From Cheltenham Racecourse in March to Glastonbury in June, our senior helicopter charter consultant, Edward Mayhew, looks back on the ACS Helipad in 2023.

From Cheltenham to Glastonbury – the ACS Helipad in 2023

From Cheltenham Racecourse in March to Glastonbury in June, the Air Charter Service (ACS) Helipad has had an incredibly busy event season in 2023. Over the course of 20 days of horse racing, boat racing and music festivals, our team has coordinated more than 1500 helicopter flights, welcoming thousands of passengers and escorting them on to their event.

With many helicopter charter bookings already confirmed for the same major events in 2024, we spoke to our senior helicopter charter consultant, Edward Mayhew, to recap the season and find out what’s next for our ever-growing helicopter charter division.

Which events have featured the ACS Helipad this year?

“The ACS Helipad has operated at five major UK events this year. We kicked off the season in style at the Cheltenham Festival, coordinating more than 1000 helicopter movements over the four days.

“Guests arriving for the races were escorted to the ACS Helipad terminal and offered complimentary refreshments at the bar. A waiting Bentley then drove them to the racecourse, dropping them off right at the heart of the action between the Parade Ring and the Guinness Village. All in all, guests could reach the grandstand within 10 minutes of landing.

“When it was time to leave, clients were chauffeured back to the helipad and welcomed by one of our team. After a few minutes, their pilot confirmed their charter was ready to depart and we guided them to the helicopter.”

“Next up was the Randox Grand National at Aintree Racecourse, followed by two days at the Epsom Derby. For the latter, we were positioned right in the middle of Epsom Downs Racecourse, which was really visually pleasing and incredibly convenient for clients flying in and out.

“The ACS Helipad finished the season at two very different events. First up was Glastonbury, where we welcomed hundreds of guests for luxury glamping at Camp Kerala. The last day was our busiest there, as weary festival-goers headed home after four days of music.

“Finally, we set up at picturesque Henley-on-Thames for the Henley Royal Regatta, where the team and I spent a wonderful few days catching up with some of our regular clients. We even had a private boat managed by ACS for guests to enjoy.”

How successful has the ACS Helipad been and how was it received?

“It's been an incredibly busy few months, but everything has run really smoothly. We’ve been lucky with the weather, especially at Cheltenham when the forecast suggested we may have been swapping loafers for wellies. We’ve also just enjoyed the hottest June on record, so it’s been lovely talking to operators and clients outside at the helipad.

“Following this year’s success, it looks like next season will be even busier. We’ve received incredible feedback and made several bookings already for Cheltenham and beyond.”

What’s the best thing about being part of the ACS Helipad?

“Every single ACS Helipad event is exciting from start to finish. Take Cheltenham, for example, where we help turn a bare field into a functioning heliport in just a couple of days. Then once everything is set up, it’s great to see it all come together and run smoothly. The quality of work everyone has put in has been second-to-none.

“It’s also great to talk to clients as they come through the helipad. We pride ourselves on our personable touch, so chatting with customers – both old and new – is really important. The same goes for our operator relationships and I really enjoy catching up with old contacts.”

What are your favourite ACS Helipad memories from 2023?

“There have been a few stand-out moments for me this year. The first was being commended by the Royal Family’s operations team on the level of professionalism at the ACS Helipad in Cheltenham after the Queen Consort flew in for the day. Then there was the incredible sight of our helipad right at the centre of the action at Epsom Racecourse. Seeing the helicopters parked just metres away from galloping horses was quite a thrill!

“Finally, it’s been really special having the ACS logo etched into the grass at some of these events. I came up with the idea shortly before Cheltenham and we’ve received a lot of comments from clients who spotted it from the air. It’s definitely a detail that will be returning in 2024.”

What’s next for the ACS Helipad and our helicopter charter division?

“Henley was the last major event of 2023 for the ACS Helipad, but we’re already taking bookings for Cheltenham, Aintree, Epsom Downs, Glastonbury and Henley next year. I’m recommending my clients book early for Cheltenham to avoid disappointment.

“Away from the ACS Helipad, we’re still busy making helicopter charter bookings. There’s still availability for the Ebor Festival at York Racecourse in August and Ladies' Day at Chester Racecourse in September, for those looking to arrive at these events in style.”

“It’s been an incredible few months for the ACS Helipad and next year is set to be even bigger and busier. Those who want to book a helicopter charter to these events or another occasion shouldn’t hesitate to contact me or one of the team.”

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