Taking place this year from 16-22 July, the Farnborough International Airshow is always an eagerly anticipated event for the aerospace community. Mike Richardson met with Farnborough International Limited’s commercial director, Amanda Stainer inside the new Hall 1 to hear about the progress of the 2018 event.
Why do us Brits like nothing better than to talk about the weather? Well, if it’s the time of year for the Farnborough International Airshow then it must be summertime, and if it’s British summertime then cue the potential for some decidedly wobbly and inclement weather!
After torrential rain and flooded grounds brought the 2016 event to a premature close on the opening day, the show’s organiser’s Farnborough International Limited (FIL) decided that something drastic needed to be done.
Fast forward two years, and this year’s event heralds the opening of Farnborough’s permanent Hall 1. Officially opened earlier this year, Hall 1 can be viewed as a metaphor for a New Jerusalem for aviation - and for Farnborough International Limited, it represents a major investment in the infrastructure of the site and the future of the Airshow at Farnborough.
A rock of ages
The 20,000m2 development comprises a 12,000m2 exhibition hall and a further 6,000m2 of other function space. During the Airshow, the exhibition hall will be home for the UK Pavilion and the Space Zone alongside other exhibitors. Other function space will be used for restaurants, conference rooms and the media centre. Importantly, the hall will be open for the full seven days of the show giving those exhibitors the opportunity to engage with public Airshow visitors.
“Hall 1 will act as a great conduit in bringing visitors into the show so they can go on and explore other halls and areas of the Farnborough showground,” begins FIL’s commercial director, Amanda Stainer. “Yes, we’re mindful that Hall 1 might be a focus, but that said, we’ve got some amazing exhibitors throughout all the halls, plus our own dedicated content. We’ve got theatres in Hall 3 and Hall 4 hosting some really interesting talks and panel sessions by FINN – the Farnborough International News Networks. And we’ve turned a corner of Hall 3 into an Airforce Command Centre for our Live Product Demo Area. Visitors will be able to witness products being used in a ‘real-life’ scenario creating interactivity throughout all the other halls as well.”
Having begun her career within FIL some 18 years ago, Amanda’s main responsibilities are business development including international sales strategy for FIA, aircraft participation and developing a global consultancy business, reaching out to the emerging markets including China and the Middle East. So, what countries and regions appear to be taking the most interest and increasing their presence at this year’s event?
“We have a big growth in Chinese participation and this isn’t by chance - it’s deliberate from our point of view. China is a country that exhibitors said they wanted to see more of at the Airshow. Consequently, we’ve employed Jenny Du as China commercial manager at FIL. She’s based in China and since coming onboard full-time has increased three-fold, the event’s Chinese participation. I’ve recently returned from a briefing presentation I did in China, which I visit twice a year, plus I meet Chinese delegations at overseas Airshows too. We’re delighted with the increase in Chinese exhibitors, particularly with our new pavilions, where we’re experiencing a much more international feel to the show.”
Business means business
According to Amanda, the objectives for the 2018 show are the same as other shows: to facilitate business amongst the aerospace community. As a global industry event, it’s a great opportunity for UK business to showcase its expertise to the international community.
“Our priority is always to ensure we offer everyone attending the very best in networking opportunities. By running our delegation programmes and Meet the Buyer event - and having more conferences and themed sessions, it provides the opportunity for more networking, which is what we’re trying to encourage more of within the show.
“We want our Airshow visitors to come here and think: ‘Wow! I saw that first here at the Farnborough Airshow’. This is what we are renowned for and what our history is all about. It’s important to be at the very forefront of the latest technology and innovation. Farnborough is where people get together to talk about what’s new and then take it forward. It’s also a great pleasure that we can celebrate The Royal Air Force’s 100th anniversary here too as this embodies a lot of British aviation history. I always see Farnborough as the place where, first and foremost, everyone can do business and achieve all their objectives that they have set out for the show – and we try to help them do that. People can come here and learn, see what’s new and be inspired.”
With the exhibition doors almost ready to be flung open and receive the masses, I’m interested to know how bookings are progressing for exhibitor space at the show and will visitor attendance figures exceed those of 2016? Basically, has the show sold out yet?
“Bookings are at 98% and going really well - it’s on a par, if not a little bit ahead with the 2016 event. There are the movers and shakers and we always experience some changes in exhibitor trends. With 189 new companies exhibiting this year, we’ve a lot of new business coming in.”
Indeed, FIL reckons it has never sold the show this quickly and chalet demand is at an all-time high. Business is starting to look beyond Brexit and explore opportunities that will allow them to grow trade within international markets.
It’s also FIL’s most international show with 29 national pavilions confirmed from countries including Mexico, Turkey, the US and Japan alongside a significant European presence from Germany, France and Spain. As mentioned previously, the show will also see the largest presence yet from China with 25 participating companies. The number of international exhibitors is also expected to exceed the 71% achieved in 2016. This increase doesn’t reflect a decrease in UK exhibitors, but an expansion of the show’s overall exhibitor base.
Flying high for tomorrow
Last year, the FIA launched its new Aerospace 4.0 feature under the banner of ‘The future starts here’. Industry 4.0 promises to revolutionise and transform the manufacturing sector. As one of the leading-edge advanced manufacturing sectors, it’s of increasing importance to aerospace. The Aerospace 4.0 feature will allow the industry to look at some of the new innovations that are fuelling Industry 4.0, but through the lens of our industry. The hope is that it will go some way in driving through a digital mindset into the sector.
Aerospace 4.0 will closely examine technologies, such as automation, additive manufacturing, simulation, virtual and augmented reality and digitalisation. So what kind of take-up is Amanda expecting for this show feature?
“Our Aerospace 4.0 exhibit is certainly being driven by the increasing digitisation within the aerospace industry. Industry 4.0 is creating a buzz that everyone in the sector is talking about. We work really closely with Sameer Savani, technology adviser from our parent company, ADS Group who is leading the Aerospace 4.0 feature and he’s been absolutely fantastic in helping us along the way.
“Aerospace 4.0 is very relevant, very important and we’ve seen enormous interest from the exhibitors – they all want to see it, they all want to be part of it. I believe it will be one of the main features in the hall. Our Aerospace 4.0 feature is sponsored by Deloitte, which is really important because it means we’re attracting new audiences – it’s helping to introduce new exhibitors, whilst allowing us to maintain the existing ones.”
Clearly, the Farnborough International Airshow has a long history of showcasing innovation and continues to be valued as such - especially today when the entire industry seems very much on the cusp of change with the development of technologies. For every part of the supply chain, digital technologies are affecting working practices and new product development. The Farnborough Airshow is more relevant than ever for the industry and the aerospace supply chain.
In last month’s issue of Aerospace Manufacturing, I touched on a fascinating television series I’d been watching that covered an era when British aviation ruled the skies. For me, it made for quite emotional viewing when I realised how much of an important role the Farnborough Airshow actually played in enabling British aircraft manufacturing companies to launch a number of innovative passenger turboprop and jetliner aircraft - all in a bygone golden age of confidence that changed the way the world would fly forever.
“The Farnborough Airshow’s role in the history of aviation is incredible and we’re really proud of this feat,” Amanda concludes. “The Airshow’s history has really helped, because everyone who knows Farnborough knows where it is in the aviation industry and we’re really proud of this heritage. This is why we want to remain at the forefront – we want to see the future, here – and we always want to be the first to maintain the aviation industry’s pioneering spirit. It’s this spirit that makes the history of Farnborough so incredibly unique.”