Courtesy : FINN

Farnborough , UK. 09 July 2020. Gareth Rogers, CEO of Farnborough International talks about the cancellation of Farnborough Airshow and the launch of conversation and insight platform, FIA Connect.

COVID-19 make have changed life as we know it but the aerospace industry needs to start having conversations on how to move forward.

FINN caught up with Farnborough International CEO Gareth Rogers after a hectic few months, which saw the cancellation of the biennial global aerospace event. Rogers said the team behind Farnborough were “desperately disappointed” that the show couldn’t go ahead but said that the pandemic had hit the entire global aerospace industry.

The same team has pivoted from producing the in-person Farnborough Airshow to launch of a new virtual event based on keeping the conversation going within the aerospace and defence industries. FIA Connect takes place on the same dates as the Farnborough Airshow from July 20-24 and is a virtual programme of free-to-attend conferences, networking, and promotional opportunities.

“Ongoing dialogue with customers”

FIA Connect will feature five days of quality content, collaboration, thought leadership and industry insight, enabling the global aerospace industry to connect online. The event will take highlights from the Farnborough International Airshow, including FINN Sessions and the event’s Meet the Buyer programme into home offices around the globe via the online platform.

Rogers explained: “One of the things that was was very, very clear to us is that we understand that we’ve got an ongoing dialogue with our customers over the physical show, but actually, there was a separate piece that came out of dialogue, which was that we still need a voice. We still want to get together, we still want to talk and, more than ever now, the industry needs the ability to come together and discuss how it’s going to move forward here.”

“I don’t think it’s any secret to anybody that the industry is in real, desperate need at the moment. You only need to look at the number of job losses and redundancies that are happening throughout the supply chain from airlines right down to the people who make nuts and bolts and everything in between. Being able to come together and talk about how it’s going to move forward, creating that COVID lens to everything that would have been discussed at the air show, it’s needed.”

Sustainability is among other important conversations

But Rogers said FIA Connect would also serve as a platform to move other important conversations forward which are vita to the future of aviation such as sustainability advances including urban air mobility.

The last few months have seen airlines and suppliers faced with the biggest disruption the industry has ever faced caused by travel restrictions and border closures to limit the spread of COVID-19. Rogers said he understood “the patience and appreciate the support” shown by the industry during the last few months as exhibitors at the cancelled Farnborough Airshow await rebates for space booked.

He said Farnborough International had been working hard to find a solution which would meet two objectives: ensuring the long term success of the Airshow and its ability to serve the industry and ensuring it made a return to its customers.

Exhibitor rebate: balance “not easy to reach”

He said further news would be released in coming days but added that the balance that had “not been an easy one to reach.”

Rogers said Farnborough International’s staff had taken pay reductions, the organisation had undertaken renogotiation of loans and negotiations with its supply chain. He added that bank negotiations had also included a third party review from independent accountants.

Rogers said: “I can fully understand that frustration that sits from our customers, and I can only offer my apologies that it has taken so long to resolve and we have been doing everything we can. I hope people do see that and we try to keep in contact with people as much as we can, but that’s obviously not easy across 1,500 exhibitors.”