No de-fence at Duxford
Guy Harvey reports from Duxford on Helitech 2003
Helitech once again attracted an impressive number of visitors to Duxford for its bi-annual event over 23-25 September. According to show organiser Spearhead Exhibitions, 4,622 people from 62 countries registered to attend and 230 helicopters came to the show, although only a small portion of them joined the static line or flight demonstrations.
Exhibitors said the attendees visiting their displays were mainly buyers in their respective organisations and were serious about talking about deals, reflecting Helitech's reputation as a no-nonsense helicopter trade show. "People who come here tend not to be tyre-kickers," said Donny Atkins, Bell Helicopter Textron's executive director for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Farnborough or Duxford?
McAlpine Helicopters' Marketing Executive Nick Hardy said "You do get the right calibre of people at Helitech. It's the Farnborough of the helicopter industry." McAlpine was representing Eurocopter at the show, prominently placed at the end of the main aisle leading in from the registration desks. Offering coffee and muffins, it was a popular destination for many visitors!
Even before it started, Helitech 2003 was a success for MD Helicopters, Inc. Just prior to the show’s opening day, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Henk Schaeken announced three new helicopter orders, then another the following day. The new orders include a twin-engine MD Explorer for the Luxembourg National Police; one MD 600N for a health spa operating in Switzerland; one MD 520N to an individual owner/operator in the UK; and one twin-engined MD Explorer for Great North Air Ambulance for emergency medical service work, operating from bases in Teeside and Blythe.
Military participants were few and far between, most disappointing absentee being the USAFE MH-53M Pave Low scheduled to appear from nearby RAF Mildenhall. A few military personnel dropped in each day, but no military hardware could be found amongst the rather cramped static park, the nearest being an ex-Royal Navy Gazelle still resplendent with its anniversary tail markings. Security is a bit of a hindrance with the show being at Duxford, as the exhibition site is fenced off within the IWM site, preventing easy viewing or access to the flightline where the more interesting aircraft could be found. Out on the grass was Sikorsky's S-92 (see sidebar), the biggest helicopter on show, but a long way from the static park unless one was patient and managed to get an escorted visit.
'Ello John, got a new...
It's wrong to think of Helitech as an airshow, and this is what dents its claim to be the 'Farnborough for helicopters'. More about widgets and sales, it's a shame that a limited flying demonstration isn't attempted, as used to happen in shows of the past. A couple of hours of Medevac demos, SAR rescues and Apache firepower would boost interest tenfold, and maybe reduce the coffee and donut intake too! As it was, it was almost a carbon copy of the 2001 event, even down to the positioning of some of the helicopters in the static park - just like Farnborough, it seems that there is little new to shout about, such are the lengthy development timescales of today's hi-tech machines. Make a date for Helitech 2005, but only if you're looking to buy…