Posted February 22, 2013 15:35:01
Say the word Airshow, and many will think of fatal fireballs and terrifyingly close calls as stunt pilots ply their trade.
Fingers’ crossed, a Royal Australian Air Force Hercules shooting fireworks-like flares next week is the closest the 2013 Avalon Airshow comes to that stereotype.
Rather, that is the “2013 Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition.”
“The thing about Avalon is that it really is two concurrent events,” Airshow Chef Executive Ian Honnery tells the ABC.
He speaks in short bursts, interrupted by a commentator describing the airliner-like comforts of the McDonnell-Douglas C-17A Globemaster Military Transport plane that roars overhead.
Mr Honnery continues; “Avalon is a major public aviation spectacular, and at the same time, it’s an international aerospace and defence aviation exposition.”
Meanwhile, the commentator informs us that the C-17 has two bedrooms and fully functioning toilets onboard, in case you were wondering.
The behemoth plane, capable of carrying 70 tonnes of cargo, is undoubtedly impressive.
The commentator is joined by RAAF Air Commodore David Pietsch.
Air Commodore Pietsch regales the assembled crowd with a tale of how an American C-17A was able to land, fully laden with earthmoving equipment, on a rough, unprepared patch of desert in Afghanistan. It then disgorged its cargo, allowing the machines to then plough a smoother airstrip for future operations.
Quite a feat no doubt, although hardly the sort of acrobatics display that is likely to draw the punters to an airshow. So why are the assembled scribes being told this?
Back to CEO Ian Honnery, and his two-shows-in-one explanation. “On the exposition side of it, what you have is six days of trade exhibitions – 600 exhibitors from 21 countries, 75 military and commercial delegations, 21 conferences and symposiums,” he explains.
The flags adorning the numerous marquees surrounding the tarmac sport a number of the aviation and defence contractors: Boeing, Northrop Grumman & Thales to name a few.
The purpose, he says, is simple.
“It’s not so much the deals that get done at an event like this, it’s the introductions and the networking that takes place,” he says.
“It’s important that Australian companies in particular are introduced to the internationals, and this is a great opportunity to do that, without the expense of going overseas.”
Victoria’s Aviation Minister, Gordon Rich-Phillips, has been on stage spruiking the benefits of the airshow to the local economy including $150 million in 2011 and $20 million for Geelong.
He has also announced that the show’s tenure has been expended. It will now continue, every other year, until 2025.
But it has hardly been a positive few years for Australian manufacturing. If the defence industry is driving this show, how secure is its future?
“There’s an old saying,” Ian Honnery begins, when asked that question. “When times are good, you should promote yourself. When times are bad, you have to promote yourself.”
He delivers his final line with a polished pause that suggests he has reeled it off a few times before. “We take Australia to the world by bringing the world to Australia,” he smiles.
Next week at the airshow, there will be acrobats walking on the wings of flying planes, stunt pilots, fireworks and 300-plus planes on display.
All set then, to attract the expected 195,000 visitors. But by the time they arrive, the show’s real purpose will be largely complete.Topics: air-transport, air-force, event, vic, geelong-3220