Opening times

Helitech '97 will be open on Tuesday, 30 September-Thursday, 2 October: 09.30-18.00; and Friday, 3 October:


Kate Sarsfield/London

The 7th International Helicopter Technology and Operations Exhibition (Helitech) will host a helicopter industry leaner and more optimistic than it has been in recent years. When the doors of the 1997 show open at Redhill Aerodrome in the UK on 30 September, visitors will see a surface area around 35% larger than in 1995.

"We have had to expand the exhibition site because we sold out of space very early on," says show organiser Spearhead Exhibitions' assistant project director, Tony Stephenson. With the 1995 event attracting nearly 340 exhibitors and 11,000 visitors, Spearhead expects an increase in this year's turn-out, with "around 140 new companies so far", claims Stephenson.

While other trade-show organisers grapple for a slice of this lucrative market, Spearhead has transformed its biennial event from a small-fry helicopter show to one of the largest and most successful regional events on the aerospace calendar. Helitech is peddled by its organiser as the "premier showcase for the world's civil- and tri-service defence-helicopter industry", covering all aspects, including those of police and civil defence, emergency medical services (EMS), offshore and gas operations, firefighting, forestry and heavylift, as well as a range of defence technology and hardware.



Eurocopter boasts an impressive line-up, with examples of all of its current models on display. Noteworthy is the EC120 five-seat light single-turbine helicopter, which, although only in full-scale mock-up form, will have its Helitech debut. According to the Franco-German manufacturer, almost 20 EC120s - which are being developed in co-operation with China and Singapore - were sold at the US Helicopter Association International show at Anaheim, California, in February. The company will be hoping to mirror this success at Helitech. Testing of the EC120, for which the lowest external noise levels of any helicopter are claimed, is moving towards certification. First deliveries are scheduled for 1998.

The Boeing display is no less spectacular. Following its acquisition of McDonnell Douglas (MDC) on 4 August, Boeing has added an array of models to boost its line-up. It will exhibit a range of former MDC machines with the no-tail-rotor (NOTAR) anti-torque system, including the MD520N, MD900 Explorer and the MD600N light single, which recently received US certification, following a delay to its flight-test programme. With the demand for law-enforcement and EMS helicopters on the increase, Boeing will be keen to promote the NOTAR as an intrinsic feature of any emergency-services aircraft.

Bell will parade a mock-up of its Model 427 light-twin under development with Samsung. The helicopter is expected to have its maiden flight in December, with certification due in the fourth quarter of 1998. The company will be looking for sales of its Model 407 light single, which has replaced the popular Model 206. For a modest increase in price, at around $115,000, the helicopter has a four-bladed main rotor and increased payload and performance. A mock-up of the Bell-Boeing 609 civil tilt-rotor will also be on display. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-powered aircraft is designed to replace the Bell 412 and will be pitched head-on with the Sikorsky S-76, which is also due to appear.

At the lighter end of the market, Schweizer will display three models: the low-cost S300C/ CB piston trainers and the 330 turbine single, of which the company now offers an upgraded version. The 330SP offers overall improvements to cruise speed, range and endurance. Robinson will display its four-seat R44 Astro and two-seat R22 Beta, while Enstrom will parade its 280FX 480 and F28F Falcon turbines.



Having clinched major helicopter contracts with the Australian and New Zealand navies earlier in the year, Kaman will show its SH-2G Super SeaSprite, hoping to emulate its success in Europe. The company will also display a model of its K-MAX aerial truck, for which it has developed a 9kg detachable, external passenger seat. According to Kaman, this will allow extra crew to join missions in remote locations.

GKN Westland of the UK will show a Sea King HAS3A of 22 Sqn, Royal Air Force, together with its EH101 Heliliner, built with fellow European manufacturer Agusta of Italy. Despite increased speculation of a possible merger between the two companies, both GKN and Agusta will be hoping to swell the EH101 orderbook to compensate for cancellations and forecast price rises and delays.

Military participation by Boeing and Sikorsky at Helitech is limited to the stands and the exhibition halls, where details of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche and the Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk, UH-60 Black Hawk and S-92 models can be found. Nevertheless, Sikorsky will push its S-92, which it has entered for the Canadian search-and-rescue helicopter contract, along with its UH-60 Black Hawk. Sikorsky is in competition with GKN Westland/Agusta offering its EH101 and Eurocopter the AS332 Cougar Mk2 (and Boeing its CH-47 Chinook).

The Russian helicopter industry will be represented by Mil, which has yet to confirm whether its Mi-8, Mi-28N and Mi-35 will be at the show. Mil is developing an all-weather variant of its Mi-28 attack helicopter, to replace the Russian armed forces' Mil-24 Hinds, when (and if) funds are available.

Source: Flight International