For more than 30 years, those attending the Australian International Airshow at Avalon (AIRSHOW) have been guided through the flying displays by commentator Peter Meehan OAM.
It would be apt to call Peter the voice of AIRSHOW, a stalwart of the air spectacular who has shared his vast aviation knowledge with the crowds at every event dating back to 1992.
The time has come however for Peter to pass the mic as he prepares for his last AIRSHOW at the end of this month. He will use the 2023 event to introduce 3AW presenter, comedy writer and self-confessed aviation nut, Tony Moclair, as one of the next generation of commentators tasked with continuing Peter’s legacy.
With a deep-seated passion for aviation as a private pilot and a career that is almost written with the role of airshow commentator in mind, Peter has worked as a radio presenter and broadcast journalist for more than 40 years and as Squadron Leader Specialist Reserve, conducted media management for the Australian Defence Force.
He draws on his library of military, aircraft and broadcast knowledge to provide a narrative to AIRSHOW that combines a mix of facts, historical insight, personality and most importantly, the element of silence.
“As the fast jet approaches in formation or solo, no matter if it's Australian or from other parts of the world, it is time to simply shut up and let the aircraft do the talking,” he said.
Peter first joined the team in 1992 after expressing his interest in getting involved in a new airshow taking place at Avalon Airport.
“I was invited by then CEO, Ian Honnery, to be involved in the commentary and when that time came around, it was a terrific airshow and had lots of content, but it was by today's standards, in its infancy,” he said.
Over the next 30 years Peter developed his commentary style as AIRSHOW established itself as the largest airshow and industry exposition in the Southern Hemisphere.
He has come very close to perfecting the artform.
“Keep brevity in mind, stay away from flowery rhetoric that really means nothing and I can prove that people do not listen to idle chat, they simply don't.”
“Succinct key messages are the answer to getting everyone's attention.”
As an avid spectator who has attended every AIRSHOW since its inception, Tony is coming to the commentator role with a solid understanding of what the audience wants.
“I’m very much a fan of Peter’s work,” he said.
“The aircraft are the stars of the show, the pilots flying them are the stars of the show and we are just there to give that running commentary, give people information, but also just a little sprinkle of showbiz to the whole thing.”
He said landing the commentator role at AIRSHOW 2023 is a dream come true.
“You couldn't script anything as magical as this, having been to every one of them. I go religiously and religiously is not casually used,” he said.
“I love this airshow, I never miss one and I will never miss one so I'm thrilled.”
Peter and Tony will lead the AIRSHOW commentary team in 2023 with pilot and expert aviation and Defence podcaster, Grant McHerron and award-wining aviation writer and journalist, Angela Stevenson. They will come together to absorb three decades of AIRSHOW experience from Peter and with their own unique flair, ensure the changing of the guard takes place without a blip.
“I can't tell you how grateful I am to have Peter guiding the transition and just being phenomenal with his support and mentorship,” said Tony.
“I'm definitely learning from the best and just to take over that legacy is something I'm extremely proud of.”
It will be bittersweet moment for Peter who is philosophical about his AIRSHOW career coming to an end.
““It will be just a terrific exit for me. I'm looking forward to the seamless transition with Tony and the commentary team and the support audio team behind the scenes,” said Peter.
“I feel disappointed but the time has come because of health, age and other things to do. There is a time, there has to be a time,” he said.
Despite the hint of sadness, the excitement for this year’s event is obvious when the conversation returns to the hardware that will be on display.
“The thing I'm really excited about is the demonstration by the (Republic of Korea Air Force) Black Eagles which I think is going to blow people's socks off,” Tony said.
“That will be in Avalon's history, I predict it will be one of the highlights of the last 30 plus years. They are going to be out here to impress and they are going to be incredible, I cannot wait.”
Peter said the public will be treated to a comprehensive display by the Royal Australian Air Force.
“The Royal Australian Air Force has never been in a better position to show all of their assets and their hardware as they will at this AIRSHOW,” he said.
“They have every aeroplane to cater for every given situation and they have the electronic warfare intelligence gathering component with the Super Hornet Growler and above all the F35 Joint Strike Fighter, which in itself takes an overarching view of the of the battle space.”
Tony agrees and said this is the perfect opportunity for the Australian public to see Air Force aircraft up close and personal, on the ground.
“That's one of the great thrills of AIRSHOW, getting up close and walking in and around aircraft being operated by our Air Force.”