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Delivering the world's largest trade fair - Farnborough

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Now that the Forth Bridge no longer needs to be continuously painted, a new metaphor for a never-ending task is needed: how about the biennial Farnborough International Airshow, which will next take place from 9th to 15th July 2012. No sooner had the site been cleared from the 2010 event, than planning commenced for the 2012 show. On 13th September 2011, Farnborough Chapter of the Thames Valley Branch welcomed senior members of the Operational Team of the airshows organisers, Farnborough International Ltd. (FIL), who demonstrated their organisation of the project planning, resourcing, infrastructure, security and many, many other requirements for delivery of the worlds largest trade fair and arguably, the best-known air display. FILs team has been brought together with multi talented people to cover all aspects of the project.

The project management requirements to accommodate 1,400 exhibitors, 2,800 media representatives, 15,000 contractors employees, 120,000 trade visitors and 130,000 paying members of the public are immense: the project plan is composed of 8,000 task entries. Yet the FIL core team managing the event is made up of 18 people, augmented as required by contractors.

The week-long airshow comprises a five-day trade fair (the final, Futures day is also open to young people with an interest in aerospace as a career), followed by a two-day flying display which is open to the public. Flying displays are held throughout the week: during the trade fair period, aircraft manufacturers put planes through their paces, while FIL arranges flying displays on the public days. There are strict flying restrictions as flight paths pass directly over Farnborough town; and Farnborough airport operates commercially during the period of the airshow (subject to display flying), while its heliport continues in operation throughout.

Orders to the value of $60 billion were signed at the 2010 airshow, and the economic benefit to Farnborough is estimated at 17 million. However, there is disruption which peaks in a two-week period every two years, and the FIL team manage this and its adverse impacts through co-ordination with local authorities and the emergency services, and engagement with stakeholders including local organisations and residents. The infrastructure needs are those of a medium-sized town, which must all be dismantled after the airshow; breaking-down is as fully planned as building-up, to ensure that the site is completely cleared and handed back within six weeks.

Around 200 separate contracts are awarded. While contracts are tendered, FIL is looking to achieve best value for money and sustainable business rather than lowest cost, as the major challenge is that everything has to be ready to go on the morning of the first day of the airshow. As a consequence, FIL favours a partnering approach to its contractual relationships.

A lively session at the end of the presentation allowed the audience to raise questions on further topics, and ended only when the Chairman called a halt. The 2012 Farnborough International Airshow is less than a year away now, and is keenly anticipated. Then the planning will start again, for the 2014 airshow.

Peter Deary

Chairman, Farnborough Chapter


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