What is today known internationally as AAD (Africa Aerospace and Defence) is an exhibition with its roots going back over 40 years to two separate events.
The first was the Africa Aerospace airshow at Lanseria Airport in 1975. That airshow had its roots firmly in the civilian and general aviation sector and was intended to showcase the airport which became operational the year before in what was then a pioneering joint venture. This because the regional airport which today has grown to a full international aviation centre became reality thanks to co-operation between the then municipalities of Krugersdorp and Roodepoort, the then Transvaal Peri-Urban Board and private sector investors.
The Commercial Aviation Association of SA (CAASA) played a leading role in making the 1975 airshow reality and is today still a partner in AAD. Other AAD partners are Armscor, AMD (the representative association of the SA defence industry), the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
On the military aviation side then SA Air Force Chief, Lieutenant General Bob Rogers, decided it would be good for the airborne arm of South Africa’s military to show itself to the public via an open day at AFB Waterkloof in the same year.
According to Aeronews, a now defunct monthly aviation magazine and with thanks to the Unofficial SAAF Website: “The SAAF has a new image through its policy of selling itself to the public – a move introduced by CAF Lieutenant General Rogers”.
“Following several visits to the SAAF’s air force base at Waterkloof by prominent industrialists some months ago and the successful Open Day at Potchefstroom on August 2, another is planned for Waterkloof near Pretoria on September 6.
“The idea, according to Rogers, is to acquaint the public with the air force, what it does and how it operates.”
He told the publication it was time “the people” knew about the SAAF’s activities and indication were in the region of two hundred thousand people were expected to attend the first SAAF Open Day.
This event, alongside the Africa Aerospace airshow, morphed into DEXSA (Defence Exhibition of SA) before becoming AAD in 2000.
With the exception of 2006 and 2008 when Cape Town’s AFB Ysterplaat hosted AAD while major renovation and refurbishment work was underway at the Centurion base, AAD’s home base is AFB Waterkloof. Today it is the SAAF’s hub of air transport operations and is home to the VIP transport squadron, 21; along with 28, 41 and 44 catering for the air transport needs of a defence force in peacetime.
In 2012 on its return to Waterkloof, AAD recorded more than 40 000 trade visitors and 92 000 people went through the turnstiles on the two public days. Similar figures were recorded for the 2014 edition of AAD and indications are this year’s exhibition will see a similar number of visitors.