The attendance at Avalon Airshow 2017 was the largest yet, with more than 210,000 aviation enthusiasts attending and providing an attractive recruiting ground for gliding. However, this year we had a reduced presence as a very busy season of gliding events reduced the level of support from volunteers. Finding someone to manage our participation proved difficult, to the point that at one stage the GFA gliding contribution was cancelled.
However a small crew of members finally banded together and undertook to represent and publicise the sport of gliding, supporting the RAAF Cadets who fielded an ASK-21Mi, and Swedish world champion glider aerobatic pilot Johan Gustafsson's great displays in his SZD-59 Acro.
Check out www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQxNWp5w91Q which shows the spectacular display of night flying, lighting and pyrotechnics similar to that displayed at theAirshow on Friday night.
The catalyst for the GFA representation was Phil Behnke from Queensland, who was supporting the Super Dimona entry with Robert Zmeskal and Kim Houghton. On hearing of our difficulties, Phil offered to publicise gliding and hand out brochures, just two weeks before the event. Greig Wanless, who brought a Grob 109B, also offered to assist.
Contact was made with airshow general aviation and airsport manager Glen Smith, who welcomed the GFA presence and arranged tentspace, tickets and parking. Volunteers joined in and we had the makings of a presence at the airshow, although without the usual gliders, simulator, interior displays, movies and posters presented in prior years.
The Air Force Cadet team had a very professional display, with much interest shown in the ASK-21 by many young people. A darkened tent housed two computer gliding simulators with projectors to introduce newcomers to flying gliders. Many young people eagerly tried them out. A Piper Cherokee thatthe Air Cadets use was included in the display.
This year we noticed a difference in the profile of visitors, probably because of our location further from the eating establishments that attract a large but only mildly interested audience. Our visitors were actually looking for us, to talk to people about going gliding. Enquiries seemed much more focussed, visitors often having a background of modelling, hanggliding, or having gliding experience in the past and an interest in returning to gliding. I believe our presence was worthwhile - we talked with some serious contenders, who asked all the right questions and are on track to visit their local gliding club. It was also a great Airshow.