Farnborough Airshow – the year’s largest aerospace expo and a showcase for billions of dollars in business deals – is the latest major event cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis, organisers said.
Promoters also cancelled the world’s largest military air show, Britain’s Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), in July.
The back-to-back airshows draw tens of thousands of visitors including military top brass, planemakers and suppliers from around the world to network and do business.
The cancellations, following the scrapping of Berlin and Geneva shows scheduled for May, are more evidence of the severity of the crisis as virus-related travel bans seize airline balance sheets and divert the attention of participating governments.
“Buying new aircraft is on hold. There is not an airline in the world that would consider it is the right time to buy unless the deal is exceptional,” said aviation expert Howard Wheeldon, at every Farnborough event since 1968.
He predicted the slowdown would last six to 12 months.
Held on alternate years, Farnborough and the Paris Airshow are barometers for the $800 billion aerospace industry, which was looking to a soft landing after a decade of growth driven by record jet demand and robust defence spending.
Although many announcements are prepared in advance, the flow of orders is hard to predict as competing planemakers encourage airlines to boost airshow deal tallies.
Instead, the focus tilted toward keeping deliveries going and helping airlines and suppliers survive rather than filling order books, industry sources said.
Two executives said it could be months or even until 2021 before planemakers post any significant new orders, other than a handful of commitments in the pipeline.
In a worst-case scenario, that raises the prospect a battered industry would have to withstand a second wave of virus concerns from December, a top aerospace executive said.
The virus has upset plans for military pageants.
Although it takes a backseat to Farnborough in publicity, RIAT is a busy meeting place for military leaders. A staple component of the British summer, its deck chairs, straw hats and fighter debuts earned it the nickname “Wimbledon of War”.