By Florian Szczepanek and Alexander Schwarz | September 26, 2018
Estimated reading time 7 minutes, seconds.
About 350 pilots, 30,000 visitors, and more than 60 helicopters from countries around the globe attended the ninth annual HeliDays Austria event in Upper Austria, held Sept. 7 to 9.
HeliDays has grown over the years to become a major event for the German-speaking helicopter community. It has also become the biggest helicopter event in Europe, and the second largest aviation event in Austria.
The event combines the diversity of an air show and a social gathering with professional presentations and speeches. During its public days, aircraft perform a flying program for the tens of thousands of spectators, while others are featured on static display.
For the first time, Ohlsdorf — a municipality in the Austrian state of Upper Austria, approximately 31 miles (50 kilometers) from Salzburg — was used as a show location.
The organizer and presenter of the international helicopter forum was pilot Daniel Ebner, supported by Wolf-Dietrich Tesar — a former flight instructor of the Austrian Air Force. Like many others, Ebner was introduced to aviation through family. (His father is the commander of a mountain rescue force unit.) During his time in the military, Ebner identified the need to better connect pilots, companies and manufacturers in the rotorcraft community.
Through determination and personal engagement, in combination with many supporters like Tesar, Ebner turned HeliDays Austria into the event it is today.
During an interview, he explained that he’s not yet satisfied with HeliDays as it is; he wants to continue to grow the event further and better integrate the major helicopter manufacturers to create a smaller version of HAI Heli-Expo.
Like many exhibitors at the show, OAMTC Flugrettung, an air rescue operator in Europe, has been a visitor at HeliDays for several years. In its inaugural years of participating at the event, OAMTC was limited to the static presentation of a helicopter. Now the organization provides demonstrations of its day-to-day services, like hoist rescues for search-and-rescue missions.
OAMTC pilot Capt Robert Schornsteiner emphasized the outstanding position of HeliDays in the central Europe region, which allows the helicopter community to connect and see new aircraft models.
Another participant from the public sector this year, next to OAMTC, was the Austrian Police Air Support Unit, which demonstrated its capabilities with its Airbus EC135.
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In addition, the base of the emergency and rescue helicopter “Martin 3” (an EC135 T3) — normally located in Scharnstein, Austria — was relocated during HeliDays to the showground, allowing showgoers to witness the workings of an in-service rescue helicopter and its crew.
From the private sector, Heli Austria GmbH — the largest helicopter company in the region — was present at the event with one Airbus AS332 Super Puma, an AS350 AStar, an EC130, and a Bell 212.
Next to this company’s varied fleet, other aircraft could be admired. This included turbine-powered aircraft as well as piston engine helicopters from different operators, covering a wide spectrum from light to medium airframes.
In addition, Bell took the opportunity to present its new 505 Jet Ranger X to potential customers and pilots.
“We are happy and excited at the same time to have the opportunity to present our new helicopter and connect with the community in Europe,” said John Castorena from Bell.
Historic aircraft were also on display. The legendary Bristol 171 Sycamore — currently the only flyable helicopter of this type in the world — visited HeliDays on the last day of the show, piloted by the Flying Bulls chief pilot Sigi “Blackie” Schwarz.
Other historical aircraft included the Bo.105 with its revolutionary hingeless rotor, which was used for a long time by the German military. At one point during the event, four of these helicopters were present.
In addition, several Bell 47s — one of the first mass-produced helicopters — joined the event and were admired both on the ground and in the air.
HeliDays Austria 2018 entertained not only the helicopter enthusiasts but also the general public, with various aircraft offering sightseeing flights during show’s public days.
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For professional visitors and the helicopter community, the show proved to be — as in previous years — a major success.