In a move that may mark the beginning of a new era for defense and aerospace companies, the country's biggest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin will eliminate 50 percent of its usual participation at July's Farnborough Air Show.
On top of that, CEO Bob Stevens told reporters that he would not attend the show. Traditionally, the CEOs of all major defense and aerospace companies that exhibit at the Farnborough and Paris air shows go to meet with government customers, each other and the press.
Stevens made the announcement at a symbolic event, a restrained breakfast held at one of the company's facilities in Crystal City, Va., home to offices of many defense companies. The breakfast was held in lieu of the usual elegant dinner in London produced one or two nights before the show starts. Lockheed's CEO usually attends the dinner and news is often made at the repast.
Stevens cited what he called the "new reality" of increased demands and constrained resources. He made clear the Farnborough move would be echoed across the company. "We have to find ways to do more with less," he said, in a clear echo of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' recent pledge to scour the Pentagon budget and find $100 billion in savings over the next five years.
For those who have not attended a major air show, here are some statistics that offer a glimpse of just how important these events are to the industry. These are official statistics for the 2008 Farnborough show.
$88.7 billion worth of business was announced at the 2008 show (2006 figure was US$42 billion).
285,636 visits took place during show week 2008 – 132,636 trade visitors and 153,000 public visitors.
There were 29 national and regional pavilions.
70 delegations from 38 countries visited 151 companies, resulting in 603 company meetings.
165 aircraft took part.