The dazzling displays that delight the crowds every two years at the Farnborough Airshow always rightfully dominate the headlines, but there is also an enormous amount of work going on behind the scenes to make it all possible.

NATS, in one form or another, has been involved with the Farnborough Airshow since 1948 and for me this year marks the third time I’ve had the privilege to be the ATC general manager for the show.

Our job in the tower is to manage the air traffic during the show, working to ensure the 200,000 people who visit can be wowed by a series of stunning displays that this year will include the F-35B, A350, B787, Avro Vulcan, Red Arrows and a display to mark the centenary of the First World War.

It is an incredibly diverse display that includes aircraft spanning a century of flight – from triplanes to supersonic jets – all of which provides a unique air traffic control challenge

We use three watches of eight controllers during the show, all of whom have been working with the organisers over the past nine months to ensure everything runs smoothly and safely.

Our responsibilities at the show itself are diverse. As well as actually controlling from the tower and radar approach room, we provide twice daily pilot briefings, safety presentations and validations (confirmation that the pilot can fly safely by demonstrating it to the team) of aircraft displays, something we’ve been doing all this week.

We also run the Airport Operations Centre briefing room, where NATS organises briefings on the weather, flight planning, safety information, and the latest NOTAMs.

And it’s not just the show to contend with – our airport arrivals and departures continue as normal, as does the provision of LARS (Lower Airspace Radar Service) to ensure local traffic is kept safe and separated from any display traffic.

If you’re going next week, we hope you enjoy the show. It’s always a fantastic event, something we’re all incredibly proud to play a part in and from the top of the tower we have the best view in the house.

At the 2012 Farnborough Airshow:

  • $72 BILLION worth of orders were placed in the first week alone;
  • 27 displays and 59 Validations were performed;
  • The displays are between 2.5 hours and 5 hours each;
  • 650+ helicopters movements during display week;
  • 1550 Farnborough movements in the two weeks;
  • 365 show aircraft movements;
  • 100+ static display aircraft.

[All the photos in this post were taken by our Chief Executive, Richard Deakin, at the 2012 show. You can see more of Richard’s photos on his Flickr channel.]


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Selma Piric

Amazing pictures! Thanks for sharing.



Andy Foyston

Having been involved in 6 Air shows myself I know how much work goes into the preparation and the professionalism that is demonstrated by the ATC staff behind the scenes. I wish you all the best in a very busy fortnight on all fronts!



Robert Iles

Saturday 19 July.

My wife and I, and indeed the whole area of south west Aldershot was subjected to seven and a half hours of unpleasantly loud noise nuisance as wave after wave of helicopter A/C movements was made over it, thus denying everyone in the neighbourhood the pleasure of enjoying the (all too rare) summer weather in their gardens. This displayed a total lack of consideration by Farnborough ATC as they could, and indeed should, have been routed over a less densely populated area.


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