Strategic Meetings Summit London, 26 September,
September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
Our roving reporter, Bob Milichap, the ex Virgin Atlantic pilot and one time BeCal PR man, has been to Australia to see how they organise air shows. He is clearly impressed.
Perhaps there's something about being Down Under that can make antipodean things somewhat topsy turvey.
For how else could Australia's bi-annual international air show get away with presenting a two-hour flying display entirely after sunset as a major highlight?
Well try the famed Aussie flare for showmanship at its very best as an explanation. For that is exactly what it was - a dazzling spectacle of pyrotechnics, ranging from 130ft sheets of fire from fuel 'dumping and burning' F-111 strike aircraft to flaming turbochargers from a 1950s Super Constellation airliner thundering around the night sky.
But it was not all pure entertainment. Behind this facade of barnstorming excitement lay one of the major international aerospace shows in the Asia/Pacific region.
Held at Avalon, 30 miles south of Melbourne, the show attracted some 40,000 professional visitors and reflected an optimistic business mood despite the war clouds looming over the Middle East.
Although the commercial aviation front was quiet in relation to the military activity at the show, exhibitors were pleased with the quality of business enquiries they were receiving and most companies reported a busy week that was an improvement on the 2001 effort.
Qantas lead the way in reporting its smoothest ever new aircraft introduction with its recently acquired A330-200 aircraft, two of which are now flying on the airline's domestic routes. Fleet Manager, Capt Bruce Simpson, who commanded the 16,900 km non-stop, 19hr 39 min, Toulouse-Melbourne record-breaking first delivery flight earlier this year, said the new aircraft had opened the way for the airline to remodel its long established operating culture with improved efficiencies.
A case in point had been its bold decision to launch operations from the start with Spirent electronic flight bags in which all technical, flight and navigation manual information has been computerised. Initially, these are being used in parallel with traditional paper documentation but the A330 fleet should be all-electronic by the end of the year and position Qantas as a pioneering airline in the field.
The airline has 13 A330s on order and will acquire both the 200 and 300 series, although the precise mix of variants has still yet to be determined. Qantas also has an order for 12 A380s in hand.
At the other end of the operating scale, Qantas was ringing the praises of the regional turboprop with the imminent delivery of three new 50-seat Bombardier Q300s to add to the five already in service with a single Q200 on its Qantas Link regional network.
Virgin Blue was also in the aircraft delivery frame with the first of a new order for 10 Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft due to arrive in August 2003. It also holds options on a further 40 aircraft.
Justification for this expansive activity was reflected in Sydney Airport's reporting of a 12.7% hike in it half-year pre-tax profits on the back of US $110 million earnings achieved in the six months to the end of 2002. A total of 2.25 million passengers was handled in the last quarter of the year and international passenger traffic increased by 3%.
On the hardware front, there were no major airliner types on display other than one of the two Qantas A330s which appeared in the static line up on the final day.
At the other end of the scale, regional airliners were equally poorly represented and only one type, a Bombardier Q400, was on show. Nevertheless, all the main manufacturers reported strong behind-the-scenes interest in the wake of the demise of Ansett and the emergence of new airlines such as Regional Express (REX) that have appeared in place of former Ansett franchised regional operators.
Business jets were however present in some numbers and all the major manufacturers reported a significant increase in serious sales enquiries from right across the Asia-Pacific rim when compared to the 2001 show. However, this didn't appear to reflect a post-September 11 move away from airline flying by business travellers but was more indicative of improving market conditions. Gulfstream, who found all the trade days were generating serious enquiries as opposed to just the first day last time, attributed this increasing interest to a steady general improvement in the region's corporate aircraft airport infrastructure such as an increase in operating slots.
The needs of aviation security were still in the background however and without fanfare Gulfstream announced that BAE Systems' Matador Infrared counter measures equipment would be offered as an optional extra on its latest G500 and G550 aircraft from June 2003 and complement the systems already available for the smaller G300 and G400 to guard against ground or air launched heat seeking missiles.
It wasn't all high tech aerospace wizardry that was on sale though. Standing at the entrance was a pristine Spitfire that was up for auction and expected to attract a very modern-day aerospace price tag of Aus $1 million plus even though it was not in flying condition.
If Avalon was indeed attempting to emulate its British cousin then it surely succeeded in one major respect.
For in the midst of the country's worst drought in years, the airfield was subject to a sudden, unforecast deluge of rain right in the middle of an otherwise cloudless week.
And there's not much that could be more typical of Farnborough than that!