Rotorwing jumps into helicopter history books at Aviation Expo

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Lismore business Rotorwing Helicopter Services is making history thanks to its intrepid chief pilot and owner Michael Barnes.
Rotorwing was the first company in Australia to undertake adventure flights in a Bell UH-1 ‘Huey’ helicopter and has now been approved for skydiving operations.
You can see their team in action when they do their first display – a synchronised five-person skydive – at the Lismore Aviation Expo on Saturday, 29 July.
“Eventually we hope to be approved for eight professional skydivers but we are thrilled to be able to have five for the Expo,” Michael said.
While Rotorwing can now offer adventure flights and skydiving for professional divers, Michael explained that his regular workload is the more placid pursuits of firefighting and shark patrols.
Michael has been flying since before he could walk, and both his father and grandfather were helicopter pilots.
“It’s in the blood – I get in a helicopter like it’s a car,” he said.
“I often feel more comfortable in the air than on the road. There’s certainly less to run into up there!”
That lifelong passion is obvious when Michael talks about helicopters and he particularly enjoys showing others what his amazing flying machines are capable of.
“Our helicopters can lift 1.5 tonnes with precision placement,” he said.
“We have thought about getting household items like cars, water tanks or even a large swimming pool so people can see what that looks like and just how easily helicopters can move these objects. At this year’s Expo we will have the skydiving display, but next year we might try that.”
He explained that helicopters are incredibly versatile and used for all different purposes around the globe.
“In Australia, we are hampered by regulation, and this leads people to believe helicopters can’t be used for work, but we can! And it’s easy. Helicopters have an amazing capacity to be used for all sorts of work,” he said.
“In Canada for instance, they use helicopters for everything – they install drilling rigs; put composting toilets on the top of hills; even string powerlines and install the poles. We love educating the public about helicopters and what they can do – most people just don’t realise how cost effective they can be.
“All we want is the opportunity to quote. For instance, cranes require heavy duty transport, road closures and excessively long arms to reach certain locations. Often you will find a helicopter is very competitive with pricing and can have the job completed in a fraction of the time.
“In the March flood for instance, we were dropping off generators and picking up people so they could get to their families, as well as providing aerial photos and footage free to the public.”
As part of the 2017 Lismore Aviation Expo, Rotorwing Helicopter Services is offering joy flights for $50 per person in the R44 helicopter or $250 per person for an adventure flight in the ex-military Huey.
Michael will also be selling some of his spectacular flood photos with all proceeds going to the Lismore City SES Unit.
Other highlights of the Expo include an aerobatics spectacular by Paul Bennet Airshows, the chance to go inside the cockpit of a REX SAAB 340, and Warbird and hot air balloon flying displays.
Visitors can enjoy displays of aircraft and helicopters from the 1900s right through to the modern day as well as military aircraft, drones, model planes, vintage cars and motorcycles.
Young people interested in flying can visit local aviation training institutes including the Defence Force, emergency services, the Northern Rivers Aero Club and the North Coast Institute of TAFE, which offers a Certificate IV in flight attendant training using a replica plane at the Wollongbar campus.
The Lismore Aviation Expo is a family event with children’s entertainment, market stalls and yummy food. It will run from 9am to 4pm on Saturday, 29 July at the Lismore Aviation Centre and entry is $5 with children under 16 free.
As on-site parking at the Lismore Aviation Expo is limited, Council is operating a free shuttle bus. Buses will run on a continuous loop from 9am from the Lismore Transit Centre in the CBD and the Lismore Airport Passenger Terminal. All sites will have a clearly signposted ‘Bus Stop’. Please note that disabled parking is available on-site at the Lismore Aviation Centre on Three Chain Road, South Lismore.
Proceeds from the 2017 Lismore Aviation Expo will go to the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter.

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