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Friday, September 30, 2011

Chairman’s Note: Welcome to Helitech Duxford 2011

By Andrew Drwiega, Helitech Conference Chairman, Rotor & Wing Military Editor

Over the last few months I’ve had the pleasure of setting the program and recruiting speakers for the Helitech Conference on behalf of Reed Exhibitions. This conference is a landmark one as it occurs during the 25th anniversary of the Helitech exhibition, which is held biennially at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire, in the UK.

At the beginning of the process my Reed colleagues and I set out to formulate a conference that would represent the ‘beginning’ of an event that would become an informative and useful addition to the calendar of everyone connected with rotorcraft, from owners and operations through to manufacturers and systems designers. The British Helicopter Association and Reed Exhibitions signed a two-year agreement earlier in the year that ensures the BHA’s participation in Helitech in 2011 and 2013. This partnership has also resulted in the involvement in this year’s conference of the European Helicopter Association (EHA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

To further strengthen Helitech’s planning for the future Reed’s Helitech Exhibition manager, Brandon Ward, initiated the establishment of Helitech’s first Steering Committee. The committee’s goal is to ensure that the Helitech event in its entirety continually evolves to meet the ‘needs and aspirations’ of the rotorcraft industry. The committee of 13 includes representatives from four main helicopter OEMs—AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter, Eurocopter and Sikorsky—as well as operators Bristow Helicopters and Sloane Helicopters. Other industry representatives include Rolls-Royce, Specialist Aviation Services, L-3 Wescam and Hayward Aviation Finance. The Helicopter Club of Great Britain will also represent pilots and owners.

Returning to the conference, it was decided that the offshore wind farm industry represented one of the most promising business growth sectors in the coming years. The early involvement of the European Wind Energy Association gave the conference an excellent and topical base on which the rest of the program could be built. Safety advice, R&D programs and through those, progress made on environmental issues are all subjects that a cross section of delegates to any conference now wish to see on the agenda.

‘Blue light’ (emergency responder) helicopter operations is also one that is currently topical in the UK. The finances available to public service operators are being stretched and hard choices are having to be made in UK policing generally, with the potential for many officers to be made redundant. The question of how a unified National Police Air Support service would work in the UK is being addressed during the conference, while others will question whether this unification is far enough, and ask whether other emergency services should also be included.

The objective of this conference is not to stage a one-off event, but to make it the starting point for the growth of the conference into a highly anticipated, valuable event for the European helicopter community. For that to happen, we need the active participation of delegates and ideas post-conference on how this should develop.

As part of this process, the event organizer Reed has established the Steering Committee that will ensure that not only the event itself, but also the conference, delivers the format, content and business opportunities that those in the rotorcraft market perceive that they require, be they manufacturers, service providers, operators or employees. Requirements are ever-changing and with your support, that is what Helitech as an event and conference hopes to deliver.

Finally, for those who have not visited the actual Imperial War Museum at Duxford, the site for Helitech, I strongly recommend it. The collection of vintage aircraft is extensive and the American Air museum hangar is described as having “the largest collection of American warbirds on display outside the United States, including a vintage B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell, P-47 Thunderbolt, and aircraft from the Cold War era such as a B-52 Stratofortress, SR-71 Blackbird and F-4 Phantom.”

See you at the conference.

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