FIDAE 2008 Airshow, Santiago, Chile
I had the pleasure of participating in FIDAE 2008, Latin America's largest biennial defense and trade show. During the first five full days, the armed forces and civil services from most of the Latin American countries come to Santiago, Chile, to see the latest technologies for sale from vendors all around the world. Days six and seven are open to the public and the crowds are treated to a variety of sights and sounds on the flightline.
I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to and living in various parts of the globe, mostly in Europe, but this was my first trek south of the equator. Some of those interesting tid-bits you learned in school come to life on a trip like this. First, where the temperatures were hovering around freezing at home, summer was winding down in Santiago. Where I grew accustomed to the night skies of the northern latitudes, all I could do was look up in wonder at the night skies over Chile as I had no clue about those constellations.
Driving around Santiago almost felt like driving around southern California in the 1970s, before everything was basically paved over. The city is beautiful as is the countryside. The main airport in Santiago, Benitez International Airport, shares its runways with the Chilean Air Force. The airport terminal is as modern as any I’ve flown through and in many ways reminded me of Madrid, Spain’s main airline terminal.
The show was held at the Air Force’s main facility on the other side of Benitez International Airport. For the duration, six of main hangars became home to a variety of international pavilions from around the world. On display were all varieties of equipment including aircraft, armored vehicles, utility vehicles, missiles, weapons, ammunition, communications, software, computers, logistics, fuel, ejection seats, avionics, UAVs, sensors of all types, and much, much more.
On the flightline were a variety of aircraft including a sampling of the aircraft types operated by the Chilean Air Force (including their new Block 50+ F-16C Fighting Falcons), Chilean Army, Chilean Navy, Brazilian Air Force, Argentine Air Force, US Air Force, Royal Air Force, German Air Force, and a wide range of civilian aircraft. One of the highlights of the show was the brief appearance of Airbus’ new A380. That is one very large aircraft.
My colleagues on this trip do more of these airshow/trade show venues than I; this would be my first as a participant rather than a spectator. It was interesting listening to all the varieties of turbines, afterburners, and rotors passing outside our hangar. While I’ve spent a few years working around the flightline during flight test, you rarely heard anyone buzzing the field or stroking the afterburner. At a show like this, everyone is getting their shot at showing what their aircraft could do from the EC-135 helicopter to the A380 airbus and from the PC-7 trainer to the B-1B Lancer. All I can say is that I love the smell of JP-8 first thing in the morning!
Here is a look at the sights on the flightline as well as models of some of the aircraft that couldn’t make it over ‘in person’: