Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Cheltenham Festival.....Without The Horses

Every March Cheltenham Racecourse plays host to the Cheltenham Festival Meeting, the most prestigious meeting on the National Hunt racing calendar. Usually incorporating St Patricks day the festival attracts a large number of fans as well as many corporate visitors.
With its own dedicated heliport, many of the corporate guests choose to arrive by air and beat the surrounding traffic jams. With all this frenetic aerial activity packed into a few hours each day before the racing commences, it offers some good photographic opportunities.
As most fans headed into the racecourse I made an early start and headed up to the heliport in the hope of getting some ‘stock’ corporate helicopter shots. Though the sun never really played ball I still managed to get some reasonable images.
By the time the first race started I was already in my car and on my way home, reflecting on Cheltenham 2011. Perhaps this year the recession had started to hit, as there were only three or four Irish registered helicopters present, there seemed less helicopter generally and there appeared to be more space in the event car parks and grandstands. One thing was for sure though, the atmosphere still remained.

The largest helicopter present was the Sikorsky S76. During the week quite a few made an appearance including pairs from JCB and Air Harrods along with a brace of Manx registered examples.

Arguably the prettiest type present at Cheltenham was the AgustaWestland A109, various examples are shown below.

Other types present included the Eurocopter EC135, a shape more normally associated with either Police or Air Ambulance operations.

The SA365 Dauphin..

The EC155, a much updated and newer genration helicopter with takes its heritage from the AS365 Dauphin

The EC120, another Eurocopter product

AS355 Ecureuil

Bell 206 Jet Ranger

And Bell 206 Long Ranger

The latter Long Ranger G-LVDC had only emerged from the paint shop at the start of the week and looked immaculate with its fresh paint job. Rumour has it that the registration stands for Large Vodka Diet Coke !

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