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On show in Australia

Paul Phelan/cairns Australia's Air Shows Down Under, which runs from 21-26 March, has attracted large numbers of domestic and overseas exhibitors

The organisers of Air Shows Down Under, being staged at Asta Avalon Airport outside Melbourne, Victoria, on 21-26 March, will again try to balance the demands of presenting Australia's premier industry exposition with the needs of providing a successful public flying-display.

Things seem to have gone well. By the end of December 1994, over 200 exhibitors were committed to the show, and 90% of available exhibition sites had been booked. Not only that, but the pedigree of domestic and overseas exhibitors suggests that notable industry players are taking the show seriously. Australian industry has significant aerospace capabilities to display and, apart from forthcoming developments in the Australian defence and airline markets, the country is also being seen as an attractive base from which to reach potential Asian customers in an environment, which is relatively neutral to Asian regional politics.

In both expo and air-show aspects, Australia's military-trainer procurement requirement is likely to dominate the show. British Aerospace made a tour of military establishments in 1994 with its Hawk 100, and two Malaysian Air Force Hawks will be present. Serge Dassault will head a team to showcase the Dassault Alpha Jet. Aermacchi's MB.339FD, Alenia's AMX-T and Aero Vodochy's L-59 will also be on show. McDonnell Douglas' T-45 Goshawk derivative is the only contender which is not planned to be present.

The Australian Defence Force's requirement for a light battlefield helicopter and for a tactical transport to replace its de Havilland Caribou fleet will also ensure strong representation from both the airframe and systems manufacturers.

Australian defence manufacturing has been a victim of the worldwide recession and the domestic content of contender programmes will be a crucial factor in dealings, which are likely to intensify as these contracts draw near.

The recent uplift in Australian domestic and regional air travel signals that fleet reviews will be prominent in airline planning. The emphasis that both Qantas and Ansett - the two major Australian carriers - are placing on route development, along with the aging of regional fleets and imminent Stage Three noise implementation, signals that the carriers will soon have to reconsider their regional-airline fleets. Regional-aircraft manufacturers are accordingly well represented.

In one of the largest exhibitions of Russian technology seen in the Asia Pacific region, Russia is fielding at least 13 aircraft, from light personal types to the Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-35 air-superiority fighters and the Su-30MK multi-role fighter. The Rolls-Royce RB.211-535-equipped Tupolev Tu-204 and the Pratt & Whitney-powered Ilyushin Il-96M will also be present. A formidable representative group of 19 Russian officials will be led by the chairmen of the State Committees for the Defence Industries and for Military and Technical Politics, Air Force Commander-in-Chief Deinekin. The chiefs of Sukhoi, Tupolev, Beriev, Ilyushin and Aviaexport will also be present.

Australia's own aircraft designers have made notable advances in recent years, especially in the development of light personal and training aircraft to European Joint Aviation Rules for very-light aircraft (JAR/VLA) - and comparable US - standards. They will be well represented at Avalon.

Caloundra, Queensland-based Skyfox has already made several international sales of its conventional tail wheel-configured, high-wing, single-engine aircraft and a tricycle-gear version is now on offer at the demand of flying schools. This small, light personal aircraft is designed to JAR-VLA certification standard for aircraft up to 750kg, but is also available with Australian ultra-light certification. Skyfox has now sold 100 units, including two to Switzerland and two to Thailand. Four more sales to the Thai Government are in prospect, for forestry patrols, pilot training, and police work. Already 20 Thai forestry pilots have been trained in the first two aircraft.

Jabiru, a Bundaberg, Queensland, company, is now close to US certification of its innovative JAR/VLA standard, all-composite, light sports trainer, now powered by a 40kW (55hp) engine, designed and built by Jabiru. A considerable market has been identified in the USA, where Jabiru has won several subject-to-certification orders from flying schools. USA primary-category certification is at an advanced stage. This certification will allow the trainer to be flown by flying schools and be available for flying-school line rental and for private ownership. A marketing organisation, which predicts minimum sales of 100 aircraft a year, has been established in Aiken, South Carolina.


Jabiru designer Phil Ainsworth has now developed a 2.2litre, 60kW version of the original engine and this will be on display. The direct-drive power plant is a direct competitor for Rotax's 912. It will be available for a wide range of small aircraft and have about 18kg-lighter installed weight than that of its rival. Ainsworth says that the engine will be cheaper to buy, less expensive to own and maintain and simpler to install. As a further challenge to conventional manufacturers, Jabiru offers a guaranteed price of A$2,500 ($1,900) for each of the first, second and third engine overhauls.

Gippsland Aeronautics (GA) will be displaying its two-seat agricultural aircraft, of which 20 have already been sold - nine for crop spraying in China's northern provinces, where Latrobe Valley-based GA has been involved in agricultural-pilot training. Two are already being operated in New Zealand.

GA is expected to announce development of its all-new GA8 FAR 23 eight-seat utility aircraft, which the manufacturer hopes, will fit the market niche of, by the Cessna 207. Initially, it will be piston-powered, although the entire aircraft has been designed for turbine power in a later variant, with growth capability of another three seats. It will be designed to comply with the expected airworthiness requirements of the proposed category for scheduled passenger-carrying single-engine turbine aircraft under instrument flight rules. The prototype will be seen for the first time when it flies in on display.

The Seabird Seeker, the specialist spotter, paramilitary and military aircraft (Flight International, 21-28 April, 1993) is designed to conform to US FAR 23 airworthiness standards and formal US certification is progressing. The entire manufacturing equipment for the Seeker can fit into two standard shipping containers, and Seabird's business plan is based on selling that capability, rather than building and selling production aircraft. Aircraft have already been demonstrated in Malaysia, Thailand and other Asian countries, where it attracted positive interest from potential agricultural and forestry operators, law-enforcement agencies and military users. Initial design studies have been carried out on scaled-up versions for four- to six-place military use, and an amphibious version, with an Allison 250 turboprop.

Eagle Aircraft, builder of the all-composite Eagle X-TS, has moved quickly to counter certification difficulties (Flight International, 9-16 March, 1994) by designing a new version to full JAR/VLA certification compliance. Among changes will be the use of a Teledyne Continental "B"-series engine, and the use of pre-impregnated composite materials. The company is committed to its strategy of becoming a major manufacturer, concentrating largely on advanced composites, with Asian training and sports markets in its sights.


Ultra-lights and sport aviation form an important part of the Australian aerospace industry, especially because of their serious potential in expanding nearby Asian markets. Australian ultra-light builders have distinguished themselves, not only in original aircraft design, but also in improving overseas designs and marketing the improved aircraft.

Examples are the ultra-light version of the Skyfox (a complete rework of the US Kitfox) and the Drifter, the popular tandem two-seater made by Maxair, which is now considerably developed as a strut-braced monoplane. With flying training an important sector of Australian industry, redeveloped ultra-lights which can be certificated and registered are having a significant impact on the basic trainer market, in cost-conscious private-pilot schools, rather than in airline cadet training.

Australia is now the major location for training pilots to train for the fast-growing Asian air carriers. Most, if not all, major schools will be at Avalon to promote their increasingly sophisticated capabilities to an expected large Asian attendance. Some schools believe that the Australian commercial schools' incursion into military primary flight training may have potential for replication with Asian military customers. Among the big names are Hawker de Havilland's Australian Aviation College in Adelaide; Tamworth's Australian Air Academy, jointly owned by Ansett & British Aerospace; the Australian Flying Training School run by Capt. Geoff Westwood; and the West Australian Flying College, which is jointly owned by China Southern Airlines and Barney Fernandez.

Australia's growing role in pilot training has also attracted manufacturers of simulators, systems trainers, and other flight-training devices, making it a logical showcase for CAE Electronics and Thomson-CSF.