In all honesty, who doesn’t like a good day out at the Airshow?
I know I adore trotting out to every Airshow possible. The aircraft, the static displays, the aviation-based shopping and exhibitions on offer… Every time I end up at an aviation event it’s like I died and went to heaven all over again.
Airshow events have been an enduring fixture alongside aviation. Held in the August of 1909, the “Grande Semaine d’Aviation de la Champagne”(otherwise known as the Rheims Aviation Meeting) is considered to be the first international aviation gathering. Attracting close to 500,000 spectators, the week-long assembly drew aviators from all over the world to compete in races, or competitions to stay airborne for the longest amount of time. Despite rain, mud and fierce winds, the fledgling aviators endured, with performances continuing each day of the event.
World War I, pilots found themselves with very little to do. So, to maintain their skills in the air, gatherings at county fairs or other events would herald in aviation demonstrations. As long as the site was within the reach of an airfield, pilots would show off their skills, inspiring the public below, which in turn drove the aviation industry for future generations.
Airshows have been an enduring presence in aviation ever since. And fortunately for us plane-lovers, Australia and its surrounds are blessed with an abundance of Airshows and exhibitions dotted around the region, so there are plenty of opportunities to check out the latest and greatest, without missing out on the classics that got us here in the first place.
The most direct descendant of that very first event in Rheims back in 1909 is undoubtedly the Paris Airshow, occurring in June each year. In terms of size, it’s said to the world’s largest aviation event after the UK’s Farnborough with over 350,000 visitors.It has a large trade fair component, demonstrating military and civilian aircraft, and is attended by many military forces and the major aircraft manufacturers, often announcing major aircraft sales. One Gallic perennial, whose TBM aircraft have found a distinct niche in the Aussie market, is Daher who will be zipping off to Paris to show off their streamlined TBM 910 and 930 models. These speed machines will have already made the trek from our warmer climes, appearing at our region’s biggest event the month in Singapore.
As Asia’s largest aerospace and defence event, the Singapore Airshow is coming up fast in February with both a trade and exhibition component to cover serious aviators and the curious public alike. According to a recent media release, Boeing and Airbus predict that the Asia-Pacific region will account for 39% to 41% of total new global aircraft deliveries by 2036. “That means that the Singapore Airshow serves as the key gateway to tap into the wealth of potential opportunities in the Asia-Pacific – the world’s fastest growing region for the aerospace and defence industry.”
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the event offers conferences, forums and co-located events, with leading industry players and governmental representatives contributing conversations and ideas and seeking solutions and opportunities to partner-up and seal deals among leading aerospace companies and newcomers. The Airshow Trade Event also offers services in key areas like cybersecurity, unmanned aviation systems, avionics and connected aircraft, predictive maintenance, additive manufacturing and aircraft health monitoring. Overall, the business end of the Singapore Airshow will be showcased by over 1,000 participating companies spanning some 50 countries, notably flying the flag for our home team, Hawker Pacific will be there promoting their impressive, state-of-the-art MRO units. Hawker’s business aviation support services have enjoyed significant growth in the Asia Pacific region, providing the local aviation community with MRO services, modifications and upgrades, and other support services for a wide range of aircraft. Its Singapore facility maintains approvals from 18 national aviation authorities, and also accreditations as an avionics installer, an engine line-servicing centre and a wheels and battery inspection/repair centre.
But it isn’t all business in Singapore – prized display teams playing their part in the all-day aerial displays include the F-15SG and F-16C from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), the Gripen of the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) the T-50 Black Eagles Aerobatic Team of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) and the F-16 from the United States Air Force (USAF). An impressive variety of static displays include the P-8A Poseidon and EA-18G Growler. Also returning to the biennial event is the Indonesian Jupiter team which impressed spectators with its moves in back in 2014.
Back home, the Tyabb Airshow will again be in full swing in March this year. Held bi-annually, the Airshow was originally set up in the early 70’s to finance the “Angel of Mercy”- the world’s first helicopter to be fully equipped as an aerial ambulance. Nowadays the show dedicates profit generated from the event to charities including Headspace, CFA, Legacy, Men’s Sheds, Literary Villages, Rosebud Hospital Maternity Wing, Hastings SES, Bays Hospital and this year, Riding for the Disabled.
This year’s theme for the Tyabb Airshow is War and Peace and, as Ian Johnson, publicity manager for the event explains “we will be showcasing warbirds from WWI to the present day… as well as a collection of civil aircraft both old and new.” The line-up also includes the Australian designed and built Boomerang fighter, a formation of Australian designed military trainers to the world’s only flying Hudson Bomber”.
According to Mr Johnson, crowd favourites include “the WWI Sopwith Snipe or Pup replicas, to the roar of the Merlin powered Mustangs, or the excitement of the Southern Knights doing a formation aerobatic routine in their smoke trailing Harvards. The Paul Bennet Air Show “Sky Aces” team always thrill with their high powered low level aerobatic displays whilst the spitfire always thrills. However almost everyone always talks about the RAAF Roulettes and the other RAAF displays long after the show”.
But, as Mr Johnson explains, it might be another aircraft that looks to be the drawcard to the event, “perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the Airshow will be the CAC Mustang CA-18 Fighter A68-199”. A68-199, paired with the A68-200 were both delivered to the RAAF in 1953 “but 200 was wiped out during a forced landing at Wommera [SA], leaving A68-199, as the world’s youngest Mustang standing”. Originally planned for the British as a medium-altitude “pursuit” fighter to defend against German air raids in 1940, the Mustang soon found fame in the offensive role and will no doubt be a spectacular sight for viewers, as well as an insight into the history of aviation.
Mr Johnson explains that the amount of detail in organising the event has been growing alongside increasing audience numbers each year. “It is really only made possible through the tremendous effort of the now experienced team of volunteers who recognize and are motivated by the community benefits which accrue from running the show”. “In fact,” he continues, “some of these volunteers, who have been working on the show planning for the whole two years…may not even get to see the flying display because of their duties on the actual show day”.
“It does entertain the general public who are not usually very aviation minded” says Mr Johnson, “it helps educate them a little about the legacy of aviation as well in both the civil and military arenas. It will also encourage some younger visitors to consider a career in aviation. Overall it must be said that the public enjoy the show because they support it in increasing numbers each time”.
The Yarram Centenary of Flight will also be celebrated in March this year to commemorate the first military air mission over Australian soil during WWI based out of Yarram, Victoria.
On 20 March 1917, McNamara earned his VC while flying a Martinsyde as one of four No. 1 Squadron pilots taking part in a raid against a Turkish railway junction near Gaza. McNamara had successfully dropped three shells when the fourth exploded prematurely, badly injuring his leg. Having turned to head back to base, he spotted a fellow squadron member from the same mission, Captain Douglas Rutherford, on the ground beside his crash-landed B.E.2. McNamara saw that a company of Turkish cavalry was fast approaching Rutherford’s position. Despite the rough terrain and the gash in his leg, McNamara landed near Rutherford and successfully rescued him under heavy fire while also negotiating engine damage.
Promoted to captain on 10 April 1917, McNamara became a flight commander in No. 4 Squadron AFC but found he was unable to continue flying due to his leg wound. Found to be medically unfit for active service, McNamara was discharged from the Australian Flying Corps on 31 January 1918. Panic caused by the intrusion into Australian waters of the German raider, Wolf, resulted in him being recalled to the AFC and put in charge of an aerial reconnaissance unit based in Yarram. Piloting a FE2B aircraft from Yarram, he set off into Bass Strait looking for the German raider which was laying mines in the area. McNamara was the first Australian aviator—and the only one in World War I—to receive the Victoria Cross. He later became a senior commander in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
The celebration of the centenary of McNamara’s flight will include a full Paul Bennett Airshow as well as adventure rides and a hangar converted to feature the story of the mission and the aviation history surrounding the area.
Like the Tyabb Airshow, Warbirds Over Wanaka had small beginnings in what general manager Mr Ed Taylor describes as a “sleepy little town just over the hill from Queenstown [NZ]”. The Airshow’s founder, Ser Tim Wallis was involved in several ventures in farming and tourism, but his passion was Warbird aircraft. Mr Taylor explains the story, “over the years [Tim Wallis] amassed a world-class collection of Warbird aircraft including the likes of the Spitfire, Hurricane, Corsair, P51, Polikarpov and many others. The Airshow was… quickly established as the biggest Warbirds Airshow in the Southern Hemisphere – a title the event still boasts today”.
Held over Easter this year, Warbirds Over Wanaka is celebrating its 30th anniversary by bringing back some old favourites. “We are bringing back some popular acts which haven’t performed at Wanaka for a number of years” says Mr Johnson. The line-up includes a “mass formation displays of up to 13 North American T-6 Harvards, a ‘Big-4’ WWII fighter display, a stunning glider display set to classical music and a display by the [Royal New Zealand Air Force] RNZAF B757. The RNZAF will also be involved for the first time with the free community Airshow event on the Wanaka lakefront late on the Friday afternoon with the C-130 Hercules set to put on a crowd-stopping display. The NZ Air Force will be joined by Hawk Jets and a Spartan display from the RAAF along with participation by the French and US air forces”.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the Spitfire that boasts the events main attraction. Ever since the English public were encouraged to raise funds to build Spitfires during the war, the aircraft has always been the peoples’ plane. And its no different here. “the Airshow always has at least one Spitfire at the show”, says Mr Taylor. The unique location of the Airshow also affords the unique experience of seeing the Catalina Flying Boat land on Lake Wanaka.
In terms of gear, trade stalls and are often just as busy as the display area with international brands including Pilatus, Hawker Pacific, Cirrus, Bose, Garmin and Bremont all staking out a claim in the mass of marquees. “We have exhibitors…selling everything from aircraft to earplugs” says Mr Taylor. In addition, a designated area, WOW Mart, is dedicated to aviators looking to buy, sell or swap spare parts has been allocated for serious aircraft-related business.
Pilots participating in the Airshow include New Zealand’s Keith Skilling who has displayed in every Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow since it’s beginnings. Overseas pilots include John Romain, World Aerobatic Champion Jurgis Kairys of Lithuania and ex-USAF Thunderbird F-16 display team pilot Paul ‘Sticky’ Strickland. But with such big names in the aviation sphere making an appearance at the event, Mr Taylore says that “the event has not lost its ‘country fair’ feel and the pilots mingle with the crowd and are more than happy to chat – especially about anything to do with flying and Warbirds”.
Wings Over Illawarra, coming up in May, has the distinction of performing displays against the scenic backdrop of the Macquarie Pass National Park. Last year, over 30,000 people converged on the Illawarra Regional Airport, a record for the show, with many more tuning in to a live feed of the event on Facebook.
WOI 2018 is expected to host the largest collection of Australian Defence Force aircraft ever seen in Illawarra. And although the ADF is yet to confirm exactly what aircraft will be attending this year, the expected line-up includes the RAAF F/A-18A/B Hornet, C-17A Globemaster III, C-130J Hercules, RAN MRH90 Taipan and S-70B-2 Seahawk and the UH-60 Black Hawk.
Among the static aircraft anticipated to be on display will be many of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society’s ventures including the F86 Sabre, Neptune, Catalina, DC4, Super Constellation and Boeing 747-400. Other static displays include the Consolidated PBY Catalina, Lockheed 1049 Super Constellation, De Havilland DH-82 Tiger Moth and Douglas C-47 Dakota.
Of particular interest is a F-111C bomber. Designated A8-190, the F-111 is an ex-United States Air Force, seeing combat in Vietnam. Purchased by the RAAF in 1982, A8-109 became the world’s last operational F-111 when its engines were shut down for the final time on 3 December 2010.
This year’s event will also feature for the first time a huge carnival with plenty of spectacular rides for visitors of all ages and a sideshow alley plus four action-packed Freestyle Motocross displays across each day of the show.
Previously twinned with the Illawarra Airshow, Aviatex is a commercial trade show aimed squarely at the recreational and general aviation markets. This year the event will be taking place at Bankstown in November and is a perfect opportunity to view, discuss and compare the latest aviation products, equipment and services with some of the best experts in the industry. Not only will there be aviation equipment on display but Aviatex will be bursting with the latest GA aircraft for you to drool over.
In keeping with its goal to comprehensively represent the GA market, visitors to the event will get invaluable input from suppliers, buyers, associations, operators, media, pilots and enthusiasts. The expo will feature briefings and seminars from Government authorities including CASA (the Civil Aviation Safety Authority) and the ADF (Australian Defence Force) along with workshops, information sessions and new innovations from private enterprises.
With a goal to enable young adults who are weighing up career options, showing enthusiasts how to turn their passion for aviation into a lifestyle and lifelong career, the careers component of the showcase will have representatives from universities and TAFE colleges, airlines, military recruitment programs and flight training institutions, all aviation enthusiasts keen to impart some wisdom, a few stories and a nudge in the right direction.
Aviatex will also include a mixture of education sessions, networking opportunities, simulators and exhibits for attendees to get a taste of the aviation industry.
Now, it’s true that aviation exhibitions do seem to be dominated with fixed-wing aircraft. But Rotor Tech, the helicopter showcase for Australia, New Zealand and the Oceanic region has something to say about that. Hosted every two years at the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, the Rotortech Conference and Exposition brings together operators, helicopter and equipment manufacturers, suppliers, service providers and of course, pilots and engineers.
On his first visit to Australia, one serious highlight in the Rotortech program is a keynote address by Mr Chuck Aaron, the only pilot licenced by the FAA to perform aerobatics in a helicopter in the USA – and one of only three licenced in the world. As the 2013 inductee into the Living Legends of Aviation and the recipient of the 2014 Pilot of the Year Award, there isn’t much Mr Aaron doesn’t know about flying, and conference attendees will be eager hear first-hand accounts from the man behind dizzying feats like the opening sequence of James Bond’s Spectre. “It’s going to be the highlight of the year!” says Mr Ken Keech, Executive Manager Civil Aviation Relations for Aerospace Australia Ltd excitedly.
Helicopter use in Australia sees a vast variety of applications, from air ambulance to tourism to cattle mustering, and each of these require a distinct level of expertise and skill. To address current and future challenges the industry faces, organisers of Rotortech have forged panels of participants whose combined experience spans the gamut of the rotary wing operations.
Issues ranging from updated safety regimens to the future of the rotary regulatory landscape will be addressed across numerous panel discussions over the three days of the event. Topical for the season, a firefighting awareness workshop will also be held, with experts and keynote speakers discussing the trajectory of Australia and its surrounds’ firefighting capabilities. “In addition, it’s the first time in Australia that we’ve had major helicopter manufacturers conducting technical workshops at a conference” says Mr Keech “With manufactures including Sikorsky, Helitech, Airbus, Bell and Robinson”.
“We’ve got over 60 exhibitors at the moment, with plenty more to come” says Mr Keech “and we have already got over a dozen helicopters to be displayed. For those in the helicopter industry, it certainly looks to be a priority on the wall planner this year.”
Over in Temora, Warbirds Downunder is back for another round towards the end of 2018. But you’ll have to adjust the notes on your calendar to make the event this year. Previously in November, this year the event will be held in October to avoid warm weather conditions. Warbirds Downunder 2015 saw the largest gathering of Warbird Aircraft Australia has ever seen, and the 2018 Airshow promises to be just as impressive – “with the possibility of some added extras” according to the orgnaisers. The full line-up of aircraft will be published as the Airshow approaches, but will include an evening Airshow on Friday 12 October 12 2018 and a full Airshow programme on Saturday 13 October 2018.
And for something a little different, Temora Shire Council will again be offering self-contained airfield camping. A ‘Glamping’ (glamorous camping) option will also be available for those looking for the opportunity to literally wake up and smell the Av gas in style.
Airshows have been a constant presence in aviation history since early pioneers took to the skies. And with so many of aviation-based goings on this year, the difficult bit might be narrowing down options. Nevertheless, a new year means it’s time to mark up your calendars, plan your sick days off work and head out to see what the world’s finest in aviation has instore this time around.