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Friday, July 1, 2005

Pacific Rim

Barnie O'Shea

Helos On Parade Down Under

The 2005 Australian International Air Show was blessed with great weather and a vast array of aircraft, attracting 174,000 people to see 438 display aircraft and 776 visiting aircraft. It also became a focal point for the civil and military helicopter fraternity.

The Australian Army Aviation Corps (AAAC), in conjunction with Australian Aerospace, the Eurocopter facility in Australia, showed the new Eurocopter Tiger, which was handed over to the Corps on December 14.

Also seen was the NH90, selected to provide an additional troop lift squadron to enable the AAAC to provide a Special Forces Squadron from its existing Black Hawk fleet. The standard of the Armed Forces Helicopter display was seen when a helicopter was selected as the Best Military Aircraft--even more significantly a Super Puma of 126 Squadron of the Singapore Air Force, based at the AAAC Centre at Oakey in Queensland.

The Concours de Elegance was won by a Royal Australian Navy Super Sea Sprite--again something special as this is the second time for the naval squadron warrant officer. All the military machines, especially the Tiger and NH 90, attracted large crowds that appreciated the effort made to make a work horse like the Singaporean Super Puma chosen as the Best of All. The Black Hawks performed in the flying display and Army Aviation had a Fly Past over the Victorian State Capital Melbourne on their back to their bases at Queensland. The various emergency services were seen at their best with the Victorian Police and Ambulance services Dauphin and Bell 412, recently leased by the Victorian Government to update and extend the State ambulance and emergency services. Many from the assorted machines there at the Show provide the helicopters for fighting the bush and forest fires. Elvis the Sky Crane has been on Victoria's books some time now, and these skills are used around the country in a bid to provide a national aerial fire fighting ready use capacity.

The smaller commercial and training helicopters were well represented with the joy rides and visiting machines prominently parked by the main Air Show entrance. The support organizations and a number of kit type helicopters under special approval were conveniently placed again on the main approach. At the end of the approach to the flying and chalets were the Tiger and NH 90 not far from an impressive Eurocopter grouping showcasing the EC135B4 and EC145 both being seen for the first time in Australia and staying here. The EC120B Colibri is another type for the Australian Aerospace facility in Brisbane. The ubiquitous AS350B was also there backed up with others from the same stable. Frank Robinson is making big inroads here also with HeliFlite coming from Sydney with some very attractive machines and an encouraging variety of R44's. The Heli Pad was a great attraction for young and old and an astute piece of marketing by the Helicopter Association of Australia (HAA) and the Air Show. Lindsey Fox's Agusta is at home in Avalon and many of the visiting machines crews were attending an HAA Seminar using the Air Show as a focal point and natural gathering of the crews.

In conjunction with the Australian Air Show a number of Aerospace Societies joined together to form an International Aerospace Congress, grouping the Societies together so that all could be aware of each other's activities. Because of the vast distances, Australia makes great use of aircraft, and the dominating large cities may require the helicopters more for emergencies than the great mountains, forests and wilderness. As some 80 percent of the population are living within 30 km. of the coast, there is plenty of opportunity to fall a prey to either nature or civilization. The American Helicopter Society International Australian Chapter also used the Air Show with some success, supported by AHS Executive Director Rhett Flater and Kim Smith, deputy director. All were meeting together for the first time, to the great benefit of the members and the Society. At the Aerospace Congress Dinner, the Director was recognized and able to make a number of International Award presentations to members of the Vertical Flight Fraternity, emphasizing the capabilities and contribution these people have made to Vertical Flight. The Australian Chapter President, Dr Arvind Sinha, director of the Sir Lawrence Wacket Aerospace Research and director of the oldest Aerospace university in Melbourne, was informed by Rhett that he is the first Australian to be made a Fellow of AHS International. It should be noted that there are only four Fellows awarded annually in recognition of their contribution by their peers, a greatly appreciated award by the Australian Chapter.

Now that the Vertical Flight Society has seen the potential of the Australian International Air Show, an even greater effort will be made to present the latest advances in vertical flight to the AHS and the affiliated Helicopter Association of Australia. Flater spent much time with the members to ensure the Australians are not alone and to ensure AHS International key players, are able for the first time to make a significant contribution by coming together with this significant group of Australians, who although often working in isolation, provide the backbone of the highly dedicated, learned and multi skilled members of the Australian Chapter of the AHS International "Down Under."

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