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FARNBOROUGH UNDER THREAT?

22 Sep 04. The FT reported that the Farnborough air show, one of the world’s premier showcases for the aerospace industry, could be under threat as its future is reviewed by the Society of British Aerospace Companies.

The society, which organises the biennial show, said yesterday that it was committed to the present format, including the daily flying display, for 2006. But the results of a strategic review of the society, published today say that there are a number of significant concerns about the staging of the show. These include the commercial risk associated with it and “the increasing constraints with its operation at the Farnborough site”. Foreign aerospace groups, in particular from the US which are crucial exhibitors and participants at the air show, have been expressing increasing doubts about the rising costs of taking part in the proliferating number of air shows around the world. The Farnborough and Paris air shows, traditionally the premier events in the global aerospace industry calendar, are facing increasing competition from rival shows in Berlin, Singapore and Dubai. With the rapid consolidation of the global aerospace industry there is also a shrinking number of new products being launched by the aircraft makers.

The society’s review says that the Farnborough show is seen as too expensive and too long and the July date is unpopular. The staging of this year’s show clashed directly with the Royal International Air Tattoo, which claims to be the world’s greatest military air show. This is held each year at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire in support of the RAF Benevolent Fund and the change of timing of the Farnborough air show to July a few years ago is a source of aggravation.

Kevin Smith, the society’s president and chief executive of GKN, the UK engineering group, said yesterday the society believed the air show was an important part of the UK industry. However, the site was becoming more difficult to operate with the restriction on flights and perhaps it should be reconfigured.

He said: “In 2006 there will be a Farnborough. After that there will be a show, but we will look at the site.” The society was looking at how the show could be made more affordable and also shorter.

The society is considering trying to make the air show a part of a national aerospace week including the air tattoo. The Farnborough show currently dominates the work of the trade association, accounting for around 40 per cent of its resources. With a turnover of £20m and a profit of around £1m Farnborough is also exposing the society to a growing commercial risk. The strategy review says that the future provision and staging of the show “in whatever format” should be outsourced.

Comment: This report mirrors the opinions canvassed by BATTLESPACE during this year’s event. Many factors have combined to produce these proposed changes, the huge cost of the show, some companies spend in excess of £5m, the limitations on flying due to the status of the airfield as a dedicated Business Jet centre, the consolidation of thee industry and the threat from other shows. The first signs of the cracks were the falling out between Spearhead and the SBAC over the wish by the DSEI organisers to bring a military aerospace element to DSEI. The two were never close bed pals due to a spat over the bid to run DSEI in 1998. BATTLESPACE understands that there are 4 companies, including Reed and Fairs & Exhibitions, bidding to run Farnborough, which may migrate into RIAT in 2008 as a pure military Airshow. Another disturbing possibility is the wish by the Home Office to unload the huge cost of security of Farnborough and DSEI onto the organisers. Quite clearly the suggested cost of £8m per show could not be born by Reed and still make a profit on either show; GIFAS will be opening the bubbly in France!

Other sources suggest that niche shows, which by their nature attract a more focused audience are gai

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