Helitech International’s organizers and hosts aim to demonstrate the value of trade shows for operators and vendors in trying times with this week’s event in Amsterdam.
The annual event convenes at RAI Amsterdam Oct. 11 to 13 as the world's rotorcraft industry is in a major downturn.
The slump was spurred by the significant downturn in oil prices, which cut demand for the services of offshore support operators and the manufacturers and vendors that rely on their business.
The downturn was aggravated (or mitigated, depending on your perspective and business activities) by the April 29 crash of an Airbus Helicopters EC225 in Norway that killed 13. The crash, in which the main rotor separated from the CHC Helikopter aircraft, led to a global grounding of the EC225, eating into Airbus' business as a time when demand for helicopters generally was tepid. The chief executive of Airbus Group, that OEM's parent company, warned in late September that production cuts may be in the offing.
"It’s a fact that we must adapt to the continuing shrinking of the helicopter market," Chief Executive Thomas Enders said in a letter to employees. "The additional necessary adaptations to helicopter capacities to cope with our market reality are presently under review."
Enders said the company also is considering cutting production of its massive A380 airliner. He warned that the impact on employees would be "not negligible."
The temporary removal of EC225s from the market led to an uptick in demand for Sikorsky S-92s. Adding to 12 months’ ill winds were the Oct. 30, 2015, inflight breakup of a Leonardo-Finmeccanica AW609 civil tiltrotor prototype and the July 6 midair breakup of a Bell Helicopter 525 Relentless prototype. The crashes may come under particular scrutiny due to the use in each aircraft’s design of fly-by-wire controls of varying degrees.
Amid this tumult, the Helitech team hopes an expanded program will combine with urgent needs of exhibitors and attendees alike to draw crowds to the event at RAI Amsterdam. Helitech is organized by Reed Exhibitions and run in association with the European Helicopter Assn. (EHA).
“In a challenging period of change, there is an even greater need to meet, network and discuss future strategy,” Helitech’s exhibit director, John Hyde, said. “Shows like Helitech are crucial for this.” said John Hyde.
He said the organizers and hosts aim to attract a broad audience by serving as “a platform for rotorcraft professionals to make connections within the industry, to create opportunities for companies to secure new missions and contracts while giving visitors the chance to source the latest products and services.”
The show is set to feature more than 180 exhibitors from 20 different countries, including 30-plus companies making their Helitech debut. This year’s event is the second in Amsterdam after the show’s 2014 debut in the city.
Prior to 2013 event, Helitech was held every two years in the U.K. In that year, it began alternating between London and Amsterdam. Organizers failed in two attempts to establish the show in Portugal — in 2008 and 2010.
To establish Helitech as a key networking venue, organizers this year have implemented a new seminar and workshop program based on the trends shaping the future of the helicopter industry in the coming year.
Main discussion topics include: how the downturn in the oil and gas market impacts new aircraft purchases; attracting pilots and mechanics for the more complex missions taking place in the industry; future trends in helicopter medical emergency services (HEMS), delivering SAR services in challenging environments; and trends in airborne law with a focus on law enforcement. These will be reflected in various sessions and workshops at the show.
Alongside the returning Business Leaders Forum and Safety Workshop, operators will form a key focus for the 2016 program with the launch of the Operators Forum, where like-minded individuals from across the globe can network with and discuss the evolving rotorcraft industry and ways of improving missions.
“Based on the feedback we’ve had, it’s great to hear about the new products, but attendees also want to gain insight and more of a technical point of view on the industry,” Hyde said. “For the first time this year we’re also working with manufacturers to launch technical workshops that will offer interactive briefings on different types of technology, fit outs and missions.” R&WI