Setting the standard

Ahead of this year’s Farnborough International Airshow, Access speaks to organisers and suppliers about the challenges of putting the show together.

 If it seems like coordinating the movements of hundreds of aircraft from around the world might be challenging, that’s because it is.

“For our flying ops team it’s a bit of a logistical nightmare,” says Jonathan Smith, head of operational development and health & safety at Farnborough International Airshow. “During the show, some planes will fly and some will remain static. Some want to be static and also want to fly; it’s all about juggling the map.”

Farnborough has become one of the UK’s most well-known airshows thanks to the spectacular aerial displays put on by flying teams such as the Red Arrows and the Breitling Wingwalkers.

“We’re looked upon as a beacon event,” continues Smith, “and we’re not just being big-headed about it. People look to Farnborough to set the standard.”

One of the ways in which Farnborough is staying at the forefront of its industry is in working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to create new safety plans.

Safety procedures are under particular scrutiny following a tragic crash at Shoreham Airshow in August 2015. New regulations have now been put in place that increase the distance allowed between aircraft and the crowd and make changes to the rules covering display pilots and locations.

“We have a robust process in place,” says Smith.

“We always have had at Farnborough. It’s not just because of new regulations post-Shoreham. But we have had to tinker with it, and we’ve had to amend our flying and the areas that we fly over.”

Keeping up with the industry

Another new development for the Airshow, which is biennial, is the inclusion of a range of new tech, some of which has grown exponentially since 2014. One significant example of this is the strong presence of drones at the show, with the UK Drone Show partnering with the event and the launch of Drone Safety Awareness Weekend.

“The challenge is keeping up with the growth of drones,” says Smith. “It’s exploded. A year ago we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“Drone technology is growing globally in all directions,” adds Oliver O’Brien, founder of the UK Drone Show. “Our event demonstrates the safe, fun and commercial uses of this unique technology.”

As Farnborough welcomes and encourages the latest innovations in the aerospace sector, the pressure is on to put on a show that can match those of their exhibitors.

“Because we have two years between each show we always have to plan quite far ahead,” says Smith. “Farnborough from the aviation side is always cutting edge so we want cutting edge support. We always want to make sure that we’re ahead of the game.”

“The difference with Farnborough is that the exhibitors are leaders of technology in their own fields, and therefore need the latest AV solutions to bring their stands to life,” says Darren Poultney, CEO of official Farnborough AV supplier Smart AV.

One of the challenges suppliers face is dealing with the sheer size of the show, which has different needs for its public and trade days and this year expects to welcome around 80,000 visitors over the public weekend.

Event TV partner Smart Digital is providing “one of the more robust and comprehensive digital undertakings at a show of this nature and size, to ensure blanket digital coverage across a vast indoor and outdoor site,” says CEO Tim Henderson.

“A site like this is obviously challenging,” adds Farnborough commercial director Amanda Stainer. “But we have invested more money this time around to make sure that we have Wi-Fi throughout the exhibition halls. Being temporary, it’s not as easy as being in a permanent venue.”

The two-year period between shows also leaves room for more ambitious growth, with a new exhibition and conference centre on track to open in time for the 2018 event.

Whether visitors attend the public or trade days of the event, Farnborough aims to provide an entertaining and educational experience that showcases the latest the aerospace industry has to offer.

Whether it’s new technology, world-leading industry regulation or ambitious plans for growth, no idea is off-limits, as long as you can get it off the ground.

Farnborough International Airshow takes place on 11-17 July, with the public show taking place on the weekend of 16-17 July.