Business Leaders meet at HELITECH 2016
By François Blanc,
Copyright : Helitech2016
The 2016 Helitech International trade show had two main appeals for its visitors in a context of sluggish economic growth. In addition to showing the latest up to date equipment, the organisers set up a number of high profile debates and round tables with some of the leading figures in the industry who were invited to discuss the current state of affairs with other professionals. A lot of the action therefore took place during the conferences and the newly launched operators’ forum.
HELITECH 2016, WHICH IS ORGANISED IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE EUROPEAN HELICOPTER ASSOCIATION (EHA) UNDOUBTEDLY LIVED UP TO ITS STANDARDS, DESPITE A GLOBAL CONTEXT WHICH DAMPENED THE VISITORS’ OVERALL MOOD. A NUMBER OF UNFORTUNATE OCCURRENCES WERE TALKED ABOUT IN THE SHOW’S ALLEYS OR DURING THE CONFERENCES, MAINLY THE SLUMP IN OIL PRICES AND HOW IT IMPACTED OPERATORS IN THE FUEL EXTRACTION SECTOR BUT ALSO, AND JUST AS MUCH, THE CANADIAN HOLDING COMPANY’S FILING FOR CHAPTER 11 OR THE HIGH NUMBER OF ACCIDENTS WHICH HAVE HIT THE INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE OVER THE LAST YEAR. THE LIST INCLUDES THE AW609 TRIAL AIRCRAFT IN OCTOBER 2015, THE BELL 525 ON JULY 6 OR THE H225 CRASH DURING AN OPERATIONAL FLIGHT OVER NORWAY IN APRIL. ADD TO THAT ORDER BOOKS WHICH ARE FAR FROM FULL AND THE WORRYING STATE OF THE RENTAL SECTOR AND ONE CERTAINLY HAD A WIDE NUMBER OF TOPICS TO DISCUSS DURING THE HIGH LEVEL CONFERENCES WHICH TOOK PLACE DURING THE EVENT.
The operators’ forum
Around 180 exhibitors took part in the Amsterdam event to discuss serious matters but also – and even more – to talk about the future and how to try and shape it. The fuel extraction sector of the industry has been badly hit by a 50% slump in oil prices since 2014, yet it estimates that personnel transport requirements are still there and that they have even stabilised around today’s levels, which provides a small degree of solace for industry players waiting for better days.
Other key concerns were also addressed during the three days of the event. It’s worth mentioning that the newly launched operators’ forum was well received. It was created to enable business leaders from around the world to network and talk about the problems facing the industry and try and find solutions to shape its future, in an informal setting.
The use and operating of MEDEVAC and EMS (Emergency Medical Services) helicopters, or air ambulances, was also at the centre of some discussions and gave specialists the opportunity to give their views on the issues relating to and ways to develop that side of the business.
SAR and UAV aircraft
SAR (Search and Rescue) missions drew a lot of attention, with specific round tables devoted to the subject. Italy’s Leonardo wowed attendees with its spectacular VR simulator of a SAR missions on-board an AW189 helicopter. UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) were also a broached topic during the afternoon of October 12. Sky Futures and Drone SAR, two of the companies involved in the drone market, agreed on the same message, which they trumpeted loud and clear to the Helitech assembly: helicopter operators must not see SWARM (search with aerial RC multirotor) devices as a threat to their business but rather as a complementary resource that can be used in partnership with the main vehicle. As they are working towards greater flight autonomy of their unmanned aircraft, the companies also highlighted their usefulness in dangerous flying conditions, such as extreme bad weather.
A number of manufacturer deals were also announced. Airbus Helicopter revealed the name of the first customer for its new Fleet Keeper tool, Corail Helicopter, while also celebrating the 20ieth birthday of the H135 fleet. It also officially kicked off the trial calendar for its H175 aircraft designed for public service.
Bell Helicopter is said to have signed its first CAP (Customer Advantage Plan) with a European VIP client, owner of a Bell 407GPX aircraft. It also briefed on the ongoing attempts to extend the technical support it provides from its licensed maintenance plants Agrarflug Helilift in Germany to Bell 212 and Bell 412 aircraft as well as gave information on how its training facility TRU Simulation (another one of Textron’s daughter companies), which is based in Valencia, Spain, is striving to meet expectations. Leonardo indicated it had signed a deal to deliver six AW169 helicopters to British-based Specialist Aviation Services as well as an agreement to supply a GrandNew helicopter to Swiss-based Centurium Aviation Ltd. It also reported on the acquisition of an AW169 by Germany’s Heliservice.
Many other contracts were of course signed or discussed during the three days. But the important thing to remember, according to John Hyde, the event director and thereby the organisers’ voice is that “this edition has showed that the market is regaining confidence. The oil and gas portion of the industry is still volatile but the industry as a whole is continuing to build up energy levels and in a couple of years from now business will pick up. It’s crucial for companies to carry on innovating and diversifying during these tough times. And by attending Helitech International, operators get a clearer idea of which strategies and solutions to adopt to be successful.”
A War room, the word springs to mind when one thinks of the tense economic and political climate of the last two years in Europe and how to describe Helitech, Europe’s main gathering of industry professionals. But it is meant in the best possible way.