In many respects, it was inevitable the industry would reach this point: a major aerospace and defense company says “no” to a major air show.
That Northrop Grumman is doing so with its decision to neither exhibit nor have a business center at the Farnborough air show in 2012 is nevertheless a remarkable move. The company cites concerns over defense budget cutbacks, particularly in the U.S., as the reason it has reassessed its spending priorities.
Industry officials have long grumbled about the costs of events such as Farnborough and, even more, the Paris air show. Given the weak dollar in recent years, U.S. firms have felt the financial pain even more than their European counterparts.
And while companies have been cutting back, nobody has so far had the guts to simply walk away. What makes the Northrop move particularly striking is that some of the company’s former CEOs – Kent Kresa and Ron Sugar – were generally seen as more internationalist than others in the U.S. industry, giving added weight to the decision taken at the highest levels of the corporation.
The move raises several questions. One is, does Northrop Grumman give other companies, particularly in the U.S., top cover to follow its lead?
Conversely, how will event organizers respond? Will they change their approach or will they simply hope Northrop’s move is a one-off?