Bangkok Air Show

Over this weekend, Bangkok is holding its first Civil Aviation Exhibition and Air Show at Don Mueang Airport. Their aim is threefold: to promote and support Thailand’s aviation industry, the recruitment of aviation personnel, and to promote flying as a sport to Thai people. The exhibition is split into two areas. The first is the exhibition booths in the old departure lounge of International Terminal 2 at Don Muang. As well as airlines and private operators, there are also booths for flying schools and universities that prepare people for a career in the aviation industry. I was particularly interested in the booths with paramotors which is basically a big engine that you strap to your back. Apparently you can buy these for about 170,000 baht. I am tempted to buy one but I will have to save up my pennies first.

The second part of the exhibition are the displays of the airplanes on the runway and also the air show in the morning. Apparently this is the first of its kind organized by the Department of Civil Aviation and the Airports of Thailand Plc. If you want to go and see this tomorrow, you have to go to Gate 6 in the departure lounge. There you have to go through a metal detector before boarding a bus. If you want to watch the air show then it is advisable to go early. I was there at 8.45 a.m. this morning and went straight on the bus with no delays. When I came back later there were several hundred people waiting in the queue. They took us down to the runway where an area had been cordoned off for a display of various aircraft and helicopters.

The air show itself is between 9.30 a.m. and 11 a.m. which gave me plenty of time to walk around and take a close look at some 70 aircraft that were on show. I was hoping to be able to take a close look at the famous “Miss Siam” airplane but unfortunately, as it was part of the show, it was parked on the other side of the runway. People were flying in Thailand as far back as 1913. The following year, King Rama VI wrote in his diary that “I am delighted that we Thai are not bested by the Westerner, truly we can do whatever they can do.” Unfortunately, not many people were allowed to fly in Thailand. It wasn’t until Luen Pongsophon returned from America in the early 1930′s that things started to change. He brought back with him a Travel Air 2000 which he named “Miss Siam”. This was the first privately owned aircraft in Thailand. However, despite his extensive experience flying in aerial display in America he found it found it very difficult to get permission to fly in Thailand.

In 1932, Luen Pongsophon received permission from the King to make a flight from Thailand to China which became a landmark in aviation history. Sadly, the aircraft was badly neglected and left to rust away in an aviation museum in Lopburi for many years. However, a group of people received funding to do a complete restoration of the airplane. Although most of the body work was replaced, the engine that we saw today was the original one that flew to China nearly 80 years ago. The “Miss Siam” was then obviously the highlight of the air show. Unfortunately, it was also the most disappointing. The pilot taxied down the runway so far away from us that we couldn’t even see it when it took off. It was already high in the sky when it came back to our area. It then did three or four slow circuits in an anti-clockwise direction in front of us. Unfortunately, every time it came towards us, it came out of the sun which meant we were squinting all the time. Then before we knew it, it was over and it landed.

Next came a series of about half a dozen or so light aircraft which did similar displays. Some of these flew around the observation area and also a bit lower so that we were able to get a better look. I suppose I went with high expectations of some seeing some interesting aircraft. But I must say that this was the most boring air show I have ever seen. They said that they plan to hold international air shows here from as early as next year. Hopefully they will improve by that time. If you are interested in aircraft then it is worth going tomorrow. The exhibition is also interesting. But, if you want a bit of excitement then maybe wait for the international air show in a few years from now. I have posted some more bigger pictures over at the Bangkok Guidebook Forums.