Helitech Duxford organizers Reed Exhibitions is hoping for at least the same number of visitors to this year’s tradeshow, with projections to go above the 4,000 attendees from the 2009 version of the biannual event. “If we can deliver even better than what we did in ’09, great, but if we’re tracking about the same, we’ll do very well,” Brandon Ward, exhibition director, told Rotor & Wing on Monday afternoon. The show opened Tuesday morning with crowds lining up around exhibits and viewing the static display of around 40 helicopters.
“We’re within a hair’s breath either way of the 2009 numbers,” of 4,074 total attendees, he said, with 200 exhibitors “on the nose” through Monday. A first-time feature at this year’s Helitech was a Steering Committee of 13 industry representatives that met on Monday. While the proceedings were closed to the media and public, Ward noted that some of the committee’s findings will filter out during the event.
“It was our first meeting, and really it’s trying to help us make the show better,” he explained. “We obviously conduct a lot of exhibitor and visitor research through the year, and after the show we do post-show surveys. That gives us a huge amount of data to actually speak to people directly. [We] tried to get a cross section of OEMs, engine manufacturers, airframers, operators, Tier 2 suppliers and also from the visitor point of view.”
The group is made up of “people who don’t normally interact with each other in the same room, so it’s really interesting to hear different points of view, and it’s really valuable for them to chat with some of their peers,” he added.
This is the first time that Reed Exhibitions has taken on the conference by itself, as third-party suppliers were involved in past iterations.
“We got [Rotor & Wing Military Editor] Andrew Drwiega and CMS Strategic to help us put it together. For me, having [Chief Constable] Alex Marshall from Hampshire Constabulary—who’s leading the UK National Police Air Support—involved in the conference is fantastic.” Ward also noted another important speaker, Dr. Vittorio Morassi, chairman of the European Helicopter Association.
“Also, to be fair, it wouldn’t be possible if Bell hadn’t sponsored us, because they’ve effectively helped us get it all together,” Ward said, adding that the conference is free to attendees this year. But why did Reed decide to take over the conference entirely this time?
“We always try to improve the show every time we do it,” Ward explained. “There’s a few things on the list that both visitors and exhibitors have said they’d like to see improved—adding more content into the show [is one of them]. It’s great to come in and see the exhibits and displays, but talking about industry issues, what does the future hold? It’s just given the show that extra edge now.”
Ward added: “We don’t want it to become a Farnborough or a Paris Air Show, where at 2 p.m. nobody can have a meeting because you can’t hear yourself talk, but I think something to add that element of enjoyment. … For our 25th year, we’re doing a party for exhibitors, which we always do, and we’ve got a few nice surprises thrown in there as well.”
More: Helitech 2011 Coverage