AUGUST 20, 2017: 3RD ANNUAL WORLD HELICOPTER DAY
Looking back on it, the idea seems simple enough. But it took time: World Helicopter Day was instated 110 years after the first manned rotorcraft flight. Its founder and promoter, Mick Cullen, is as enthusiastic as ever this year as he prepares for the third edition of this extraordinary event. Participation from helicopter manufacturers, operators and private owners around the globe is crucial for success.
THERE’S NO COMPLICATED BACKSTORY BEHIND THE IDEA. MICK CULLEN FONDLY REMEMBERS THE 1980S TV SHOW AIRWOLF HE ENJOYED AS A KID, BUT HE HAD NEVER BEEN ANYWHERE NEAR A REAL HELICOPTER UNTIL HE JOINED THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY RESERVE. DURING HIS SERVICE, HE FOUND HIS WAY INTO A BELL UH-1H. HE WAS ALREADY A LICENSED PROFESSIONAL AIRPLANE PILOT, BUT NEEDED MORE TRAINING TO BE QUALIFIED TO FLY HELICOPTERS. “THEN I GOT TO FLY THE BELL UH-1H AND THE BLACKHAWK,” HE EXPLAINS. NOW MICK WORKS AS A FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR AT A SCHOOL IN BRISBANE.
Raising public awareness
In early 2015, as he was organizing an open day at the flight school where he works, Cullen wondered about something: “I did some research to find out if there was an international helicopter day. The date would have been perfect for our local event. But there wasn’t—I realized there was nothing at all.” So he founded it himself! To choose an ideal time of year, he worked around the dates of the major international helicopter trade shows and seasonal weather in the Northern Hemisphere—he concluded a summer date would be perfect. In the end, August stood out as the best choice. He quickly put together a website for World Helicopter Day, then turned to social media: “We have our own international day now!” he exclaimed happily. So why is World Helicopter Day important? “When people watch a helicopter rescue or passenger transport to an oil rig, or when they enjoy a tourist flight on vacation, very few of them realize just how many people play a role in making those flights happen, nor how much expertise is needed for them to be successful. ” World Helicopter Day aims to provide the industry with a showcase event for educating the public about the wide range of professions related to helicopters, from pilots to mechanics by way of operational staff, designers and safety specialists. The event is designed quite simply to shed light on the many remarkable jobs helicopters do and to inspire vocations in people who never would have thought about working in the industry otherwise!”
As part of the first edition, nine operators worldwide—including the celebrated Helicopter Museum in Somerset, England and the American Helicopter Museum in Pennsylvania—took advantage of the date to organize events for the public. “Operators from Australia, the UK, the US, Canada, Tanzania and Panama chose to participate,” Mick Cullen remembers— a good start given the lack of means for communicating about the event and the fact that participation was entirely voluntary.
6,000 people in two days
A year later, on August 21, 2016, the second annual World Helicopter Day convinced 12 companies and institutions to host events, especially in Australia and the United States. “The main obstacle is gathering information from operators and event organizers in time. It’s mostly word of mouth, social networking and any direct contacts operators may have,” highlights Cullen. So what’s in it for operators? Mick Cullen is pragmatic: “Companies and air clubs who want to participate don’t have to worry about costs at all. Helicopter companies can just organize local events; no need for a major budget. It’s about getting the surrounding community together, not big money and gala dinners. And if local media want to cover it, well that’s a win-win.” Stéphanie Huot, CEO of Canada’s Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère shares Cullen’s vision. The company, founded by her father, Stephan Huot, enjoys raising awareness about helicopters among the local population, in and around Quebec City. “Helicopters are a family passion for us. World Helicopter Day is perfectly in line with the way we see our profession. We participated from the first year. By opening our hangars to the public, we afford hundreds of people of all ages the opportunity to see the aircraft up close, including in maintenance workshops. In 2016, we welcomed nearly 6,000 people in two days!” To celebrate your passion for helicopters and reveal their many uses to the public, you can offer flight lessons (and even turns on the simulator at Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère), plan demo flights, organize games for children, and so much more—the sky’s the limit. To learn more, visit www.worldhelicopterday.com