The 2015 Australia International Airshow

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Editor’s note: the Australian International Aerospace and Defence Exposition 2017 and the 2017 Australian International Airshow will occur between February 28th and March 5th. Here’s a look back at the last event, two years ago…

The Australian International Airshow 2015 was the twelfth event staged at Avalon Airport, near Geelong, Victoria. The Australian International Airshow (also known as the Avalon Airshow) is held every two years, and runs for six days… with the first three being a trade-only event and a public air show following it.

The concurrent major international event was the Australian International Aerospace & Defence Exposition 2015, a major trade event for aviation, aerospace and defence industries. The fourth day of the show is always on a Friday, and the public begins to arrive around midday and stays for the night show, a feature of Avalon for well over fifteen years. The final two days are over the weekend and, as you might expect, are packed with the public enjoying the flying and static displays.

History of the Airshow

The Avalon Airshow is the largest event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. It brings aviation and aerospace professionals together, as well as key defence personnel, aviation enthusiasts and the general public.

The Airshow originally started as a country airshow at Schofields in outer Western Sydney in 1976. In 1992 the airshow came to Victoria at the invitation of Jeff Kennett. Mr. Kennett, who was the Premier at the time, was keen to establish a technology-based event that would attract key industry and defence representatives, as well as tourists. It has become a major event every two years, and is well known on the world airshow calendar.

The 2015 Airshow Event

The Australian International Airshow 2015 paid tribute to the “Heroes of the Sky”, the Anzacs, the heroes of military aviation. The show’s main theme marked the century of the Australia New Zealand Army Corp (ANZAC), and the first significant observance of the Gallipoli campaign centenary year. A large number of historic warbirds were sourced from Australia and New Zealand to take part in the event.

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Almost a hundred aircraft took part in the aerial display, and many World War I replicas took to the air and did an awesome reenactment of scouting and air combat in front of the crowd, for a moving tribute to the brave aviators who were the heroes of the sky from Gallipoli to the present day – some one hundred years later. The remainder of the show saw a welcome return of many favourites including Skip Stewart, Melissa Pemberton, Yurgis Kairis, and Bob Carlton and his jet powered glider. Warbirds from the RAAF Museum, Temora and HARS were displayed, and new stars included Paul Bennet with his highly modified Wolf Pitts Pro.

Australia was lucky to see the new Airbus A400M Atlas in attendance, keen to sell to other countries’ air forces, even as a quick replacement for the C-130J for the RAAF. The A400 left on Thursday going back home – all the way here and no public aerial display!

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The public display began on Friday afternoon with ‘Friday Night Alight” and went through to darkness with a great fireworks display and night flying show. It is currently the only airshow in the southern hemisphere that includes a night display.

The evening display included several civilian acts operating with pyrotechnics, such as the Salto Jet Glider and “Otto the Helicopter.” as well as the HARS Lockheed Constellation (Connie) and the RAAF C-130J dropping flares. Other civilian acts at the show included the Global Stars flying two UK-based Extra 300s and a trio of American aerobatic pilots forming The Immortals.

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The show also had some of the crowd favourites like the RAAF Roulettes (six PC-9s), the F/A-18A Hornet solo display (complete with flares!) and the USAF Pacific Air Forces F-16C from the 35th Fighter Wing 13th Fighter Squadron based in Japan, which amazed the crowd, with its high speed run, high G-turns and low speed into afterburner passes.

There were a couple of new attractions to the Airshow, one being a display from the Royal Singapore Air Force Black Knights, who performed a great two-ship routine comprising of a selection of formation and opposition manoeuvres. Avalon was one of only two international shows the team displayed at in 2015. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) also performed an airfield attack with the ARH Tigers and the MRH90 Taipan. 2015 was the first time they flew during the Avalon airshow.

Also in the attack was an ACM with F/A-18F, paradrop of army troops from three C-130Js, a C-17 landing two Bushmaster assault vehicles, the E-7, KC-30 and AP-3C, the KC-30 refuelling the Hornets, and the AP-3C bombing a submarine.

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Another highlight was a flypast of three generations of fighters in RAAF service – a Sabre, Meteor and Hornet. Sadly it was the Sabre’s final flight for some time as Martin Baker has stopped supplying parts for the ejection seat.

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Several other old aircraft were also on display, including a Neptune, Hudson, Catalina, Dakota, Caribou and several fighters from WWII. The fighters joined up for a mixed flypast which included the P-40, P-51 and Spitfire.

Controversially the USAF F-22 appeared only on static. While it was meant to do a display the display pilot was assigned other duties over the show week, a cause of much upset on the Australian International Airshow’s Facebook page.

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The Mighty Boeing B-52H Stratofortress returned with a static example on display every day of the airshow. In addition, a single B-52 conducted a flyby on the first public day of the event. The B-52 flew nonstop from Anderson AFB in Guam and conducted a few flybys and returned back to Guam.

For people from overseas, this is definitely an airshow you should come and see; it is held every two years with the next one in early 2017.

Australian International Aerospace & Defence Exposition

These excerpts are from Organizers and Press Releases about the event:

THE Australian International Airshow 2015 (AIA15) ran from February 24 and wrapped up on March 1 with tens of thousands of people attending over the six days and more than $1.25 billion worth of aviation and defence-related deals done. The exposition was one of the best yet with 600 exhibitors present; 100 civilian, military and science delegations attending; and 38 conferences and symposiums held. On the public days, crowds were forming at the entry points more than two hours before the gates opened – a sign that the popularity of the airshow has not diminished. Air Force was, as usual, the strongest single contributor to the airshow, with all force element groups and assets represented.

Director of AIA15 AIRCDRE David Pietsch paid particular tribute to Air Force and other ADF personnel who worked tirelessly before, during and after the event. “They were magnificent,” he said. “It was their presentation, enthusiasm, professionalism and hard work. Their efforts were the reason the airshow was so good.” AIRCDRE Pietsch said what was not understood was that the site was worked on every two years and it took a lot of effort. “It was similar to building up a bare base,” he said.

The airshow also saw many updates and announcements from the P-8A Poseidon and MQ-4C Triton UAS to Australia’s new OneSky initiative, which will bring civil and military air traffic control together under one air traffic management system for the first time, improving aviation efficiency and safety. “Airshows like Avalon are critical for us,” AIRCDRE Pietsch said. “We had the highlight of the Global Hawk flying in from Guam”.AIRCDRE Pietsch closed the curtain on his airshow career with Avalon being his last, but he said this year’s was one of the best. “AIA at Avalon keeps getting bigger and better every year,” he said. “2015’s ‘Heroes of the Sky’ theme was a resounding success with the public and all ADF personnel who were there.”

The big value of this year’s announcements stemmed mainly from two projects worth about $1bn in total announced during the show by the federal government. These were the awarding of the OneSKY joint air navigation system contract to Thales Australia, estimated to be worth about $600 million in the implementation phase, and a move by Australia and Norway to co-operate on the development of a maritime missile for F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, calculated by the Avalon organisers to be worth about $400m.

Organisers also cited an order signed at the show by Toll Holdings for eight AgustaWestland AW 139 helicopters. Holdings signed at the airshow orders for eight AW-139 helicopters to be used in a NSW Air Ambulance contract, worth about $120m, and a $60m decision by Westpac to lease four AW139s.  Toll Group announced it would establish an Agusta-Westland authorised training centre and rival manufacturer Sikorsky handed over its first of four S-92 choppers to Bond Helicopters and Brisbane and Brazilian manufacturer Embraer handed its first legacy 500 mid-size business jet to an Australian customer.  “And then there’s a whole bunch smaller things that we’re researching — more for academic purposes than anything else — to give a full comprehensive list of announcements as best we can,’’ Mr. Honnery said.  The air show boss said this was the first time organisers had collected more detailed information about deals announced or done at the event.

Australian International Airshow chief executive Ian Honnery has hailed the biennial event a business success. He said the fact that people were waiting for the Avalon event to make their announcements pointed to its international reputation and its role as key driver for business development and economic growth in the aerospace and defence sector.  It was pleasing that companies were seeing it as forum for internationally significant announcements.  “I just thought there was a bigger buzz around the exhibition halls,’’ he said. “There seemed to be a lot of quality trade visitors there; there seemed to be a lot of activity and there was an energy around the joint. I would like to thank Airshows Down Under, the ADF, USAF, RSAF and all the civilian displays and everyone who volunteer and be part of the airshow.”

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