– Paul Southwick
No matter how well a flight is planned, things can and often do turn out differently. It was just like that for the diligent organisers of AirVenture, at Parkes, NSW, in the third week of September 2019.
The site was well laid out with a dedicated fenced off area, central exhibition hall, and parking for recreational vehicles, visiting, static display and air show aircraft. There were multiple seminar tents for briefings, lectures, information sessions, and plenty of food vendors and toilets.
The major players, for example, Garmin, Aviation Trader, RAAus, AvPlan, CASA and Dynon were in attendance. Many aircraft groups supported the show, including the Bonanza Society.
Matt Hall, with the smile from of his Red Bull World Air Race championship win the previous weekend still visible, was also there.
Outside there were many aircraft manufacturers including Tecnam with their new four-seat P2010, Foxbat, Sling with their 145-hp Rotax four-seater and a fleet of German auto-gyros. Also present were companies spruiking air parks, insurance, aviation accessories, member associations, Parkes itself and more.
The weather is the great “known unknown” of airshow organisation and so it proved to be for AirVenture. The set-up/fly-in day on Thursday was sunny with moderate winds. On Friday, the temperatures rose to the high 20s, attracting the flies, and the winds increased to 15 knots gusting 25, blowing the red, Mars-like dust over everything. The winds were strong enough to make sure everyone had their aircraft well tied down.
Saturday was a shocker. There was a major dust storm, closing the airport to all air traffic and diverting the Rex flight from Sydney to Bathurst (attendees were left to find their own way to Parkes).
Winds rose to 30 knots with a 30% probability in the forecast of 45 knots. Such was the ferocity, and the danger from flying debris, the site had to be evacuated. Not ideal on what was supposed to be a big day for the public.
The weather cleared quickly and by 2.00 pm it was possible to reopen the show. Sunday was near perfect and normal service was resumed, albeit with much smaller crowds than expected.
Highlights of the event included:
- a team of 25 school children assembling a BushCat aircraft before and during the show (Four of the students decided to become LAMEs)
- the new recreational aircraft simulator by AeroJones Aviation, modelled on a CTLS, seen for the first time and destined to be used for initial and advanced instruction by RAAUS
- the usual comradery of aviators and all those who love aviation, despite the conditions.
The airshow was well supported by the local community including the council, schools, volunteers and food vendors.
Event organiser David Young told Australian Flying that he was particularly pleased with the student engagement at Parkes, both through the STEM program and the Bushcat build.
"Two hundred students attended the STEM and Aerospace Careers program on Friday of the event," Young said. "Whilst a challenging day for the students in the weather conditions, students had the opportunity to learn about aviation including meeting many of the exhibitors and aviation professionals in attendance.
"Both of these programs were an outstanding success, something that can be built upon and should be seen as a leading light for how youth engagement should be undertaken. We are proud to have been the first to invest in such extensive programs.
"The 25 selected students who had never built an aircraft before had the Bushcat built in a little over five days. It was a shame that industry did not come and see the build take place.
"It was humbling to see the team work, enthusiasm and craftsmanship that every student displayed during the build."