2005 Edition

 

 

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Heli-Haven

On the Market
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The 11th Helitech Exhibtion opnce again took place at the Imperial War Museum airfield at Duxford. Over the years, Helitech has grown to become the biggest Helicopter exhibition outside of the United States. The good old days of the mid 1990's are now a distant memories with no more partcipation by russian military hardware or even by the UK military but Helitech remains the best showcase of helicopter technology in the UK and sees a fair number of new types, mainly with civilian applications. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All Photography copyright of author.

Faithful Warriors
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Al Fayed Taxi Company
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Imposters
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Stars of the Small Screen
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Somewhat typically British weather greeted the three days of Helitech at Duxford with sunny spells interrupted by rain and wind! However, this pales into insignificance compared to the weather endured by the residents of New Orleans from where Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company is based. Naturally, the events following Hurricane Katrina meant they were unable to attend the show as were the representatives of the US Coast Guard who were going to highlight the role of their MH68 Stingray helicopters at the first Helitech Conference, this year highlighting the role of civilian owned, military registered operations. There's plenty of work still be done in the southern US.

For those that regularly visit Farnborough, the format of the exhibitions at Helitech will be very familiar. A large air marquee dominates the exhibition site will all manner of exhibitors inside. These range from publishers to parts all the way upto complete helicopters and support. Perhaps the most notable of the stands was that supplied by Bell Helicopters which had a full size mock up of it's newest design, the Bell 429. Bell said that this display shows their commitment to sales in the UK and Europe. The Model 429 is essentially a twin engined Instrument Flight Rules rated utility helicopter in the same class as the Twin Squirrel and the newer Eurocopter EC145.

Bell weren't the only US manufacturers at the show. MD Helicopters has bounced back from some less than impressive sale following a turn around in Leadership and had it's own impressive collection of helicopters in the static park. A very familiar type is the MD500E which is often seen at UK airfields as a light turbine utility helicopter. Advancements in technology lead to tail rotor-less helicopters and this airframe was flexible enough to accommodate the new systems. Further refinements and a fuselage stretch lead to the MD600N which has much greater flexibility while retaining all the good qualities of the MD500 series. The newest range in MD's portfolio is the MD900 Explorer which is proving very popular with UK emergency services due to it's versatility and low noise levels.

Sikorsky had a large presence too. Dominating the static park was the Sikorsky S92 operated by Air Harrods executive charters. Despite losing the much prized US Presidential VXX program to AgustaWestland's EH101, the S92 still has a great future with military and civilian roles, particular in the support of the oil industry where the type has already secured orders. Air Harrods also sent a S72 Eagle and the Agusta A109 to market it's executive operations based out of London.Smaller US helicopters came from Enstrom and Robinson. While both manufacturers types are familiar, they are marketing their types for many different roles. Robinson have started to market the R22 and R44 at TV, Radio and newspaper media services. Helicopters have long been a part in gathering news but have often been provided by the much bigger and expensive Turbine-powered types. The R22/44 represent much more cost effective solutions are now operated as charters from private companies with integrated cameras and news gathering equipment. Schweizer also displayed it's 269D model in the powerline and pipeline surveying role currently used by TAMS.

There was plenty of European interest too. Perhaps the biggest HeliTech debutante was the Agusta Bell AB139 utility helicopter. The aircraft at the show was handed over to it's new owner at the show, Norway's Lufttransport A/S in the passenger and oil rig support role. Another new type marketed at HeliTech was the Agusta A109 Grande, a larger and more powerful version of the popular A109 which was seen in many guises at HeliTech. Eurocopter had it's usual sizeable presence though it's agent, McAlpine Helicopters. A range of types were on display ranging from the AS350 Squirrel, EC120, EC130, EC135, EC135 and EC155 many of which are chasing civilian as well as military contracts. A far smaller and less well known helicopter supplier is PZL from Poland which sent it PZL-Swindnik SW4 which has recently won orders from the Polish Air Force.

As well as the modern, HeliTech 05 brought together some rarely seen historic types. Perhaps the most popular was the newly arrived Bell UH-1H G-UHiH which has made a small number of appearances since arriving in the UK during July. Joining it were a UN marked Westland/Bell Sioux AH1 and a Skeeter AOP1 which are rarely seen at other UK shows.

As well as the helicopters there were a couple of imposters visiting the show. Britten Norman exhibited a former United Arab Emirates Air Force  BN-2T Islander fitted with an array of sensors as an alternative to a helicopter platform for surveillance duties. Visiting the show on Wednesday was a Andover C1 from the Empire Test Pilots School which no doubt pleased a number of spotters than came to Duxford to watch the movements.

 copyright Flightline UK 2005