On 12th August 2023 – less than a year after Aeroplane, Helicopter and Autogyro Rally – Stowarzyszenie Aeroklub Ziemi Mazowieckiej (Mazovia Land Aeroclub Association) hosted another interesting aviation event organized at their airfield in Płock, Poland – Światowy Zlot Śmigłowców 2023 (World Helicopter Rally 2023).
The 2023 World Helicopter Rally was organized under the auspices of the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale / World Air Sports Federation). The event gathered several dozen rotorcraft, of both civil and military sectors, that arrived to Płock not only from Poland, but also from a few other countries.
Without any doubts, Robinson R44 was the most numerously represented type of helicopter at the Rally. Although the R44 is one of the most popular rotorcraft in the world, it is rather still quite rare to see such a significant number of them gathered at the same place and time. It was a consequence of preliminary competition organized during the Rally, aimed to choose new crews for the Polish National Helicopter Team. The preliminaries, which lasted several hours, consisted of two competitions – Slalom and Fender Rigging – in which synergy and cooperation of the helicopter crew was a key to win.
In the Slalom competition, the rotorcraft and its crew have to fly a route defined by 12 gates, while carrying a bucket of water suspended on a rope under the aircraft. While the pilot’s job is to fly the helicopter precisely along the track, the greatest responsibility lies with the bucket operator sitting next to him. His task is to draw water from a barrel to fill the bucket – that should be completed as quickly as possible, when the helicopter is hovering over the barrel. Then, the operator controls the bucket during the flight by manoeuvring the rope. The main objective is to pass between the gates and pour as less water as only possible. On the average, such a flight takes a bit less than three and a half minutes.
Fender Rigging, on the other hand, is a competition in which the crew’s task is to place a sailing fender, in three consecutive barrels with keeping the correct sequence. The fender is hanging under the helicopter on a rope that is successively being extended by the fender operator from 4 to 8 metres. Just like in the previous competition, much depends on the fender operator. Nevertheless, also the pilot needs to use the maximum of his skills to achieve the best results.
It is worth to mention that both the abovementioned competitions are unique to rotorcraft rallies, quite spectacular and definitely gained attention of visitors to the event.
Apart from the already mentioned Robinson fleet, list of the World Helicopter Rally 2023 participants included Dynali H-3 Easy Flyer Sport, Konner Helicopters Konner K1, Airbus H125 and H130 rotorcraft, Eurocopter EC-120 Colibri in both A and B variants, Bell 407GXi and Sikorsky S-76B. Also, not to be missed were smaller brethren of helicopters, Polish Tercel autogyros produced by Trendak Aviation.
In addition to the civilian-operated rotorcraft, a pretty interesting fleet of military helicopters operated by the Polish Armed Forces could be seen at the event – Mil Mi-17 1W from 1 Dywizjon Lotniczy 25 Brygady Kawalerii Powietrznej (the 1st Air Regiment of the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade), Mil Mi-2R and PZL SW-4 from 1 Ośrodek Szkolenia Lotniczego 41 Bazy Lotnictwa Szkolnego (the 1st Air Training Centre of the 41st Aviation Training Base) and Cabri Guimbal G2 from the Military Aviation Academy. Another PZL W-3A helicopter was displayed by 1 Baza Lotnictwa Transportowego (the 1st Airlift Base), this time representing its VIP variant, used for transporting the highest authorities of the state.
And, last but not least, Lotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services), having one of its bases located at the Płock airfield, presented on static display a Eurocopter EC135 P2+ rotorcraft.
That interesting and wide presentation of different rotorcraft in Płock had perfectly fitted into context of the event and its official slogan – ´Helicopter in service for the country´.
In addition to the Rally competitions and the rotorcraft display, the event offered also sightseeing flights for general public. At the airfield, several stands related to rotorcraft aviation were also located, as well as there was a possibility to participate in discussion panel.
In conclusion, the World Helicopter Rally 2023 in Płock offered an opportunity to spend a great day among rotorcraft, for both aviation professionals, enthusiasts and general public. Although it was the first event of that kind organized by Stowarzyszenie Aeroklub Ziemi Mazowieckiej, we hope it would be continued in the coming years.
More images from World Helicopter Rally 2023: