Meet the Head of Flight Operations at Farnborough International Airshow

Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) is arguably the most important airshow in the world with exhibitors eager to display their products on a global stage. The static and flying displays are a strategic showcase for organisations. Flying will be at the heart of next July’s FIA. For Farnborough International’s Head of Flight Operations, Hayley Boyton, 2020 promises to impress: “There’s a lot to look forward to; five days of action packed displays will excite like no other.

Head of Flight Operations

FIA takes place on an airfield at Europe’s busiest business airport, but the pre-WW2 site does not lend itself easily to the show. The extensive static display is a challenge to plot due to a lack of hardstanding. In addition to this, a complex logistics operation coordinates two-and-a-half-hours of daily displays. 2018’s display showcased a total of 109 aircraft. Highlights included the air display debut for the Airbus 330 neo and Embraer E190-E2, and 2020 promises a phenomenal line-up.

Hayley Boyton, Head of Flight Operations

At Farnborough International, this fascinating yet complex task is overseen by the flight operations team, which is headed by Hayley Boyton: “I’ve always worked for companies in aerospace but I wanted a new challenge. This ticked all the boxes. I joined Farnborough International as ‘Flight Operations Manager’ in January 2018 following five years at TAG Aviation.

“The industry fascinates me. Having grown up in the area it’s difficult to escape the association with aerospace. Of course the Airshow is the pinnacle of this and I’m proud to now be so heavily involved.

“This role has given me a huge amount of exposure. Working alongside fantastic colleagues and stakeholders, I am gaining insight like no other. My responsibilities are varied. From managing our relationship with exhibitors, to plotting the aircraft on the site, this role is far-reaching.

“It can be challenging, we’re dealing with clients who are competitors, so we need to ensure that we understand all commercial and political agendas.”

Women in Aviation

There is much discussion and attention being paid to the fact women are underrepresented in aerospace, especially at senior level, but women like Hayley are helping reverse this trend.

Hayley adds: “Aerospace has long trailed on the issue of gender diversity. The majority of senior roles are filled by men, but this should not be a deterrent for women. Being equipped with the right skills and exposed to aspirational figures at an early stage are key.”

Next July’s promises an exciting new look and feel with the introduction of ‘Farnborough Friday’, a highly anticipated addition to the week focussing on inspiring young people into STEM careers.

Hayley continues: “Farnborough Friday will also come to life, which is going to present opportunities for a new generation wanting to get into aerospace. As a woman in a male-dominated arena I’ve seen first-hand that early engagement with girls is crucial. Where better to get this than at the birthplace of British aviation.”

“At the 2018 Airshow we signed the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter, demonstrating as an industry, we are committed building a balanced and fairer industry for women.” The charter has more than 100 signatories and reflects the industry’s aspiration to see gender balance at all levels in the sector.

The charter also reflects the recognised shortage of women studying STEM subjects and this will be a key element of the Friday: “Farnborough Friday’s STEM focus will act as a showcase for careers in aerospace. There will be inspiration for a new generation wanting to pursue a career in these industries.”

The best in the business: Farnborough International Airshow 2020

Organising a flying display is a multi-faceted process; the logistics are complex and protecting the public is paramount, so with this comes huge responsibility as Hayley explains: “Safety comes first. We know we’re on a global stage and are exemplary for other airshows.

“We have established relationships with key figures. We recently attended the CAA & MAA’s Post-Season Symposium. It’s unusual for trade shows to attend conferences like this, but we need to be immersed in discussions covering regulation and safety awareness with our industry colleagues year-round.”

Aligned with Hayley is the Flying Control Committee (FCC), an instrumental body behind the airshow. This panel consists of ex-RAF fighter pilots and other influential figures, reaffirming that this is no small feat for Hayley: “It’s incredible to think that this is my reality. I work with a group of seriously inspirational people who have decades of experience behind them. For me, the highlight of this role is being able to deliver an unrivalled, world-class display which comes only as a result of this dedication and expertise.

“Come the Monday morning of the show, when I see the aircraft lined up across the site, that’s when it really hits me. Knowing that I’ve helped deliver something on this scale makes me extremely proud. I hope this can inspire generations below.”

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