Electronic Flight Bag developer OzRunways has canceled its naming-rights sponsorship of AirVenture Australia after a controversy over an exclusivity agreement.
OzRunways invested what is thought to be around $30,000 in AirVenture as the major sponsor, which included the right to veto competitor's products from the Narromine event. The deal sparked an aviation community backlash against OzRunways when it became public.
"Yesterday, one of the member based organisations involved with AirVenture leaked a confidential draft contract to our principal competitor and others in order to undermine the AirVenture airshow," OzRunways said in a statement.
"A hostile misinformed smear campaign was launched to undermine OzRunways, the event and all of the beneficiaries including yourselves (aviators), the Narromine township and the aviation industry in general.
"Accordingly, OzRunways has taken the difficult decision to remove our major sponsorship of the event and will be a regular attendee."
Several companies contacted by Australian Flying said they had been either prevented from attending or had had conditions put on their displays because of association with EFB developer AvPlan. This exclusivity did not sit well with one of the organising groups of AirVenture: the Sport Aircraft Association of Australia (SAAA).
SAAA president Tony White explained his association's attitude in a statement addressed to their membership.
"There are some in the broader community, which includes SAAA, who were not comfortable with certain aspects of the conditions under which OzRunways were engaged, in particular those which resulted in certain parties being unable to exhibit at AVA. Why – simply because this is not consistent with the dream - all aviators, sponsors and suppliers coming together under one sky.
White was quick to point out that OzRunways was not to blame for the situation.
"All parties acted in good faith and with proper business conduct," he said. "OzRunways were the first industry supporter who quickly recognised the opportunity to become the “Naming Rights” sponsor for AVA 2017. The AVA organisers were delighted that OzRunways made this significant commitment that provided AVA with the impetus and confidence to push forward with the 2017 Event.
"It must be put on record that OzRunways have acted in good faith and have not acted improperly. Accordingly, OzRunways do not deserve to be vilified, and neither should any of the founding Members of AVA. SAAA encourages its members to not do so."
AirVenture Australia now has a funding shortfall that the three organising groups–RAAus, SAAA and the Australian Parachute Federation–are scrambling to make up to ensure the event can go ahead.
OzRunways now says it has a "sizeable budget" set aside to support the aviation community and has called for ideas how the money can best be deployed within the industry.
AirVenture Australia is scheduled for Narromine Airport 19-21 October 2017.