The fifth “World Helicopter Day” will be held on August 18, 2019 in Australia. Furthermore, on June 30, 2019, a similar French initiative will be organized on a European scale, even if the events currently planned remain within a national framework. Is this double celebration the result of chance? By François Blanc.

In Helicopter Industry No. 84 we already mentioned the World Helicopter Day (WHD), a concept developped in 2015 by Mick Cullen, an Australian a passionate helicopter pilot, to promote universe of rotary wings to people a priori not concerned by these very particular aircraft. 

On the WHD website, the fifth edition of this planetary event is well announced for August 18, 2019.

However, in early 2019, for its part, the French Union of the helicopter (UFH), an association whose vocation is “to promote and coordinate the actions of professionals in the sector”, announced the organization of a “Day of the helicopter “and set the first edition to June 30, 2019.

A priori, two world days, one in Australia, the other in Europe, a month and a half apart, are not likely to compete to the point of hindering their respective course. However, as the WHD was already addressing all professionals in the sector, the intention of the French could appear ambiguous.

No ideal date?

Asked about this issue, Thierry Couderc, UFH delegate general and vice-president of the European Helicopter Association (EHA), dismisses any ambiguity. “We know that the World Helicopter Day has been launched for a few years. It seems to us, however, that the formula is slow to take off and reach the level of radiance it was initially setting. From this point of view, the idea of ​​the vice-president of the French Union of the helicopter, Thierry Basset, which consists of organizing « a day of the helicopter » with partners clearly committed to his side, should bear fruit. To reach a global goal in the long term, we must start from the beginning: to rely on institutional and private partners ready to make a real commitment to the cause, first of all at the level of one or more countries (in this case European), then, if the results are there, from several continents. “

It is true that the WHD, in its operating principle, intends to encourage actors wishing to participate in their own way in the project, but does not propose any structured organization to manage the different events around the world. The date chosen by its instigator, in mid-August each year, would have its origin in a cordial agreement concluded between the WHD and the Helicopter Association International (HAI): “The question of the date chosen for a world day from the helicopter returns to an American point of view. Mid-August, for them, is the end of the summer holidays. The best period in Australia would be the beginning of December, that is to say the summer period in the southern hemisphere. For the Europeans, especially this year, which is a “Paris Air Show” year, the ideal time to set a date for the Helicopter Day seemed to be that of the end of June, before the teams that worked on the show go on vacation, and without interfering with the start of the season of summer meetings, « says Thierry Couderc.

Step by step

The aim of the UFH, which is to increase public and political awareness of the innumerable benefits of the helicopter, is not to counter the WHD, but rather to demonstrate that the initial idea is good, but to first ensure that the institutions and professionals of the sector play the game, be it manufacturers of cells, engines or equipment, civil and military operators, training schools, flying clubs or museums preserving the memory of the rotating wing.

Above all, as a wise promoter, the UFH intends to progress step by step. During Helitech 2018, the European helicopter show held in Amsterdam in October 2018, Thierry Basset was able to present his project to the EHA (European Helicopter Association). « The reception was very favorable, » notes the French vice president of the EHA. However, this approval is not worth immediate participation. « Things will take a long time to implement on a European level. That’s why we will first focus on the 2019 edition of Helicopter Day. We hope to involve a dozen leading players in the project and thus be able to organize several simultaneous events in France. Once the demonstration is done, we can work to prepare the second edition, scheduled for 2021, with the hope that European actors, outside France, will take the opportunity to organize events in their countries. This is just how a Helicopter Day, in our opinion, keeps a chance to be built and sustained. « 

Thus several helicopter manufacturers as well as military staffs, could use this day to communicate on their businesses, including economic and societal issues, driven by the rotary wing industry. In order to reinforce the credibility of the the approach, the EHA, through Thierry Couderc’s voice, also indicates the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been solicited to join the project. 

A short period of time to communicate

At the time of writing, we do not yet know how many institutional and industrial actors will formally join the UFH, under the benevolent eye of the EHA, but the instigators of the project remain confident. « The answers begin to arrive one after the other, as we started to solicite the potential partners only from November 2018 ». 

« For sure, we will not have so much time to communicate about the event », he admits. But by the end of April 2019, through the UFN website and the social networks, we will be able to alert the majority of people targeted and intensify the promotion of the event.

Not yet unveiled to date, the program of events planned in France – and probably, simultaneously, in two or three European countries – should logically hold the attention of different profiles of participants. Whether it is to open an industrial facility to the public and the media to make them discover different activities, to invite these interlocutors to meet civilian or military operators gathered for the occasion on the same airfield, to organize regional flights to sensitize the uninitiated, to speak locally of security where a company of transport by helicopter would like to reassure local residents and officials, to arrange flights in simulators or visits of museums while offering animations around the art of vertical flight, there is a very wide range of activities that can be organized on June 30th, 2019.

As for the coexistence of World Helicopter Day and the European celebration in the longer term, the organizers of the Helicopter Day do not venture to any prognosis. Because not only the two initiatives are different in their philosophy, but also because we cannot yet anticipate the result of the 2019 Helicopter Day. « The International Helicopter Association is informed of our intention. Given the results we will obtain, we will see between 2019 and 2021 if it is possible to go even further » summarizes Thierry Couderc. For his part, Thierry Basset declares that in the longer term, he is « open to any prospect in order to reinforce the development of a day dedicated to the helicopter. In his remarks, only the cause advocated deserves a debate on the effectiveness of a formula.