Farnborough's future put under review

The future of the Farnborough Air Show, the showcase for the UK's defence and aerospace industries for more than half a century, is under review.

The future of the Farnborough Air Show, the showcase for the UK's defence and aerospace industries for more than half a century, is under review.

Options being examined include relocating the biennial event, staging it less frequently, scaling it down in size and moving the traditional air display to a different venue, leaving Farnborough as just a trade fair.

The review is being conducted by the air show's organisers, the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC), which has staged the event since 1948. Farnborough runs alternately with the Paris air show. This year it made a profit of about £1m on £20m of revenues from the 1,360 exhibitors and 240,000 visitors who paid to enter the show.

Kevin Smith, the chief executive of GKN and the SBAC's new president, said yesterday: "There will be a Farnborough in 2006. Beyond that, there will continue to be a show but where it will take place depends on the outcome of the review."

He said that among the concerns exhibitors have raised are the expense of attending Farnborough and the length of the show. The review was prompted partly by the SBAC's counterpart in the US, Aerospace Industries of America, which wrote to the society warning that big US aerospace companies may no longer be prepared to support every air show which takes place in Europe. In addition to Farnborough and Paris, there are shows in Berlin, Dubai and Singapore.

Two years ago a number of big American defence manufacturers including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon failed to attend the Paris air show - a move widely seen as a snub to the French for refusing to back the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The Farnborough show takes up 40 per cent of the SBAC's time and resources, even though its primary role is to act as a trade association on behalf of members, carrying out traditional functions such as political lobbying. Sally Howes, the director general of the SBAC, said the organisation was considering setting up a dedicated unit to handle the show. Another option was to outsource the running of the show to a professional events organiser which could co-ordinate the show itself with travel and accommodation packages for the thousands of executives who attend from around the world.

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