Aero Friedrichshafen was born as a result of the European general aviation industry looking to expand and innovate about 40 years ago. As I had never been to the Friedrichshafen event, I was excited to see what this show would mean in a South African context.
The show was held at Wonderboom National Airport from the 4th through to the 6th of July. The Wonderboom airport is positioned ideally for an expo of this kind with ample ramp and parking space as well as world class facilities to make use of.
When I arrived at the show on Saturday morning, I could see that the apron was a hive of activity with a large marquee erected on the hardstand right in-front of the terminal building. As I arrived early, I was keen to see what aircraft had arrived to visit the exhibition.
A wide spectrum of aircraft attended the show. I was especially happy to see the sleek lines of ZU-CLC the Osprey GP-4 flown to London and back to Cape Town by Capt. Chalkie Stobbart over a 4 day period, 10 years ago in May 2009, setting no less than 15 records along the way. Certainly an achievement of note!
Once I had taken a stroll through the visiting aircraft I turned my attention to the many static displays, general aviation service providers and company that had set up their various bases on the hard stand.
My walk took my past the Sport Plane Builders stand where the impressive PCAD 700 was on display. This aircraft is capable of carrying a 1250 pound payload at 28000 feet while cruising at 250 knots for a range of 1200 nautical miles. This aircraft will certainly be a development to be watched closely!
The team from Savannah Aircraft brought along a brand new Savannah for potential buyers to look around and test. Needless to say they were inundated with test flight requests and the aircraft spent most of its time on the airside of the apron. A successful show indeed!
Further down the hardstand I observed the MX2 of Mark Hensman proudly displayed in front of the Century Avionics stand. I also observed a large crowd moving through the indoor area where the newest and greatest avionics, headsets and GPS devices were on display. I also caught the distinct aroma of freshly brewed coffee as I passed through the stand, as there was a complimentary coffee service in the display area, which was very well received by all the interested passers-by.
Not far from the Century Avionics stand I saw a crowd of people gathering around a beautifully turned out Sling 4 which was displayed by The Airplane Factory. The variety of Sling aircraft has proven itself as being reliable, solid and more importantly fun to fly. This is evident by the company having its 500th Sling celebration in the not too distant future. A brilliant achievement for any aircraft manufacturer! Congratulations!
As I progressed further down the exhibition area, I encountered the park and sell area. This is an innovative method of having aircraft on sale which can actually be viewed and potentially purchased at the show. The range of aircraft was astonishing! Anything from a Cessna 182 to a Learjet and everything in between was available to purchase!
It was time to explore the indoors exhibition area. The marquee was well appointed and several exhibitors showcasing their wares. Everything from maps to souvenirs to flight simulator equipment as well as very advance drone technology could be looked at. The indoor area also had a well-appointed VIP guest area as well as a conference facility where you could listen to industry leaders discussing safety, power-plants and various other topics. A beautifully restored Jaguar car was on display in the convention area.
As the day ended I took another stroll around the static display area and found both the old and the new. I thought the contrast was striking and worth capturing.
The day was closed out on a high energy note with Menno Parsons in his P51 Mustang, Jason Beamish in his Extra and Mark Sampson in his SBach flying spectacular aerobatics thrilling the crowd.
From my view the Aero Expo was a resounding success! It is truly my wish that this show become an annual event in order to promote and grow the general aviation industry in South Africa. It was also very visible that the visiting public expected more flying displays during the course of the day. A suggestion is therefore to have more flying displays interspersed during the general activities of the day. Notwithstanding this, the exhibition was a resounding success and I truly enjoyed it!