All the exhibition space for the 2012 edi- tion of South Africa’s and Africa’s pre- mier airshow and defence exhibition, Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD), which will take place in September, has already been sold. By comparison, by April 2010, only 60% of the exhibition space for that year’s AAD had been sold. This is despite the fact that AAD 2012 has 20% more exhibition space than AAD 2010 had.
“Demand for the exhibition element of AAD 2012 has totally exceeded our expectations,” stated exhibition director Leona Redelinghuys. “All the exhibition space in the six hangars at Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof has been booked by local and international exhibitors, who will bring the world’s latest products and innovations to showcase at Africa’s largest aviation and defence event.”
The show directly benefits the country’s economy. “We’ve had a study concluded – AAD  contributed R209-million to [South Africa’s gross domestic prod- uct],” reported Commercial Aviation Asso-ciation of Southern Africa (Caasa) president Johan Nell. “We don’t punt the benefits of aviation, as such, to its fullest extent.”
AAD is jointly organised by South African defence acquisition and research and devel-opment agency Armscor, Caasa and the South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association (better known as AMD). “It’s a partnership that has worked very well,” said Nell. “It’s a team effort that drives this whole thing.”
The biennial show, which covers land and sea as well as air systems and equipment, returns to Air Force Base Waterkloof, in Pretoria, this year, after being hosted by AFB Ysterplaat, in Cape Town, for several years. “We certainly missed Waterkloof. It’s good to be back,” he stated. While prais-ing Ysterplaat, he pointed out that Waterkloof was, from the point of view of industry, better situated and was served by two highways and now the Gautrain high-speed intercity railway.
There will be three more national pavilions at AAD 2012, newcomers Belgium, Pakistan and Romania joining China, Germany, India, Italy, Turkey, Russia, the UK and the US.
The number of chalets at the show has jumped from 26 in 2010 to 41 for this year. For the first time, Norway will be an exhibitor.
Part of AAD is its Youth Development Programme (YDP), which is ten years old this year.
This is intended to develop awareness among schoolchildren of the career opportunities in the aerospace, defence and transport industries. It involves bringing selected youngsters – those excelling in maths, science and technology – to AAD and exposing them to the technologies, systems and companies present.
In 2002, the YDP started with a budget of R30 000 and 30 children; in 2010, 2 187 youngsters were involved and the target for 2012 is 3 000 (with a budget of R2.2-million). So far, 8 000 young people have been through the programme, which is entirely funded by donations.
The Department of Defence has so far extended 111 invitations to foreign delegations to attend AAD. Of these, 30 have been sent by the Minister of Defence, six by the Secretary of Defence, 26 by the chief of the South African National Defence Force, 13 by the chief of the South African Army, 21 by the chief of the South African Air Force, eleven by the chief of the South African Navy and four by the surgeon-general.
AAD 2012 will run from September 19 to September 23, with the first three days being trade days and the last two being public days which will include air displays. Most of the aircraft operated by the South African Air Force will be flown, and the US Air Force will have a strong contingent present (although it is not yet clear exactly what aircraft the Americans will bring and which of them will be flown). Other air forces and air arms invited to send aircraft have not yet responded.