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The organizers of European Rotors are still planning on holding the debut edition of the convention and trade show in Cologne, Germany, this November, with a range of safety measures in place to allow it to become one of the first aviation tradeshows held since the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
Almost all other rotorcraft-related tradeshows planned for 2020 have been cancelled, including Rotortech, the Helicopter Association of Canada’s annual convention, the Air Medical Transport Conference, APSCON, the AAAA Summit, and EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. The Farnborough International Airshow, one of the largest aerospace tradeshows in the world, was only held digitally in July.
The measures in place at European Rotors will be extensive. Exhibitors and visitors will be required to wear a face mask on the show grounds, social distancing of at least 1.5 meters will be in place, booths regularly disinfected, chairs will be assigned during seminars, and pre-registration will be mandatory. There will be no events or parties at booths, and there is a “no handshake” policy in place throughout the event.
To allow for these measures, the organizers have made changes to the design of the show, with aisles widened, tables removed (as they would need to be constantly cleaned), chairs and booths spaced out, and daily visitor numbers capped at 1,500.
“If we reach that number, it’s a success,” Frank Liemandt, European Rotors’ show director, told Vertical.
“What makes us a little bit proud is that we can say there will be European Rotors with an adapted concept, with a completely different setting to what has been a show before. But this is the only way for us to do it, there is no alternative in terms of doing it via the Internet. . . . Everybody we asked, the answer was, ‘We need that show, we want to do it.’ ”
European Rotors is the result of years of discussions and negotiations between the continent’s rotorcraft representative body (the European Helicopter Association) and its regulator (the European Union Aviation Safety Agency/EASA), and will combine a trade show and convention with EASA’s longstanding Rotorcraft and VTOL Symposium.
In addition to the exhibition floor and a static display, attendees will be able to watch panel discussions, and take part in seminars and training sessions. Topics will range from police aviation to the offshore market, air medical operations, and the emerging eVTOL sector.
The program of seminars and panel discussions has also evolved in response to the changing situation, with sessions exploring the financial impact of Covid-19 and lessons learned from operating during the pandemic.
A Desire to Meet
The event is scheduled to take place at the Koelnmesse exhibition center on Nov. 10 to 12, and according to show organizers, more than 100 exhibitors have committed to attending.
Isabella Abbate, executive director of the European Helicopter Association, told Vertical that the organization’s 500 members (spread over 11 countries) were behind the drive to continue on with the show.
“The reason we are pushing so much to go ahead with this show, even considering the current situation in terms of global pandemic and all the challenges that we’re facing to have this show . . . is because we have the support of our members,” she said. “They’re all fully on board and pushing for this show.”
These include the major OEMs – such as Bell, Safran, Airbus and Leonardo – as well as heavyweight sector organizations such as HeliOffshore, she said.
Abbate pointed out that much of the industry has been as busy as ever during the pandemic, with operators proving crucial in response to the crisis, and support companies developing new products to assist them.
“We not only want to showcase all these new and innovative things that have been going on in the past months, but also [reward] their efforts to survive and to push for them to be there,” she said.
Tobias Bretzel, European Rotors’ project manager, said the show had “a pretty strong start” in terms of exhibitor bookings following its launch in January 2020. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, he said few exhibitors were pulling out, and new bookings are still being made.
“We see a strong commitment here,” he said. “This is pretty much the first aerospace event really happening [since the pandemic hit], and I think not just the rotorcraft industry, but also the connected industries in the overall aviation industry, they need to come together again to really reengage.”
However, the organizers accept that the situation with the pandemic and government restrictions is fluid. Perhaps the most pressing of these is the need for quarantine. Currently, visitors from North America would need to quarantine for two weeks on both their arrival in Germany and upon their return home.
While Abbate said she was still hoping to have as many visitors from North America and from outside of Europe as possible, the organizers have shifted their sales and marketing focus towards Europe to cover for a scenario where an intercontinental travel ban may in place.
Being able to hold the show safely is the key concept the organizers keep touching on, with the various safety measures adopted from the regulations stipulated by the local state of North Rhine Westphalia.
Liemandt stressed that European Rotors wouldn’t be a guinea pig in testing out these new procedures at the exhibition center.
“Koelnmesse will have conducted about six shows before November with that security concept [in place],” he said. “We, of course, will monitor how they get along with that.”
Tickets will also be refunded if the event cannot take place due to the pandemic.