By Garth Calitz
Wonderboom Airport once again played host to Aero SA last week, this was the third edition of what has become South Africa’s premier event for the General Aviation industry covering the full spectrum of services and products for the sector. Wonderboom was chosen to host the event as it is the only National Airport in South Africa that can accommodate aircraft fly-ins for visitors and demo flights for aircraft OEMs and distributors, allowing for a first-hand experience for the serious prospective buyer during the purchase process.
The three-day event was hailed a massive success by exhibitors, claiming that the expense of the expo has been paid for over during the event. The Expo covered the full spectrum of General Aviation products, technology and services with all the major suppliers taking advantage of the concentration of members of the South African aviation community. The only sector I found a bit lacking was the maintenance providers that seemed to stay away for some reason.
The 2023 edition of Aero SA was definitely aiming to outperform the 2022 edition that saw slightly fewer exhibitors than the inaugural event held before the world was plunged into the Covid pandemic, 2019 there were over 100 exhibitors this year the number dropped to 72 but in no way was the quality of the expo compromised. Visitor numbers were also down on the previous edition but this could almost be expected with the post-pandemic economical climate. Exhibition space however increased from 4200m² in 2019 to 5106m² at last year's edition, Numbers for 2023 have not been made public as yet.
Informative workshops were held throughout the event with subjects reaching all aspects of general aviation. Admission to the workshop area was free and the talks were very well attended.
Aero SA introduced the B2B Matchmaking programme which proved highly successful with well over 100 B2B meetings confirmed during the three days of the expo. Business To Business matchmaking is a method to identify and connect (match) companies and people with common business interests, complementary services, expertise, technologies or business strengths. The goal was to create cooperative connections and realize business opportunities that mutually benefit both parties.
The Saturday Fly-in was rather disappointing with very few aircraft flying in for the day. I guess this has a lot to do with the ever-increasing unreasonable fuel prices we have been forced to pay for the last few months. Flying displays by Rocket Hems and Netcare 911 as well as other helicopter operators kept the visitors entertained.
Visiting Pilots and aircraft owners were offered the opportunity to win some exceptional prizes by entering the competition by scanning a QR Code and completing a form on their mobile devices. What made it more exciting, is that you could enter at multiple stands of participating brands around the expo, creating a bit of a treasure hunt feel to the competition. Each time an entrant scanned the code at a new stand, they gained another entry, improving their chances of winning a prize each time. Prizes were drawn on the final day of Aero Expo SA at the Century Avionics Stand at 14h00. David le Roux From PilotInsure presented the draw and conducted the prize giving.
Garmin D2 X10 Aviator Watch valued at R11990 sponsored by Century Avionics
R5000 Century Avionics Voucher sponsored by DJA Aviation.
R4500 Couple's Weekend at Bona Bona Game Lodge
R1500 Gift Hamper from Aircraft Finance Corporation
R1000 Fuel Voucher Sponsored by Pretoria Noord Toyota.
R500 Villa San Giovannis Voucher
Sadly none of the winners were present to accept their prizes
Overall the 2023 edition of Aero SA was a great success and I’m sure it will continue to grow in the future. The City of Tshwane along with Messe Frankfurt South Africa agreed to host Aero South Africa at Wonderboom National Airport up to 2024, so Aero SA will be back next year, the date of the event has yet to be finalised.