Now that the dust's settled, AirVenture event at Parkes still a success

AirVenture Australia at Parkes still a success despite dust storm

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OUTSTANDING: Some of the Bushcat Building Team with the Bushcat plane they built during the week - Henry Ponder, Wellington, Ella Ross, Parkes, Scott Green, Parkes, Thomas Unger, Alectown, Caleb Hill, Parkes, Will Greenland, Parkes, Corey Loader, Ballarat, Joshua Bruce, Mt Compass SA, Alex Smyth, Orange and Jackson Tenhave, Ganmain. Photo: Jenny Kingham

OUTSTANDING: Some of the Bushcat Building Team with the Bushcat plane they built during the week - Henry Ponder, Wellington, Ella Ross, Parkes, Scott Green, Parkes, Thomas Unger, Alectown, Caleb Hill, Parkes, Will Greenland, Parkes, Corey Loader, Ballarat, Joshua Bruce, Mt Compass SA, Alex Smyth, Orange and Jackson Tenhave, Ganmain. Photo: Jenny Kingham

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AirVenture Australia organisers say all was not lost when the dust came to town during the event.

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A severe dust storm may have halted the majority of Saturday's activities at the much anticipated AirVenture Australia airshow and expo, but event director David Young said all was not lost.

Despite the extreme weather and in return lower than expected crowd numbers, the premier three-day aviation spectacular at the Parkes Regional Airport over the weekend was very successful.

It's the first time Parkes has hosted the event, which in its current format has been running for five years.

Friday's activities, which included the Aviation Careers and STEM engagement program, went ahead uninterrupted, though the dust was present in the air then.

Some Parkes residents described the dust storm on Saturday as the worst they've ever seen.

A series of seminars did get underway in the morning but had to be suspended and the tents evacuated to the clubhouse for safety reasons due to the high winds.

"The weather really did impact us, it was very unfortunate," David said.

"We usually get 400 aircraft fly in for the event, we only had 100 there."

The day's program resumed from 2pm as planned, but the twilight air show had to be cancelled because the pilots and aircraft involved were stranded in Cowra because of the wind and dust.

DUSTY: The low visibility and strong winds resulted in the tent site at the air show being evacuated on Saturday morning, and the airport temporarily closed. Photo: Jenny Kingham

DUSTY: The low visibility and strong winds resulted in the tent site at the air show being evacuated on Saturday morning, and the airport temporarily closed. Photo: Jenny Kingham

Conditions were near perfect on Sunday for locals and visitors to enjoy the day's aviation action.

"The seminars, exposition and entertainment recommenced on Saturday but it was a subdued affair," David said.

"Sunday went ahead but we didn't have the walk-up gate attendance, because when people plan to come for a weekend and Saturday was out due to the weather, people just didn't come out on the Sunday.

"We were hoping more locals would come on the Sunday."

David praised the involvement of the kids and students throughout the entire event.

This year featured a comprehensive youth aviation engagement program - the first of its kind in regional Australia - which saw a selection of 25 school students from the Central West and across Australia come together as a team and build a BushCat aircraft from a kit within seven days.

They had 3500 parts to put together and we believe it's the fastest build ever done in the world inside a week. - Event director David Young

The Bushcat Build Team - which included students from Parkes, Alectown, Wellington, Orange, Ballarat and South Australia - were ecstatic when they witnessed the successful maiden flight of their Bushcat on Sunday.

"It was an absolute, pleasing outcome and very humbling to watch the team work, and with minimal guidance," David said.

"They had 3500 parts to put together and we believe it's the fastest build ever done in the world inside a week.

"It's unfortunate we didn't have the Guinness World Records there but at an event like that, it's not what you're really thinking about.

"It was a resounding, outstanding success - that was the leading light.

"There were six students involved who said they had no aspirations for a career in aviation but [by the end they wanted to get their pilot's licence]. That's very significant."

David said it was great to see all the kids get involved and have a go, not only in the Bushcat build but at the careers expo and workshops.

"So all was not lost in that sense - in its fullness, those elements made up for it in spades," he said.

READ MORE: Did we take your photo at the 2019 AirVenture Australia event? Check out all our photos from the weekend here.

An added bonus was having a former Parkes man and Royal Australian Air Force Squadron Leader, Russell Mills, fly his F18 Hornet at the show on Sunday.

"We're not always blessed with an F18 at our shows, so we were very fortunate this year," David said.

Parkes' location was described as an outstanding venue and praised by attendees as being a big part of the 2019 event's success with amazing 360 degrees of uninterrupted views.

"The aircraft were nice and close, the flying was fantastic and very reasonably close, moderate crowd and a real heap of potential," one attendee said on AirVenture Australia's Facebook page.

"As with any new venue, there are things to work out... We have had some very favourable comments on Facebook," David said.

"It was pleasing how Parkes Shire Council and the town were involved."

Another advantage of Parkes Regional Airport, David said, was allowing caravans and RVs to camp onsite, a first for the event.

READ MORE: Parkes Airport a first class home for aviation industries

David said it is AirVenture's plan to have Parkes as the permanent home for the event, after it was previously held in Narromine.

Organisers looked at other venues before deciding Parkes was the best, all-round location.

"As you can imagine there's a lot of work involved in staging an event like this, it's an exhausting schedule and we're a very small team," David said.

"We'll let the dust settle, literally, before we even think of the next one.

"Its purpose is to introduce aviation to the broader public and provide pathways into and out of aviation.

"What a lot of people don't know is that owning a plane is very affordable...and aviation is very realistic to get into."

Also not seen before at AirVenture Australia was the opportunity for one lucky visitor who purchased a ticket online to go into the draw to win a BushCat aircraft worth $100,000. The winner will be announced at the end of October.

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The story Now that the dust's settled, AirVenture event at Parkes still a success first appeared on Parkes Champion-Post.

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