Helitech 2011 opens tomorrow. And we’re going to be wishing we were on the other side of the pond. Watching the aerial demonstrations. Checking out the static displays. Talking to folks. Specifically, those who build, fly and maintain these amazing aircraft.

As it is, we’ll have to content ourselves with news reports, feedback from clients and social media. Projections call for 200 exhibitors, 35+ aircraft and more than 4,000 attendees. The site, the Imperial War Museum Duxord, is a draw all its own. The museum started life as a World War I airfield, served a pivotal role in WWII and now has one of the UK’s (and probably the world’s) finest military exhibits. The museum doesn’t celebrate war. It commemorates it. Acknowledging the sacrifices and toll paid by all.

Much has changed in Helitech’s 25-year history. Not just for the show. For the rotorcraft industry. It continues to deliver ever-increasing value in both peace and war. Tilt-rotor aircraft sport a helicopter’s vertical-takeoff abilities while performance is on par with a turboprop fixed-wing plane. New all-composite airframes reduce weight, fuel and operating costs. Glass cockpits provide intuitive, integrated, facts-at-a-glance. Safety features help you avoid terrain and other traffic. Eurocopter entered the scene in 1992 and now accounts for a third of the world’s civil fleet. Sikorsky’s S-92 won the Collier trophy as 2002’s greatest aeronautics achievement. Bell just rolled out the newest member of its successful 407 platform. AgustaWestland, formed by a merger in 2000, sees itself as a total rotorcraft capability provider. Its 16-ton AW101, built for both commercial and military use, can carry 30 passengers.

Game-Changing Training

In our work for FlightSafety International, we’re seeing a growing reliance on simulation-based training, allowing pilots to prepare for possibilities you couldn’t train for in an aircraft. Or certainly wouldn’t want to. True-to-life, scenario-based, industry-specific training goes even further, letting you customize situations to simulate a range of operational hazards encountered by law enforcement, emergency medical services, offshore transport, newsgathering and more. Specialized instruction for both pilots and maintenance technicians prepare crews for real, on-the-job challenges. Simulation scenarios place a heavy emphasis on human factors, crew resource management and the unique issues associated with each type of operation and environment – including over water and mountainous terrain. FlightSafety also offers the industry’s only simulation-based training for night-vision goggles, which are becoming standard in a growing number of operations.

Participating From Afar

If you’re not going to the show, but wish you were, too, you might do like us and participate virtually. On Twitter, follow @HelitechEvents and monitor posts for #Helitech11. On Facebook, like Helitech Events.

Looking Forward

Not to wish our lives away, but we’re already looking forward to rotorcraft’s largest trade show: HELI-EXPO. Next year’s conference will be just down the road from us in Dallas, Feb. 11-14. You’ll find us among the 18,000 attendees checking out the 65 helicopters and 600 exhibitors. Because as great as social media is, and news coverage and direct feedback from clients – nothing beats being there in person.