Is African Aerospace and Defence the hardest show to get into?

So AAD is over for another two years. It is always an interesting show where you get to meet a lot of industry and see img_2411
equipment that you do not see elsewhere, however it is a pain to get access to.

Hosted by the South African Air Force at its Waterkloof base near Pretoria (it used to be in Cape Town) first of all you have to negotiate the traffic, which can be at a standstill or at crawling pace especially during rush hour.

There is no mini-bus or public transport so you have to rely on taxi drivers who do not know where anything is. It is almost like they are the tourist that has never been there before so you have to try and tap into your phone to get a google maps image to show them.

‘This is Africa’

Never has a moniker like this been more relevant to an admissions process. This year introduced a new, more img_2403streamlined and modern method for getting a show pass. Not really. Average queue time two hours+.

This involved getting to the front gates only to be told that now you have to collect the pass from the Officer’s Mess, 3km up the road in a random building somewhere. On finding this building you find the queue…

So you have already applied online, been confirmed and printed out your letter with your photo and a barcode on it. Surely all you have to do is walk in, scan it, collect the badge and walk out.

‘This is Africa’

Oh no. Hold it there, it can’t be that easy. Well it is, but AAD staff managed to make it difficult. There were only two workstations printing badges, only one of which was manned. Each person had to show ID and if you got the badge it had to be laminated. If there were any issues it was all dealt with right there. Meanwhile the queue gets longer.

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(South African accent) ‘I am sick and tired of this kind of behaviour,’ one queue member said to an official purporting to be some kind of manager. ‘It is ridiculous. What are you going to do about it?’ The manager shrugs a response.

‘Excuse me, why have you only got one person printing badges?’ asks one man.

‘We have two,’ Comes the reply. Both of which are held up when inevitable issues arise. Meanwhile the queue gets longer.

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‘This is Africa’

Some lose their temper, others sigh and shake their heads. Industry, media, trade visitors in a classic log jam with some waiting around four hours. So at least half of the first day of a three-day show is wasted. If you had paid to exhibit or visit – unlike getting a free media pass – this is valuable time lost.

After finally getting your pass the euphoria sets in, you look back the ever-lengthening queue with sympathy and a sense of victory that it is all done. Then there is the 3km walk back round the dusty track at the side of the road alongside the wall of the air base to get back to the show.

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It feels like forever, at each corner is another stretch of desert, until Nirvana! Is that the entrance?

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Fortunately security is easy and after that you just need to find food and Wifi. Until 2018!

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Are there any other exhibitions or trade shows that are worse?

Check our AAD coverage here!

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