The biennial Farnborough International Air Show has officially been canceled for 2020 as the novel COVID-19 coronavirus spreads across the globe and has shut down most of Western Europe over the past few weeks.
Organizers for the airshow announced the cancellation March 20. Farnborough was scheduled for July 20-24 in the United Kingdom.
“After very careful consideration, the unprecedented impact of the global Coronavirus pandemic has forced this decision in the interests of the health and safety of our exhibitors, visitors, contractors and staff,” organizers said in a statement on the air show’s website.
Farnborough, which is held on even years, is the second largest aerospace show behind the Paris Air Show, which is held on odd years outside Paris, and is the scene of deal-making resulting in billions of dollars in commercial aircraft and defense orders, aerial demonstrations of commercial and military aircraft, and static displays of additional aircraft. The trade organization was expecting a record year and, as of last February, was working to accommodate more exhibitors.
Also, on Friday, the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) – a major military air show usually held right before Farnborough in England – was formally canceled.
Organizers for Europe’s other major summer defense trade show, Eurosatory 2020, currently still plan to hold the conference. COGES, which produces the event, said in a Thursday statement that the organization for the June 8-12 conference outside Paris is “maintained” and that a final decision whether to hold the conference will be made by the end of April, “in order to allow everyone to make the right arrangements.”
France’s government has limited the population’s movement through shelter-in-place directives and other measures beginning March 17 through the end of the month, in an effort to curb the spread of the contagious virus. The United Kingdom’s government has issued multiple directives in recent days for its citizens to work from home and for restaurants and other businesses to temporarily shut down.
U.S. European Command Commander Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters told reporters in a media call on Friday that about 35 of 72,000 US troops in Europe have tested positive for COVID-19, indicating that nearly half of U.S. troops worldwide that tested positive are on the continent. Earlier that morning, Defense Secretary Mark Esper shared in an interview on Fox and Friends that 67 service members have now tested positive for the coronavirus, up from 51 the day before.
Another blow to the defense trade show circuit was the announcement Friday that the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) was canceled. That event was scheduled for May 11-14 in Tampa, Florida, where the headquarters of U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base is based.
“NDIA and USSOCOM fully agree the safety and wellness of attendees and participants always are our utmost priority,” said Hawk Carlisle, NDIA’s president and CEO and a retired Air Force general. “We look forward to this important annual gathering of the special operations community and the people and businesses that support them, surrounded by the warm welcome of Tampa. We will look forward to this gathering next year.”
Recently, other conferences that have canceled their expected shows this year include the Space Foundation’s Space Symposium scheduled for March 30-April 2.
Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., said to expect to see more defense-related events canceled or postponed throughout the spring and summer.
“The ripple effects from this are going to be far and wide for aerospace companies,” Harrison wrote in an email to Defense Daily on Friday. “I expect that we will see a drop off in deals for new defense exports as other countries tighten their belts and fewer opportunities to market defense equipment are available.”
Remy Nathan, vice president for international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), called international air shows such as Farnborough “a critical part of our industry’s work to build and strengthen relationships with international partners and the U.S. government.”
“But in this uncertain time, the safety of the global aerospace and defense workforce and people around the world must be our top priority,” Nathan said in a Friday email. “We understand this decision by the Farnborough International Airshow organizers was difficult, but we are grateful for their leadership and look forward to returning to Farnborough and the United Kingdom in short order.”
Additional reporting by Cal Biesecker.