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The Australian International Airshow is held at Avalon Airport, near Melbourne, Australia every two years. The next event is scheduled to be in early March 2019.

The Australian International Airshow

The organisers describe the event as ‘one of Asia-Pacific’s most prestigious aviation and aerospace events and the most comprehensive aviation, aerospace and defence exposition in the southern hemisphere.’

Tee-Tail Australian International Airshow - © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
Tee-Tail Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

The industry and trade exhibition and trade show begins on 26th February 2019 and runs through until the weekend of the airshow itself. It is defence and aerospace-centric, and well supported by aerospace and defence firms, airframe manufacturers, and ancillary service providers.

Hercules - Australian International Airshow - © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
Hercules – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

In 2017, 664 companies from 25 countries displayed their products, services and technologies to more than 33,000 accredited visitors over the three days of the trade show. Attending the exhibition were 158 delegations of military, industry, bureaucratic and scientific personnel from a total of 28 countries. They attended 44 conferences and symposia.

Raptor Rapture - Australian International Airshow - © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
Raptor Rapture – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

To round out the statistics, 367 accredited media from 14 countries attended the event, along with 634 aircraft that participated in the static and flying displays. So it is certainly a large event and one that is tightly focused.

Mission

I don’t see a mission statement per se on the website, but there is a statement about the aim of the event, which is to:

“…present a unique opportunity to showcase products, technologies and services to an informed target audience and to demonstrate a marketing presence in this vibrant and vital region. High levels of economic growth and technological development have resulted in growing demand for aviation and aerospace services, products and technology, right across the spectrum from General Aviation to airlines, air forces and space.”

Aerobatics - Australian International Airshow - © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
Aerobatics – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

The light

In the map below I have used the terrific SunCalc website to show sunrise, solar noon and sunset at the location of the airshow in an early March time-frame. The crowd line runs North-South to the east side of the runway, while the flying displays occur to the west of the extended runway centre-line.

Australian light is typically harsh and contrasty, and temperatures in late February/early March can be high, adding a strong heat haze to the atmosphere.

Australian International Airshow sun position - Google Maps
Australian International Airshow sun position – Google Maps

Because the flying program runs between 10.00am and 4.00pm, it can be seen that the best viewing is between 10 am and midday. The sun will begin to move into the north-west quadrant behind the display box from about midday. This means that aircraft to the north of the field will be backlit by the sun from noon.

Raptor-Tail - Australian International Airshow - © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
Raptor-Tail – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

From that point onwards it gets progressively worse, with all the displays being more and more backlit as the day wears on. Aircraft to the South of the field will be the best lit. The only solutions that I can see are 1) to reposition the crowd across to the western side of the centreline, leaving the trade halls to the east…

Joint Strike Fighter - Australian International Airshow - © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
Joint Strike Fighter – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

…or 2) the flying could start an hour earlier, at 9 am, which would give at least 3 good hours of viewing, and visitors could be encouraged to then have lunch, tour the static displays and other attractions, and either head home or wait for a twilight display.

The Airshow

The airshow is solid, with heavy military emphasis. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter made it’s Australian debut in 2017, with two examples that are being used to train Aussie pilots ferried over from the US just for the week, before returning. The F-22A was the star of the show.

Fortunately, the USA is a regular and solid contributor to both the static and flying displays, but the Australians stepped up and showed almost everything in their toolkit and were heavily represented. Their ‘Hour of Airpower’ simulated an attack on the aerodrome, which was then repulsed.

That sequence was not tightly scripted however and reminded me of a good movie that would have been excellent if they had cut a chunk out of the running time. The Hour of Airpower could have been more spectacular by tightening up the pacing, but yes, I realise that the military train and operate to be effective, not ‘spectacular’.

Flying Displays

Some of the aircraft that performed flying displays at the 2017 event are listed below:

  • GA-8 Airvan
  • Sopwith Snipe
  • F/A-18-F Super Hornet
  • CT4
  • Winjeel
  • Wolf Pitts, Pitts S1 and Pitts S2
  • ARH Tiger
  • MRH Taipan
  • E-7A Wedgetail
  • P-8A Poseidon
  • KC-30 MRTT
  • AP-3C Orion
  • MH-60R
  • C17-A Globemaster
  • C-130J Hercules
  • C-27J Spartan
  • F-22A Raptor
  • PC-9/A x 6
  • C-130J Hercules
  • BAe Hawk 127
  • P-40 x 2
  • Spitfire
  • Meteor
  • F-16C Fighting Falcon
  • Lear 45
  • AS350BA Squirrel x 2
  • Pitts S2S
  • Sukhoi SU-31
  • C-130Q/RJ85/Aero Commander
  • Harvard x 4
  • L-1049 Constellation
  • Sonex JSX-2
  • Cessna 180 and SZD-59 Acro
  • F-35A Joint Strike Fighter
  • Super King Air
  • C-47
  • Lockheed Hudson
  • De Havilland Dove
  • F/A-18A Hornet

The static displays were extensive and the Americans came in force, showing off their B-1 Lancer, a pair of Raptors and much more besides. The Singaporeans brought their F-15 Eagles, and I have to say, it is a great shame that space could not be found in the flying program for them. That is the kind of plane we want to see in the air, not on the ramp.

Grey-Nurse - © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
Grey-Nurse – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

Overall, the static displays, exhibits, activities and events were numerous and excellent.

BAe Hawk - Australian International Airshow - © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
BAe Hawk – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

Location

The airshow is located at Avalon Airport, Geelong, Victoria Australia.

Super Hornet - Australian International Airshow - © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
Super Hornet – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

Dates

The 2019 dates are from February 26 to March 3.

Pilatus PC-9 - Australian International Airshow - © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
Pilatus PC-9 – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

Crowd size

In 2017 there were more than 33,000 international delegates and a total crowd of 176,742 over the weekend, for a total of 210,664 attendees. Your author stayed in accommodation in Melbourne city and took the train down to Avalon each day, thus avoiding congested roads and the associated traffic delays.

Gripes

The airshow is very good, with a wide range of impressive equipment on display. I have several gripes, however. The first is the relationship between the crowd, the afternoon sun and the flying displays.

Backlit conditions are a strain on the eyes and on photographic equipment, resulting in exposure problems, noise, sun flare, blown highlights etc. See my related comments above, where I offer some suggestions.

Joint Strike Fighter – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
Joint Strike Fighter – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

The second gripe is the fact that the airline Jetstar is permitted to operate at the airport throughout the show. This causes frustrating delays and interruptions to the flying program.

Taipan – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
Taipan – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

In my opinion, the airline should be directed to use the nearby Tullamarine airport on the Saturday and Sunday of the Airshow at the very least. I realise they have particular commercial relationships with the owners/operators of Avalon Airport and probably local government as well, but their arrivals and departures throw massive spanners into the flying program.

Hornet hard bank – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.
Hornet hard bank – Australian International Airshow – © Copyright Stephen Verrall 2017 onwards. All rights reserved.

My final gripe is the overall flow of the flying display. Safety first and all that, but compared to other airshows I have attended, there seemed to be (there were) lengthy delays between individual displays where the silence persisted for minutes.

For example, the RAAF ‘Hour of Airpower’ was a great concept but suffered from these timing issues, making what should have been an exciting and dynamic display a plodding and – almost – a dull one.

Videos

More Airshows

You can take a look at the Australian International Airshow website here. and you can see more articles like this in our Airshows section here.

* This article is based on my visit to the Air Show in 2017, the official Airshow Programme of that year, and information in the public domain.

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