July is proving to be a fantastic month for UK avgeeks, having already enjoyed that amazing RAF100 flypast over London, followed by a stunning three days at RIAT and now the prospect of the Farnborough Airshow.
More than 80,000 people are expected to descend on north Hampshire for the duration of the show, eager to see the 150 aircraft on display. From the Great War display team through to the world most advanced and latest commercial jets like the A350-1000, the show will span more than 100 years of flying.
And as well as being a fantastic family day our, it’s also a hugely important trade show for the industry, where billions of pounds of deals are done.
The show itself might be starting this week, but we’ve been heavily involved in the planning stages for months.
For us in the tower at TAG Farnborough Airport, the airshow actually spans two weeks, with a week of ‘validations’ – or rehearsals – taking place the week before the trade and public show starts. This week is a balancing act for the team. As the UK’s busiest business airport, we have to make sure we can still provide a normal service to any traffic wanting to use the airfield, whilst planning in and taking advantage of any available slots for display aircraft to practice and get their display authorisation.
Every participating aircraft must go through this process and demonstrate that they can display to the required safety standards, before they will be granted approval to display throughout the show.
The airshow itself then presents us with new challenges beyond the day-to-day, so we also bring in a number of additional roles specifically to help. For example, a heliport is established throughout the show as many of the trade delegates tend to fly in for business during the trade days. Our Heli Radar controller, brought in especially or the show, coordinates the morning’s arrivals, afternoon departures as well as any helicopters that are displaying. This will be our first show where the tower team will use electronic flight progress strips, which will certainly help ease all the complex coordination the show requires.
Support also comes from our Swanwick Centre colleagues, with a London Terminal Control Liaison role in the tower to help coordinate airspace access for the fast jets that need to enter controlled airspace. Working together like this means helps ensure everyone involved fully understands the pressures and processes of other operational areas that are impacted by the airshow and can work together to help deliver a successful event.
Tower Coordinators and roles within the Air Operations Centre are also filled by employees from other operational units from around the country to help manage different aspects, like aircraft parking, arranging arrivals and departure slots, flight planning and briefing the aircrew.
Close coordination like this ensures that we deliver an efficient, and above all else, safe airshow for all involved. This year will be my first as the General Manager at Farnborough Tower and it’ll be hugely exciting to see the aircraft and spectators arrive this week.
If you’re coming along, have a great time and give us a wave in the tower.
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