This Galactic Guide originally appeared in Jump Point 4.11.
For spacecraft enthusiast Audrey Timmerman, Lo was the ideal place to grow up. Every day, a wide array of ships would make the trip into atmosphere from the bustling spacelanes above. Family members recalled Audrey spending her nights staring out the window of their flat in the Walden Towers housing development and identifying ships as they flew past solely on the configuration of their running lights. In an interview with the Terra Gazette, Timmerman couldn’t recall what first got her interested in aviation: “I don’t remember one specific ‘ah-ha’ moment. That love was just always there.”
Timmerman came from a family of modest means who couldn’t afford to own a ship, but her parents indulged her passion by taking her to New Junction’s bustling trade port to watch the ships take off and land. In 2656, Timmerman eagerly joined the Navy with dreams of becoming a pilot. Unfortunately, her piloting skill lagged behind those who already had years of flight experience.
Still, her vast knowledge of ships and eye for detail did not go unnoticed. She became a mechanic and rose through the ranks to became a pit chief aboard the frigate UEEN Solis. Assigned to patrol the Perry Line, the Solis spent its time as a mobile support ship for UEE strike fighters that monitored the Xi’an jump points. She described it as ‘long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of terror,’ but that changed one day when a flight of fighters brought back something from their patrol: wreckage of a Xi’an ship. While Timmerman was intimately familiar with Banu ships from her childhood in Corel, seeing the Xi’an’s unique design approach was both fascinating and inspiring for her.
After ending her Naval service, Timmerman returned to New Junction and opened Intergalactic Aerospace Repairs in 2667. The shop quickly garnered a reputation for being able to fix just about anything. In her off hours, Timmerman devoted herself to her true passion, trying to reverse engineer the Xi’an tech she had seen in the Navy. Relations between the two species were antagonistic at the time, so it was impossible as a civilian to get her hands on Xi’an tech, leaving her nothing but memories and ingenuity to work with.
In 2670, Timmerman finished installing Xi’an-inspired maneuverable thrusters on Poby, an old Aurora she named after her cat. Afraid to test fly the ship on a heavily populated planet, Timmerman and fellow aerospace enthusiasts loaded Poby and a number of other heavily modified ships onto a transporter and flew to the nearly desolate planet of Castor to test fly them. Though it was an informal gathering, historians now considered it to be the very first Intergalactic Aerospace Expo.
Poby’s first flight was a disappointment, as a power surge fried a number of her experimental thrusters. Timmerman wasn’t deterred by the failure — quite the opposite, she was energized by the process, and it wasn’t long before this group of experimental spacecraft enthusiasts were meeting regularly to discuss and examine various mods they were building. The annual test flights on Castor became a tradition and grew in popularity over the years.
One of the members of the group was Steffon Dillard, owner of Steffon’s Ship Emporium in New Junction. He recognized the popularity of the annual gathering and approached Timmerman about sponsoring the event. He would provide the latest ships for the enthusiasts to check out in person, and hopefully make some sales in the process. Timmerman agreed and, needing a name to put on the ads Dillard was creating, decided to borrow from her own company to get the name Intergalactic Aerospace Expo (IAE).
Over the next decade, the event became large enough that other retail outlets and parts manufacturers were eager to show off their own goods at the expo. Once that happened, it wasn’t long before the major ship manufacturers took notice. In 2683, RSI became an official sponsor of the IAE and has been one ever since. Each year, more and more sponsors and booths appeared at the event.
Purists decried its corporatization, but Timmerman vehemently justified the expansion. To her the Expo hadn’t sold out; it had adapted and improved. Her final act was to create a nonprofit to officially manage the event, and ensure a large percentage of the revenue went to a charity Timmerman created called Simpod Pals, whose mission was to give underprivileged children the opportunity to learn how to fly.
In 2847, the board of directors made the decision to rotate the location of the IAE each year. The public explanation was that it would give more people the chance to experience the universe’s premier aerospace event.
Numerous systems clamored to host the event and enjoy the economic windfall that came with it. The event hopscotched from planet to planet for the next few decades until the 2913 event in Ferron was almost canceled due to Asura’s inability to meet the minimum hangar and power standards outlined by the IAE’s contract. Shortly after this scare, the IAE board was contacted by Governor Joona Tzur of Severus about bringing the event to the Kiel System. IAE officials were impressed with his presentation, but more so with the facilities his planet could offer. Severus contained numerous hangars (initially built and used by the military), plenty of available landing pads, and more than sufficient accommodations for visitors. After impressing the IAE board with Kiel’s facilities, Tzur went in for the kill. He offered to make vast upgrades and improvements to the existing facilities if the IAE agreed to make Severus the event’s permanent home. Still reeling from the Ferron controversy, the board of directors took a vote and approved the proposal. The IAE has been based in Kiel ever since. UPDATE: In 2948, the IAE hosted their first ever satellite Expo from the Desmond Memorial Convention Center in Lorville, Hurston. The inaugural event was scheduled to run concurrently with the main Expo in Kiel and feature many of the same ships and vendors.
The Intergalactic Aerospace Expo has come a long way since its humble beginnings on Castor. Due to insurance and legal issues, it’s no longer about amateurs test flying experimental ships. Instead, renowned pilots like Chelsea Yan and members of the Navy’s famed ‘Wreckless’ Squadron 999 dazzle attendees with impressive flight maneuvers, while ship and component manufacturers unveil their latest wares. At its core though, the Intergalactic Aerospace Expo is made for those young dreamers who find themselves staring up at the sky to count running lights.