s FIA Connect digital event and having widened this year’s event to include an even larger range of very important aerospace related topics, I wonder whether success of FIA Connect brings into question the relevance of continuing to hold the bi-annual Farnborough International Airshow trade show event?
Yes, I know that by questioning this I risk being shot down in flames. Yes, I understand that the last three days of the traditional Farnborough Airshow show are open to the public albeit that very few trade stands are available for the public to see and that Farnborough has a huge and very history and indeed, relevance in the UK aerospace story.
But is it still affordable? Will large US and international aerospace companies continue to back it when there are now so many other highly invested air show events? Is having a stand at Farnborough International still a viable proposition for small and medium sized enterprises? I am not making a point here – I am asking a question whilst at the same time pointing to what may be a future solution – one that Farnborough Airshow Connect may have already found>?
Given the mediocre level of flying displays held at Farnborough International 2018, partly due to perceived or real air traffic safety limitations due in the main to where Farnborough is located together with the huge cost to airlines and aircraft manufacturers and others involved in flying displays, cost of participation at the event particularly for companies attending from abroad, ever reducing numbers of international delegations and increased competition from other large international airshow events such as Dubai and Singapore .
I will leave you with the thought.
My own view is that in normal (none Covid) years the public have a very good choice of private airshow related events to attend – not least for those interested in all aspects of air power – defence, technology, skills, careers, training and for pure enthusiasts is so much more the annual three day Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) which I am pleased to say will return once again next year at RAF Fairford. RIAT also serves as the very best networking event for both military and industry and it is also in aid of charity – the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust Enterprises (RAFCTE). As RIAT is, the RAF Cosford Airshow is another important example of an annual event designed to encourage young people into learning and maybe later having a career within the RAF or joining the many companies doing fantastic things in air power and aerospace.
As to the future of trade show events, the bi-annual DSEI event held in London appears to me to be the best way forward for industry to show off its technology and to bring the supply chain together, network and create new ideas.
As to FIA Connect – I applaud the brilliance of the event, the speed in which they put last year’s event together and the way that they have expanded it this year. Best of luck to them – this event may well be pointing to the best way forward for the future.
Thoughts welcome please?
CHW (London – 13th July 2021)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS