The myths and privileges of being an air show journalist

Covering an air show is a strange, bubble-like existence. Don’t get me wrong; it’s fantastic visiting some of the world’s greatest cities – Dubai, Paris, Singapore, er, Farnborough (well, London really) – but, apart from the odd fancy restaurant or corporate cocktails on the top of the Eiffel Tower or at the foot of the Burj Dubai, it’s not exactly being a tourist. The days are long, the pressure is intense and the hotels, well, functional.

I’ve just got back from Dubai and for five days I didn’t see any of the city except the stretch of desert highway between my budget hotel on an industrial park and the exhibition hall on the sprawling, but largely empty Dubai World Central development. We left the hotel at 7am and returned between 8.30pm and 10pm in time for a beer and burger or pizza in the Premier Inn restaurant. With our competitors staying it in the same establishment, a colleague described it as being like a war correspondents’ hotel in Sarajevo (without the shelling and probably with better food).

But I’m not complaining. The immense privilege of covering air shows in the likes of Dubai is not the chance to see the city or catch some rays, but experience at first hand aviation history in the making. It’s a cliche, but to be part of the heaving press conferences which marked a new air show record in terms of orders, to talk to business leaders with bold visions and to see the flying displays really does make you feel part of an industry that is really going places.

If you’ve not seen them, you can catch up with our interactive dailies from the show here. Click on “Interactive dailies” on top bar.

We left Dubai just in time. The final day of the show was cancelled due to heavy rain and flooding – which caused this rather interesting  water feature on our stand. Twenty-four hours earlier that area was filled with a dozen journalists tapping away on laptops connected to servers, sockets and wires.

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