After a 2 year absence, the first live convention of the European Airshow Council was held over the 23-25th February 2023 in Brussels, welcoming delegates of the airshow community from 25 nations.
After 2 virtual events due to the Covid 19 pandemic, a welcome return was made to a live physical format for the 2023 event, returning to Brussels, but a new venue in the heart of the Belgian Capital. The first day of the convention featured special seminars, covering specific roles within the airshow community, discussing key issues, safety practices and key topics affecting the airshow industry in the last 12 months and those issues on the horizon. We were pleased to host 4 seminars, which included The Fast Jet Pilot Safety workshop, welcoming military 2 solo display pilots from 11 nations discussing safety, display format and planning, lessons learnt and a host of other topics. It also provided an opportunity for them to meet each other before the season begins.
The Flying Display Director seminar, focussed on a review of 2022 incidents, decision logging, insurance, whilst the Formation seminar reviewed a host of subjects surrounding the complexities of flying formations during displays. A new seminar saw the creation of a Sustainability Working Group, looking into the best ways we can help ensure our events and operations are as environmentally sound, sustainable and ethically responsible, which included support and presentations from EASA.
Following the Thursday evening meet and greet reception, the main convention opened welcoming 161 delegates from across the globe and a wide range of backgrounds in the airshow world. With many familiar faces present, the convention welcomed many new faces from both the civil and military world, including pilots, regulators, organisers, commentators and support providers. The convention opened with a welcome from long standing Chairman, Gilbert Buekenberghs, who has been at the helm since the EAC’s creation in 2000. It was at this juncture that Gilbert announced that he would be stepping down as chairman and retiring from the board after over 2 decades. Along with Gilbert the board will also see Joe Ciliberti, Jacques Bothelin and Ed De Bruijn step down, all founding members of the Council, as they retire from their external airshow roles. We are pleased to welcome Dr Manolis Karachalios (Greece) as our new Chairman and Geoffrey Buekenberghs (Belgium) as vice Chairman and as board members, Helen Webb (UK) and Massimo Farrugia (Malta) to take the EAC forward into the next decade.
The Convention presentations featured a number of speakers from around the globe on a wide range of topics from Marketing to Sustainability, Planning and Lessons learned, Safety and industry health checks, the focus remaining on the EAC’s motto of promoting Safety and Excellence in Airshows. An additional workshop session with all delegates was held with the focus being on Sustainability, further promoting and seeking ideas and strategies for making our events and displays as responsible as possible, making a commitment to the future of both our industry and environment.
Always a high point of the Convention, the Airshow Dinner was a chance to share a meal with friends old an new, but also a key time to recognise those within our airshow community for their contributions to the airshow world. The EAC Board was pleased to present the Ann Award for Innovation to The Aviation Photo Crew, recognising their unique support to airshows, photographers and performers through their air to air photography missions. The Chairman’s Award was presented to the Royal International Air Tattoo, for over 50 years of contributing both airshows, Global Cooperation, Democracy and promoting STEM, Youth in Aviation and supporting charities.
The Paul Bowen Award was presented to Air Power 22, the joint collaboration between the Flying Bulls and the Austrian Air Force, which made significant efforts to make the event both sustainable and entertaining, attracting over 275,000 visitors with a unique programme, committed team and a well earned reputation for Excellence. The final award presented during the dinner went to the Royal Jordanian Falcons. The team were presented with the Jock Maitland Sword for Excellence, awarded for their 5 decades of support to the European Airshow Community, promoting their home nation, supporting STEM and for their personal and friendly approach to their work.
It was also a chance to make a small presentation to out retiring board members, recognised with small gifts and thanks from delegates and the Board alike, taking into account their contribution in bringing the European Airshow Community together, improving safety, promoting excellence and supporting those joining our community or already within, with their expertise, dedication and knowledge.
The 2023 Convention was a success, with a friendly and welcome environment, open discussion and various opportunities to network in person which are all key aims of each convention. We look forward now to 2024, when the convention will return to the same venue over the 22-24 February 2024.