With the coronavirus pandemic resulting in the cancellation or postponement of most major aerospace and defence events this year, exhibitions are being forced to go digital, and this includes one of the world’s biggest aviation trade shows.
The 2020 edition of the Farnborough International Air Show was due to take place between 20 and 24 July in the United Kingdom but was cancelled in March due to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Determined not to give up on the exhibition, the organisers decided to take the event online, and subsequently launched FIA Connect, a series of free to attend digital aerospace events that will take place on the same dates as the air show would have.
Organisers said the five-day online event will connect the global aerospace industry at a time it cannot meet. The event will see senior industry figures speaking on topical matters, a Meet the Buyer session to connect suppliers with buying decisionmakers, and a career guidance event for a younger audience to address the skills gap.
“FIA Connect will bring global industry together via an online platform, providing world-class content, insight and business growth opportunities. We are attaching no fee, from Meet the Buyer through to virtual FINN Sessions, this is being offered free of charge. I sincerely hope that we are joined by as many of our exhibitors and visitors as possible this July,” said Gareth Rogers, CEO of Farnborough International.
“Cancelling this year’s Farnborough International Air Show remains a source of acute disappointment but the team is working hard to develop a virtual event which brings as many aspects of the show to people as possible,” he said.
From the first event in 1948, the Farnborough Air Show has become one of the world’s premier aerospace exhibitions. At the most recent show in 2018, more than 1 500 exhibitors and 80 000 visitors attended. A record $192 billion in deals were struck in 2018, including more than 1 400 commercial aircraft orders, valued at $154 billion, alongside at least 1 432 deals for engines worth $22 billion. The value of deals was up by 50% compared to the 2016 edition.
Other big international aerospace and defence exhibitions have either been postponed to next year or have gone online as well. For example, the ILA Berlin Air Show in Germany attracts nearly 200 000 people and was scheduled to take place between 13 and 17 May. However, it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and instead went online, claiming to be the first aerospace exhibition to do so, and is instead having a series of webinars, presentations, matchmaking events and discussions from 13 May to 31 July.
Elsewhere, Coges Events, the organisers for the Eurosatory defence show in France, cancelled this year’s June event and instead will have a series of online business meetings on 14 and 15 September. Some of the companies that would have attended, including Arquus and Rheinmetall, have created online digital replicas of their stands.
Likewise, the Military Helicopter USA 2020 event has been moved online and will take place digitally between 9 and 10 July, with the International Fighter USA event becoming an online event between 8 and 10 July. Many air shows and smaller events have also gone digital, from the RAF Cosford Air Show to the Orolia Air Show.
Closer to home, the organisers of the 2020 Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition still plan to host the event at Air Force Base Waterkloof between 16 and 20 September. Other events remaining on the South African calendar include the Sport Aerobatic Club air show at New Tempe, Bloemfontein, on 8 August; the Bethlehem Air Show on 22 August; the Rand Air Show on 6 September; Garden Route Air Show at George on 26 September; and Newcastle Air Show on 3 October. The Africa Drone Conference on 27 and 28 August, however, will be a digital event. Continentally, the Egypt Defence Expo remains on track for 7-10 December.