The organisers of Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) are confident that this year’s event will impact positively on the local economy – not only through tourism but also through the business deals that are expected to be concluded during and after the event.
AAD 2012 will be held at Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof, outside Pretoria, this month.
The biennial event has grown significantly since its inception in 2000, as the majority of the facilities at AFB Waterkloof will be used, compared with the use of only one hangar in 2000.
“All the exhibition space was sold out almost three months before the show,” reveals AAD 2012 exhibition director Leona Redelinghuys.
She believes the exhibition sets the standard for Africa’s aviation and defence industries for the following two years, adding that this is evident in the 40% increase in exhibitor numbers since the 2010 event.
“This year’s exhibition will be a remarkable showcase of South Africa’s capabilities in servicing, maintaining and upgrading aircraft. It will certainly also boost the local economy in the short and the long term,” states Redelinghuys.
The exhibition is divided into trade and public days. The first three days are traditionally trade days, when new products are launched and they are followed by two air show and defence exhibition days open to the public.
“During the public days, the aerial acrobatic displays are the most popular, as visitors are able to see what the South African Air Force and other exhibitors are capable of,” she says.
Redelinghuys adds that the exhibition is primarily intended to promote the sale and use of aerospace and defence products globally.
Exhibitors include companies that design and manufacture aerospace and defence products, as well as companies that have formal agreements to manufacture or sell aerospace and defence products.
Also participating in the exhibition are national or multinational consortia that design and manufacture aerospace and defence products, national or multinational trade associations representing aerospace and defence industries, government departments or official bodies concerned with aerospace and defence, as well as allied industries and businesses.
Redelinghuys points out that the AAD organisers have strict policies regard- ing the type of products that may be exhibited.
“Aircraft and aircraft engines; aerospace and defence-related power plants; guided weapons, space vehicles and satellite equipment, including avionic and ground equipment, components and materials used in points research; development activities directly applicable to aerospace and defence; as well as allied equipment and service-type products will be showcased this year,” she reveals.
Further, Redelinghuys states that companies will benefit from exhibiting at the expo because it is one of the biggest global events on the military and civil aviation calendar.
“Exhibitors worldwide are increasing their focus on introducing their products to the African markets. This year, there is increased participation from the general aviation sector, which includes all flights other than military and scheduled airline passenger and cargo flights. General aviation includes private and commercial aircraft.
“The general aviation sector ranges from gliders and powered parachutes to large nonscheduled cargo jet flights. Most of the world’s air traffic falls under this category and most of the world’s air- ports exclusively serve general aviation,” she adds.
Meanwhile, the AAD Youth Development Programme (YDP) plans to host 3 000 grade 9, 10 and 11 learners from the specialist maths and science, or Dinaledi, schools in and around Gauteng during the three trade days.
The YDP introduces the youth of South Africa to various career opportunities in the domestic defence and aviation industries.
“Many young people do not realise that there is much more to the military than being a soldier or a pilot,” says YDP chairperson and volunteer Mari van Wyk.
“The Department of Defence (DoD) requires a range of professionals, from administrators to engineers, clerical staff and attorneys, as well as maintenance personnel.
“The DoD provides young people with an opportunity to serve their coun- try while learning valuable skills and, most importantly, it provides employ- ment opportunities for school leavers,” she explains.
Van Wyk has collaborated with YDP founder Colonel Bobby Keller since 2002, when the YDP was launched with a spon- sorship from aeroplane engine manufacturer International Aero Engines, which resulted in her and a team of volunteers hosting 60 children for one day at that year’s AAD exhibition.
“Back then, there were not even sufficient funds to buy lunch for the children. However, over the years, the YDP team has worked closely with the South African National Defence Force to develop the programme, inviting sponsors to help cover the costs of getting as many children as possible to the programme.
Van Wyk points out that, prior to the exhibition, YDP members discuss the benefits of the programme with the teachers at each participating school and the top achievers in science and maths are invited to attend.
“We arrange transport from their schools and every learner is provided with prepacked lunch and a goody bag that includes a Pearson’s Maths Set, a Maths and Science Formula Dictionary, a copy of SA Soldier magazine and sponsored clothing items,” she notes.
The YDP introduces them to each element of the defence force, with hands-on activities designed to draw their attention.
“These include scale-model con- struction projects, sessions in a flight simulator and target shooting, as well as educational presentations and demonstrations.
“The children keep everything they make or build on the day and every child gets an opportunity to participate in every part of the programme. The learners rotate among the stands in groups of 30,” Van Wyk explains.
She notes that one of the YDP’s proudest moments was when it hosted a homeless child who had never touched a computer.
“He took to the flight simulator com- pletely naturally and mastered it as if he had been flying for years. “The programme has given him an opportunity to rise above his circum- stances and possibly start a career in aviation,” Van Wyk says.