Day 2 of the helicopter arrivals started much the same way as day 1, with a pilot briefing and a few cups of coffee. After the briefing I took advantage of the hour prior to the first helicopter by walking the hall. This year's Heli-Expo marks the largest event to date with all 1 million square feet of the Dallas Convention Center's exhibit hall sold out. Fork lifts and cranes darted around frantically as I navigated the construction of massive vendor booths. Progress has been made on the reconstruction of dismantled helicopters, as the preparation continues. For the most part, the technicians and vendor representatives were eager to chat about the upcoming show. However, there was one small booth that I was chased away from, as they were super secretive about their product until the show opens for their 'big reveal'. I won't spoil the surprise, but don't get too excited, it isn't one of the major manufacturers and there is a reason why I put 'big reveal' in quotation marks.
I ran across three Italian Agusta (Leonardo) technicians busy un-boxing and assembling the AW169. They took a brief pause to say hi, all three were incredibly friendly and from what I witnessed over the course of the morning, also incredibly talented. They will accomplish in two days what would take my mechanics several weeks (no offense to the guys I work with). They were kind enough to let me photograph their progress throughout the day.
I look forward to seeing the finished product on Tuesday. The AW169 is an amazing aircraft that I would love to fly one day.
Moving away from the Agusta area, I soon realized that the main theme of the day would be Black Hawks. One had arrived yesterday by air and another by ground. At least 4 more were scheduled to arrive today. I am pretty sure that this Heli-Expo will set the world record for most civilian Black Hawks in the same place at the same time. I stopped to chat with the Arista Aviation folks who were cleaning up the Hawk that flew in yesterday. They do an amazing job with these aircraft, and although I would love to be in the market for one, I still will highly recommend them to anyone who is. They let me photograph them at work, despite hoping that I would wait until the bugs were removed from the windscreen. I promised them that I would publish the finished product as well, but I think it is also great to show how hard they worked to get this helicopter show ready.
Outside the weather was nothing like the day before, gray, windy, and cold. Luckily the rain held off and we managed to get through most of the afternoon with only a stray drop here and there. The terribly flat light made for some poor photography conditions. Even so, I will never complain when combining the two things that I love.
The first Black Hawk to arrive, took a slightly different approach, descending directly above us, coming to an out of ground effect hover, and proceeding to blow every single bit of photography and video equipment across the loading dock. Even with chaos all around us, the group of photographers fought the hurricane winds to get 'the shot'.
My favorite Black Hawk was the one with the Black Matte paint, not only does it look incredible sharp, it also made its approach in such a way that it hardly even ruffled a feather.
Once the aircraft landed they were pushed into the adjacent loading dock to have their blades removed for transport inside.