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COVID-19 precautions force change to date, location of VFS Forum

Measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus have led the Vertical Flight Society (VFS) to delay its 76th Annual Forum & Technology Display, the society confirmed this week. Originally planned for Montreal, Quebec, the week of May 18, Forum 76 has now been tentatively rescheduled for Oct. 6-8 in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

VFS Forum tour NASA Langley
The new location for VFS’s Forum 76, Virginia Beach, is close to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. Forum attendees in 2015 toured the Landing and Impact Research Facility (LandIR) at NASA Langley. NASA Photo

Premier of Quebec François Legault announced on March 12 that he was putting the province on “emergency mode” to stop the spread of COVID-19, resulting in the closure of the Palais des congrès de Montréal and other Montreal businesses for the indefinite future.

On March 18, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to close their border entirely to “non-essential traffic,” precluding travel for tourism and attendance at conferences.

“The Palais and the government and businesses in Montreal were all really great to work with,” stated Mike Hirschberg, executive director of VFS. “They tried to find us a date in the fall, but it’s a very popular international destination and they were booked solid. I know our attendees will be disappointed not to be able to visit Quebec, but we were fortunate the Virginia Beach had an opening in October.”

VFS plans to return to Montreal in a future year. Meanwhile, “we are thrilled to be able to still hold our Annual Forum this year and Virginia Beach is always a great location for our event,” Hirschberg stated, noting the proximity of NASA’s Langley Research Center — a focal point for the agency’s advanced air mobility work — and the U.S. Army’s rotorcraft technology branches at Fort Eustis.

The professional non-profit organization VFS was founded in 1943 as the American Helicopter Society (AHS), formally changing its name in 2018 to emphasize its support all types of vertical flight — helicopters, tiltrotors, advanced rotorcraft, drones and eVTOL. The VFS website eVTOL.news has been tracking eVTOL projects for three years, with more than 265 concepts listed in its World eVTOL Aircraft Directory.

VFS’s Annual Forum is the world’s largest and longest running conference on vertical flight technology. Forum 76 will include some 250 technical papers on every discipline from acoustics to unmanned systems, as well as dozens of invited presentations and discussions by leaders in the military, government agencies, and industry.

The conference includes three full days of eVTOL technical content, beginning with a day-long eVTOL Short Course on Monday, Oct. 5. On Wednesday, Oct. 7, two half-day sessions of technical paper presentations will showcase the latest progress and theories in eVTOL, while the event will wrap up on Thursday, Oct. 8 with invited presentation sessions on Urban Air Mobility Innovations, System Safety, Challenges in Electric VTOL, and Progress in Electric VTOL.

eVTOL is becoming an increasingly prominent focus of the Annual Forum, Hirschberg said. “Over the past five or six years, the Annual Forum has included more and more eVTOL content in our technical paper sessions, our invited panels and presentations, on the exhibit floor, and in our annual ‘CEO Panel’ — moderated again this year by eVTOL.com’s Elan Head.”

Earlier this month, VFS had to postpone another eVTOL-related conference due to COVID-19. The society’s 2nd Workshop on eVTOL Infrastructure for Urban Air Mobility (UAM) was planned for March 17-18 at Rowan University near Philadelphia, but was cancelled by the university on March 10.

“We are looking at having the in-person workshop either in June at Rowan University, or in conjunction with the FAA Tech Center’s annual UAS Conference held in Cape May in September. We are also planning a series of web meetings in the next few weeks to help educate and continue the momentum in solving the critical issues related to eVTOL infrastructure,” Hirschberg revealed.

VFS is also considering having rotorcraft and eVTOL webinar presentations during the originally scheduled dates for Forum 76, May 19-21, to continue the education and progress in advancing what VFS calls “The Electric VTOL Revolution.”

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