Making an Exhibition of Yourself

In all honesty,
who doesn’t like a good day out at the Airshow? I know I do. 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.

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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.

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

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.

But it isn’t
all business, 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

Unsurprisingly, it’s the Spitfire that boasts the events
main attraction. Ever since the public of England 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 Johnson. 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 Johnson. 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 Johnson says that “the event it 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 the 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

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.

Towards the South of the airfield you’ll find Aviatex, a commercial
trade show aimed squarely at the light sport, recreational and general aviation
markets. Held concurrently with the Illawarra Airshow, Aviatex exhibitors
include the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, AirServices
Australia, Recreational Aviation Australia, Gliding Federation of Australia, Hang
Gliding Federation of Australia and the Antique Aeroplane Association of
Australia. Of increasing popularity is the flight simulation stalls, with
supplies for both the desktop pilot through to demonstrations for fully
enclosed simulators manned by professional pilots.

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

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.  

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, organises of Rotortech have forged
several 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. For those in the helicopter industry, it’ll be a priority on the wall
planner this year.

Over in Tamora, 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 website. 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.

Showcasing the multitude of
career prospects that aviation has to offer, Aviatex General Aviation Expo and
Careers Showcase is due to arrive at Bankstown Airport this November. Geared towards
recreational and general aviation enthusiasts, Aviatex provides attendees with
the opportunity to get up close to aircraft, equipment, simulators and services
with some of the best experts in the industry.

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, 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.  According to the Aviatex website “Being
employed within the aviation industry is more than just becoming a pilot. For
general aviation to thrive in the future we need to cover all aspects of what
make the industry tick. Aviatex will feature all fields within the aviation
industry including flight training, engineering, management, air traffic control,
light aircraft to airlines, civil and military engineers, flight attendants and

Airshows have been an 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. 


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