AFRICA AEROSPACE AND DEFENCE
THE mid-1970s a then new South African-based aviation magazine, World Airnews, identified the need for an aerospace exhibition in the country as against the “barn-storming” type of air shows which were then being staged which did not cover all aspects of the growing industry.
After several months of investigation into the viability of such an exhibition, World Airnews decided to launch the first in what was to become a biennial series of aviation expos in 1975. Dubbed “Aviation Africa”, the first of its kind ever to be staged in South Africa, let alone the whole continent, it attracted a surprising amount of international interest, considering the many embargoes which existed against South Africa at the time.
The success of the first show which was held at the new Lanseria Airport, convinced the World Airnews husband-and-wife team of Tom and Joan Chalmers to repeat the show in 1977, but this time they took on a professional show-organising company, Johannesburg-based Showplan, to assist them with the organisation. Again, the 1977 show proved successful with a reasonable amount of international participation, mainly in the civil aviation sector.
The first in the series of aviation exhibitions, which later became known as Aviation Africa and now Africa Aerospace & Defence, took place at Lanseria Airport in October 1975. The event was initiated by CAASA and World Airnews and held at the very new Lanseria Airport north of Johannesburg. Based on the Farnborough Airshow, the event offered companies the opportunity to exhibitor in the indoor exhibition area, book hospitality chalets and display their aircraft in the static aircraft park and on the public days offered members of the general public the opportunity to view an international airshow.
From this first event, CAASA utilised this venue for their biennial aviation trade exhibition in 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1983, until the exhibition was moved to Rand Airport in Johannesburg to coincide with the Johannesburg and Germiston Centenary Celebrations in March 1986.
International participation in the event declined as a result of the sanctions the rest of the world had instigated against South Africa, and there were very few South African companies who had developed the capabilities to replace this equipment. It was only with the confirmation of the Airbus Industries booking that the exhibition managed to continue – the CAASA Board were meeting to decide whether to continue with the event when the telex arrived from France – it went right down to the wire. CAASA were very proud to be able to claim an attendance of over 10 000 at the 1986 event, with over 60% of this being trade visitors!
South Africa was now moving more and more towards self-sufficiency in repair, overhaul and even production – opening new markets for specialised equipment and technology. The exhibition, now renamed Aviation Africa International, continued to grow and remained at Rand Airport, the historical home of southern Africa’s general aviation, for the 1988 event, when indoor space was extended to 1 058m²!
In 1990 Aviation Africa International was to open it gates for the 8th time – having grown its attendance to 30 000 with 6 000 of these being trade visitors. With the announcements by former President FW de Klerk of the un-banning of the ANC and the release of Nelson Mandela in February 1990, international interest in the show suddenly increased. In the two months before the event opened in April the exhibition grew by 25%. AA now had over 70 exhibitors, and utilised 3 000m² of indoor space, which was not available at Rand Airport. We needed a new venue.
After a long search, South African Airways agreed that we could utilise hangars within the SAA Technical Area – there were no larger hangars available. For 1992 the exhibition was moved to Jan Smuts (now Johannesburg International) Airport, and attracted more than 100 exhibitors and in excess of 11 000 industry visitors. For the first time the exhibition attracted large international companies such as Boeing, Airbus, British Aerospace, GIFAS to name a few – the event had returned to being truly international and was recognised as the premier event of its kind on the African continent. Being within the technical area brought with it many restrictions and it was initially thought that we would not be able to hold an airshow – but we were able to convince the air traffic controllers and the airshow attracted over 20 000 visitors.
In 1994 and 1996 the exhibition remained within the SAA Technical Area and continued its growth. However, with the increase in air traffic at the airport it was no longer feasible to host an airshow. Although South Africa was going through the transition to democracy, the exhibition continued to attract a large amount of interest from both the local and international community. Visitors came from sub-Saharan Africa – Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Reunion, Swaziland, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe and of these 58% were company executives, 11% pilots, 18% engineers and the balance were buyers.
The 1994 event was held one week before the first democratic election in South Africa. As a result of the political situation in the country, understandably a number of international exhibitors decided to cancel their participation, but the event went off without any problems, and it was with a sigh of relief that the organising team were able to close the event and bid goodbye to all exhibitors and visitors without any incidents.
The South African Air Force celebrated it’s 75th Anniversary by organising an international air tattoo and exhibition at AFB Waterkloof. The exhibition attracted a number of international and local exhibitors and the airshow was truly international attracting Air Forces from many countries around the world, assisting in celebrating South Africa’s return to the international community.
The last Aviation Africa International was held in 1996 and was the first event since 1983 to display both civil and military hardware without restrictions. The United Nations weapons embargo on South Africa had been lifted and this attracted many exhibitors not seen at this exhibition before. Even while the embargo was in place, 18% of visitors have said that they were from the military in addition many visitors who had been unable to buy from South Africa.
In 1998 the two trade associations – CAASA and AMD – joined in organising Aerospace Africa. As was said at the time, “Since the first Aviation Africa in 1975, the exhibition has undergone many changes, from a local aero-display and trade show, operating from a small airport 22 years ago, Aviation Africa, under the auspices of the Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa (CAASA), has grown to a fully recognised international aerospace exhibition catering for all of the sub-Saharan aviation and aerospace requirements.” After the South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence related Industries Association’s (AMD) success in organising SAAF ’75 Expo, as part of the South African Air Force’s 75th anniversary celebrations in 1995, there was a growing request for further military trade exhibits and an airshow. A joint venture between CAASA and AMD was therefore a natural progression.”
The name changed to Aerospace Africa, the venue to AFB Waterkloof and the amalgamation with AMD incorporated a greater military influence. This grew the number of exhibitors to 254 representing 21 countries.
More changes were on the way – as a major event in the new millennium the biennial DEXSA (Defence Exhibition of South Africa) (also see DEXSA history) and Aerospace Africa combined into Africa Aerospace & Defence, jointly hosted and presented by Armscor, AMD and CAASA, it was the most comprehensive civil and military aerospace and defence-related show ever held on the African continent. The South African Air Force, the second oldest air force in the world, celebrated its 80th anniversary with an Air Tattoo.
Africa Aerospace & Defence has continued to grow and the 2004 event attracted over 428 exhibitors, which were made up of 194 direct exhibitors and 234 indirect exhibitors. These exhibitors came from 25 countries, including South Africa. Of these countries, 8 were represented by National Pavilions. Countries were: Belgium, Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Malaysia, Namibia, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America and South Africa.
A total of 52 delegations representing 37 countries visited the event. They were from : Algeria, Angola, Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Chile, Cote D’Ivoire, Egypt, France, Gabon, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nambia, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Peoples Republic China, Russia, Rwanda, Singapore, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
And, over 22 000 people registered for the exhibition on the three trade days, with 120 000 visiting on the 2 public days. Africa Aerospace & Defence has truly come of age! And now for the first time being held at a new venue AFB Ysterplaat in Cape Town, 20-24 September 2006.
VISIT THE AAD WEBSITE HERE