'Farnborough is the shop window for the global aerospace industry'

Before I took this job, its true I hadnt been to an airshow, says Gareth Rogers, the recently installed boss of Farnborough International Limited, which puts on the massive airshow. Thats changed now, of course.
Rogers is speaking shortly before 1,500 trade exhibitors, 150 aircraft and 150,000 trade and public visitors descend on the Hampshire town as it becomes the centre of the aerospace world for the week-long event.
The build-up is in full swing, with contractors in hi-viz jackets and hard hats wandering past as he talks, and the sound of power tools echoing through the newly built permanent exhibition centre on the airfield which takes centre stage.
'Farnborough is the shop window for the global aerospace industry'

Farnborough attracts the biggest names - and aircraft - in the industry every two years

Its a huge responsibility. Were the shop window for the global aerospace industry, he says. We are building an area the size of a theme park into a small town.
Rogers previous job was at Southampton Football Club, where he was the Premier Leagues youngest chief executive, taking over at just 34. He sees similarities between two very different worlds.
They are more alike than you might imagine, says Rogers, who has just turned 39. Both are event-based: one is putting a sporting match on, this is putting on the UKs largest trade exhibition. Both boil down to project organisation, making sure its enjoyable, and that people get value for money.
He concedes that while Southampton isnt a global giant in the way teams such as Manchester United and Real Madrid are, the Saints Premier League games are still watched around the world, making them iconic, and thats something I also saw in Farnborough.
Rogers an accountant by training got into football after working for KPMG and Deloitte, when Southampton needed a short term finance director to hold the fort. I must have done something right, because I stayed for years, he says.
'Farnborough is the shop window for the global aerospace industry'

Gareth Rogers' previous job was chief executive of Southampton Football CLub

After a total of six years at the club which included two promotions, two European adventures and a cup final, Rogers says it was time for a change.
He says one of the biggest eye-openers in aerospace is the industrys sheer scale.
Theres an eye-watering amount of money passing through the industry, he says. Despite all the headlines about football and the size of player salaries, football doesnt even touch the sides of the aerospace industry. There were $124bn (?94bn) of deals signed at the last Farnborough show thats an incredible amount.
The current airshow has an unusual business model. Its held every other year, alternating with Pariss Le Bourget show, with each event taking a turn to be the biggest in the aerospace calendar. This means that Farnborough effectively spends two years winding up for a seven-day show, generating almost ?40m in turnover in show years and about 10pc of that in others.
'Farnborough is the shop window for the global aerospace industry'

The flying displays are thye highlight of Farnborough for many - but the real business is done on the ground

Rogers is looking to change this. The airshow is the absolute linchpin of what we do and we build everything around it but why shouldnt this become a business thats 730 days, not just seven in every two years? he says.
Key to this is the recent completion of the sites ?33m exhibition centre. Previously, Farnborough used temporary pavilions to house exhibitors but the permanent building which is still surrounded by temporary structures for the show opens up opportunities for events throughout the year.
Rogers says hes not looking to attract any particular industry to Farnborough but the sites history the show was established in 1948 in the town which is home to the Royal Aircraft Establishment does have certain links.
When you think of Farnborough you think history, engineering, aerospace, pioneering technology, he says. That kind of background suits hi-tech companies, innovation companies, telecoms but weve even done events here for Alan Sugars Tropic Skincare
'Farnborough is the shop window for the global aerospace industry'

An aerial view shows the scale of the Farnborugh show

Still, having a runway on the doorstep also helps Farnborough is one of the countrys busiest business airports and there are rumours that the venue is trying to land the Helitech helicopter exposition.
Keeping Farnborough in the industrys mind throughout the cycle is also important. We cant just have the industry thinking oh, its Farnborough this year round, lets bring everybody over and then send them away and never speak about it, Rogers says.
To try and end this FINN, an online news channel, has been launched. Video-led, it reports on the sector year round. Were looking to develop FINN, says Rogers. Were using interviews, analysis. You see consumer brands deliver information and market themselves that way, why not us? We can connect the global aerospace industry over more than just seven days.
He adds that hes trying to change the way the industry talks about itself.
I get that this is highly regulated and often highly secretive but it could be a lot more modern in how it markets itself, he says. But that doesnt mean we cannot talk about all the wonderful things that happen and the employment it creates.
'Farnborough is the shop window for the global aerospace industry'

Fighter Command aerobatic display team the 'Black Arrows' at the 1959 Farnborough air show

Crown Copyright
Britains aerospace industry the worlds second largest with a ?35bn annual turnover and 123,000 direct employees is why Airbuss recent warning that it could pull out of the UK because of Brexit made so much noise, Rogers says.
Despite Airbuss announcement, Rogers is confident of the shows future in Brexit Britain.
Aerospace is a global market and we are an international airshow, not a European one, he says, pointing to the fact that 71pc of exhibitors at the show are international. Airbus dropped that bombshell but does that mean we dont have a place in a global aerospace market? We are a global aerospace show, why would we not have a place?
His confidence isnt quite matched by some in the industry. While the rival Le Bourget show gets state backing, Farnborough operates independently.
Top government ministers are regular attendees at the UK event, but aerospace sources say more emphatic backing from political leaders is desired to show that Britain takes aerospace seriously.
'Farnborough is the shop window for the global aerospace industry'

Prime Ministers are regular attendees of the show

There are other nations out there who see airshows more strategically, says one. You could see the industry voting with its feet in the future. However, others congratulate Farnborough for being forward looking, pointing to the Futures Day it stages, when the doors are thrown open to young people to attract them into careers in the sector.
One regular complaint about Farnborough is transport to the show. Overcrowded trains and buses are a regular and unwelcome feature, along with queues to get in. Its an issue Rogers accepts and says hes trying to tackle. Well have people at Waterloo making sure visitors get on the right trains, and in the past hold-ups at our gates have backed up into the system so were working to reduce that, he says. But wherever youve got 150,000 people in one place, theres going to be congestion.
The biggest draw for the public is the hope of seeing the latest military jets being put through their paces, giant airliners in the skies above and thrilling aerobatics.
'Farnborough is the shop window for the global aerospace industry'

A Typhoon takes off to begin a display flight at the Farnborough airshow

The tragic crash at Shoreham airshow in 2015 has meant much tighter restriction on flying displays, and although the famous Red Arrows will be doing a flypast, they cant put in one of their trademark shows.
There are restrictions and we have to go with them but things change, says Rogers.
However, when it comes to the real reason for the shows existence trade he says he doubts that anyone ever signed an aerospace deal just because they saw an aeroplane fly at an airshow.
The 2016 airshow made news when freak weather saw the site evacuated on the first day. A months rain fell in 20 minutes, says Rogers. He says the show is as well prepared as possible for every contingency but such acts of God are hard to plan for.
Im keeping a close eye on the long-range forecast and its good, he adds.
'Farnborough is the shop window for the global aerospace industry'

The freak weather at the 2016 show

And when the frantic week ends, Rogers says: Therell be a mixture of relief and exhaustion. People keep saying arent you nervous, but I have to say no, this is what we work two years for.
Rogers is savvy enough to refuse to single out any part of the show hes looking forward to most, but a flight in the back seat of one of the Red Arrows Hawk jets something occasionally offered to the great and the good of the aerospace world isnt an attraction.
Im a nervous flier, he says. Id probably say yes because youll never get another chance, but Id do the flight with tears in my eyes.
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