The founder of the Gold Coast Pacific Airshow has revealed how he cried “uncontrollably” in front of staff when COVID-19 forced him to cut his workforce from 60 to just 17.
Speaking to Australian Aviation for its latest cover feature, Kevin Elliott said, “I spent 14 years building my company and half a day dismantling it.”
Elliott took over the reins of the original event in the US in 2018 before bouncing back from the pandemic to launch an Australian version earlier this year.
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“It was the worst-case scenario, but we always knew it would come back,” said Elliott.
“One of the things I stressed was the hardest part was going to be the recovery when the clients returned and decided they wanted to turn the key back on.
“We can’t just go from zero to 100, especially when it takes a certain amount of people and manpower to execute something like that.”
Despite the setbacks, the Australian event was eventually a huge success, attracting around 200–300,000 total attendees in August.
In addition, Westpac Helicopter conducted a lifesaving rescue helicopter demonstration, Gold Coast Skydive performed a formation skydive, and Fw190 Downunder and the Precision Fighters showed off a Focke Wulf 190, P-51D Mustang, and a P-40 Kittyhawk, among other displays.
Organisers later told local media that there is room to grow up to half as much again.
Speaking to The Gold Coast Bulletin, Elliott said that starting in 2024, the event – which occupied roughly 1km of beachfront this year – could widen its footprint on the beach, add VIP areas, expand deeper into the streets, and add “double-storey hospitality”.
“We built the venue and sized it for what we thought we could sell without taking more of the beach than we thought we needed. The last thing we wanted to do was take more beach than there was demand. Fortunately for us, demand met our capacity,” he said.
“Now we know there is more demand, we can expand. Next year, we plan to expand the event precinct even wider to accommodate more capacity.
“I think we can go 50 per cent larger – there are a lot of ways we can expand, either side [of the beach area], push back in the street a bit too which would require diligent planning and traffic management. We close the street anyway so we’ll look at that.”
The schedule for 2023 included flypasts from RAAF C-130 Hercules and Boeing C-17 Globemaster aircraft, as well as displays from the RAAF, US Marine Corps and US Air Force.
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