As Helitech International closes today at the RAI exhibition centre in Amsterdam, the Helitech name is now disappearing.
Initially focusing on the oil industry and first run in Aberdeen in 1986, the original Helitech organisers Spearhead Exhibitions realised they had to evolve to make the event viable. Primarily this meant moving the event to Redhill – close to London’s Gatwick Airport – from 1987 and it became a biannual UK event which continues to this day. Helitech then ran seven times at Redhill, later moving to Duxford from 2001 and was held there six times through to 2011. From 2013 the venue was controversially moved to the ExCeL exhibition centre in London’s Dockland area, running there again in 2015 and 2017. Earlier this year organisers Reed announced a move to Farnborough for 2019, citing the ability to hold demo flights, an opportunity almost completely lost at ExCel (officially they said they could, but the take-up was near zero due in part to the limitations of the nearby London City Airport – where helicopters are not allowed to land.
When Reed Exhibitions took over the event from Spearhead they decided to add events elsewhere in the world on the other (even numbered) years, and venues including Sao Paulo in Brazil and Cascais in Portugal were trialled. Market conditions led to them having to cancel Helitech Brazil in 2010 and Helitech Portugal in 2012. Then in 2014 Helitech was refocused as a strictly European event and for the first time the central Amsterdam site was used – the third run of which closes its doors today.
As we all should, the exhibition itself is evolving and gets a new name – the Vertical Flight Expo and Conference, a bit of a mouthful after the snappy “Helitech” name, or latterly “Helitech International” to be exact. Reed’s press release advises that “the new brand identity will build on its focus of traditional rotorcraft, while expanding to include new technologies and solutions that are enhancing rotorcraft operations and the future of vertical flight.” So they are jumping on the bandwagon of eVTOL and the disruptive technologies the OEMs are developing, and which our certification authorities and air traffic control will not be ready for.
The future web address will be verticalflightexpo.com which Reed only registered on Tuesday 16th October, two days ago. While they are already promoting this address, the website behind it is not in place as this story goes to press.
The dates will be 5-7th November 2019, which is rather surprising given the vagaries of the British weather. November is a time prone to fog in the UK, so there is the potential for the demo flights to be curtailed or exhibitors and visitors unable to reach the UK by air on schedule. Temperatures early in the month average a maximum of 10-11C (50-52F) and can dip below freezing overnight.
One of the key aspects of Helitech at Duxford (and Redhill in earlier years) was the ability for helicopter owners to fly in to the event – and there were days with nearly 100 visiting helicopters. Although no firm announcement has been made, the market expectation is that helicopter owners will not be able to fly in to the event at Farnborough, despite it being a huge airfield. This is due to the significant movements limitation, and there is an obvious commercial preference to have the regular long-range corporate jet flights in and out as their landing and handling fees will bring hundreds of times more money in than a lowly Robinson R22 for the same “movement number”.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
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