Well Langley event has come and gone.
We successfully managed 100 aircraft into and out of Langley without any serious incidents. This in itself was a major plus for the organisers as the SAAA was in the spotlight at a level rarely achieved at any of its events.
Langley Park is only about 150 m from the high rise buildings on the southern edge of Perth’s CBD. Add to that the fact that CHOGM ( Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting ) was only two weeks away. The city was awash with additional State and Federal Police, Army and Airforce personnel, Army Blackhawk helicopters, Police helicopters from other states and F18 Hornets. (but more of that later) - It was no time or place to have an aircraft incident on the Park or in the river.
To get the event across the line with the various government agencies, required an extensive risk analysis and submissions covering every base we could think of.
It should be noted that our direct contacts within CASA and ATC were excellent to work with and helpful in supporting the approval for the event. Due to the unique location of this event, it could be said that the approval was probably as tight as any ever issued.
The entire event was managed around a safety framework that required;
1. Collection of data electronically on all participants
2. Scrutineering pilots currency of licence, medicals, flying etc
3. Scrutineering the aircraft maintenance status
4. Checking the aircraft performance against a criteria set by SAAA and enforced by CASA
5. Checking that the pilot could perform with his/her aircraft to meet the landing and takeoff criteria set.
Langley in itself is not a challenging strip, the park being 950 m long with a clearly marked 600m strip with 175m over and undershoots at each end.
What makes Langley stressful for many pilots is the closeness of high rise buildings, non standard circuit patterns, aircraft at 1 minute intervals, 247 ft Bell Towers on approach or departure, a grass strip and the pressure to perform in front of your peers.
To ensure that this was could all be performed safely we had pilots demonstrate their flying skills to a Scrutineering / Safety Team from Chapter 16 and the SABC at Serpentine (YSEN) and to familiarise themselves with Langley by walking the Park. The net result – no accidents.
Think it’s easy? For bush pilots used to flying in and out of visually challenging strips, maybe. To those who only fly into major airports, not so easy. We thank everybody involved for taking these safety steps seriously and demonstrating to the naysayers that we take our flying and safety seriously.
The setup at Langley required that we have numerous meetings with the Perth City Council and included fencing the park, road closures, bring in catering contractors, paint the airstrip on the grass, brief emergency services groups, co-ordinate traffic management on the river, calm local residents and businesses, make sure the Zoo was happy – all in a days’ work for a hardworking management team over a period of about ten months.
People started arriving from all over Australia in the week leading up to the Flyin. The trek across Australia made that little bit harder by a string of late season fast moving fronts crossing the lower half of the country. All aircraft made it safely to keep the team at Serpentine busy while the Langley team started setting up. Setup being a three day exercise. All was going well until a torrential downpour on the Thursday morning. No worries just enlist more people on the Friday to make it happen.
For those who know bureaucracies you will know they just love having you fill out forms and issuing permits based on those forms. We had our permit issued from the City only three weeks before the event, however that is just the permit that allows you to apply for several more that culminates in the last one being issued when all is setup. We managed to get our permit for the event to proceed at 6:30 pm on the Friday after attending a Display Pilots briefing at Serpentine. Just a quick 45km dash from Serpentine to Perth after the briefing finished at 5:15 pm.
Saturday weather was perfect – after an 8 a.m. compulsory briefing three organisers aircraft departed for Langley and shortly after 9:30 the Serpentine ground marshals commenced flagging of the faster aircraft at one minute intervals for a scenic flight over to the coast, north along the coast past Fremantle before turning east along the Swan River to the Narrows Bridge near the city, a short hop to then fly along Langley Park at 1500 ft then into a right hand descending circuit for a runway “1” arrival into Langley.
From the first arrivals of the 200+ kt aircraft to the Sopwith Pup and Pietenpol Scout they all made a dramatic entrance in perfect weather.
The event was officially opened by the Deputy Mayor of the City of Perth the Honourable John Toglinini followed by the Hon. John Castrilli MLA, Minister for Local Government; Heritage; Citizenship and Multicultural Interests.
The Minister announced the State heritage listing of Langley Park.
Heritage Minister John Castrilli said it was a significant occasion to announce the permanent registration of Perth’s first airfield site in the 1920s, especially during a free, two-day air show featuring aircraft from that era. “Langley Park was the site of Australia’s first scheduled air mail and passenger service, and is now one of the few places in the world where aircraft fly on to a grass airstrip in the heart of the city,” Mr Castrilli said.
Following Minister Castrilli, Micko O'Byrne (SAAA) officially welcomed everyone on behalf of the local Aboriginal custodians. Executive Director of Healthway (Smarter than Smoking) Mr David Malone and SAAA Chapter 24 president, Dr Phil Finch also spoke.
Following the Official Opening the participants and crowd of aviation enthusiasts were wowed by a string of aerobatic displays and flybys by national and local pilots. Including two passes by a Cobham Airlines BAe 146.
Unfortunately the planned displays by the Airforce were cancelled on two weeks notice due to assets being required for CHOGM two weeks later. We were more than mystified by this bit of bureaucratic nonsense. Here the government and armed forces had an airshow in play in the centre of the city about to host a major international conference that they could use to showcase their assets (that were all sitting at Pearce) and we were knocked back on all fronts. To add insult to injury we were also advised that we had not given enough notice. Apparently 11 months is inadequate.
Saturday night featured a Dinner at the Hyatt (only 500m from the centre of the Langley strip) with Matt Hall as the keynote speaker. A very entertaining night for all.
Sunday the weather gods turned and winds gusting 50kts at 1500 ft from “030” generated some serious rotas and general turbulence in the circuit and Display Box. All aerobatic routines were trimmed back for safety but performers like Matt Hall were still able to impress the crowd with their routines.
By early afternoon the wind had died down allowing all flying displays to go pretty much as planned but with a few changes for safety reasons.
At 2:30 departures started and spot on 4:00 the last aircraft departed the TRA that had been setup for the weekend and the airspace was handed back to ATC.
Due to the protracted departure sequence a considerable number of participants were able return to Langley to assist in cleaning up. By 6:30 the park was spotless with only the fencing and food vans to be removed. A great result for the organisers.
What did we take from the event?
1. It was a great social gathering of members from across Australia
2. SAAA was showcased as a professional organisation capable of presenting a great event for the public in a very sensitive area.
3. If you prepare properly you can achieve almost anything.
4. The SAAA Guidelines for Flyins was a great foundation for getting started.
5. Good solid sponsorship is crucial to a good outcome.
6. A lot of good people put their hands up to help. They know who they are and we thank them.
7. The icing on the cake was the huge number of emails from participants thanking us for the event. That made it all worthwhile!
P.S. - Don’t ring us for about four months we will be sleeping.