ILA Berlin, RIAT and Farnborough cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

The ILA Berlin Airshow, Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) have become the latest large-scale aviation events to be cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The events were scheduled to take place in May and July respectively and they have followed government recommendations to cancel large social gatherings to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which is becoming more rapid in Germany and in the UK.

ILA Berlin [ILA Berlin]
Cancelled! The 2020 editions of ILA Berlin, RIAT and FIA will not take place due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. ILA Berlin 

ILA Berlin organisers announced the cancellation of this year’s event on March 18 having agreed to do so with the German Aerospace Industries Association and Messe Berlin GmbH. As of March 20, Germany has almost 17,400 reported confirmed cases of the virus with 44 deaths and the government has issued a general order to cancel social gatherings that see more than 1,000 people attend. The trade show – which takes place every two years – fits this category, with the last edition seeing more than 1,100 exhibitors from over 40 nations and around 180,000 trade visitors and members of the general public in attendance.

Volker Thum, BDLI chief executive, said: “For us it is clear that we take responsibility for the exhibitors, partners and visitors at ILA 2020. We would like to expressly thank everyone whose commitment over the past few months helped to prepare for the ILA. Our high-tech industry is of strategic importance to the country. This crisis is a severe blow. Now, more than ever, we must stand shoulder to shoulder with policymakers and all our stakeholders.”

Spanish Harrier [RIAT] #1
A Spanish Navy EAV-8B Matador II taxis out to display at RIAT 2019. The show is held annually at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire. RIAT

The cancellation of RIAT – the largest military air show in the world – was announced by the organisers on March 20. In a press release from Douglas Bader House (DBH), the organisers said: “It is with enormous regret and disappointment that we have to announce the cancellation of this year’s [event], due to take place from 17 to 19 July, as a result of the challenging and unprecedented environment presented by COVID-19… The crisis, which is worsening by the day, and the implications of which are becoming more profound, has led us to conclude that the most prudent course of action is to cease any further planning to deliver this significant event… At the heart of this difficult decision is our firm belief that staging the Air Tattoo this year would not only run counter to current government advice but would also be beyond what we could reasonably ask of our supporters.”

The statement added that the participation of international air arms, medical professionals, military security teams and the emergency services would distract from the current crisis. 

Following the announcement that RIAT had been cancelled, organisers of the FIA 2020 released a statement, which said: “After careful consideration, the unprecedented impact of the global coronavirus pandemic has forced this decision in the interests of the health and safety of our exhibitors, visitors, contractors and staff… This decision was reached taking into consideration several major factors surrounding the outbreak of COVID-19, all of which we have concluded, make it impossible for us to create and host the airshow this July.”

Farnborough [FIA]
This year's FIA is the latest in a long line of big events in the aerospace industry to be cancelled due to COVID-19. FIA

These events are not the first shows to be cancelled this year, but they are by far two of the largest on the calendar. The NATO Tiger Meet 2020 Air Show – due to be held in Beja, Portugal – has been postponed until July, with the Eurasia Airshow – held at Antalya International Airport, Turkey – being moved to June. This year’s editions of shows, such as the Kazakhstan Defence Expo (KADEX) and MCAS Yuma Air Show have been completely cancelled.