Hitch-hiking was yesterday. Helicopter is it: the transport of choice of AEGEE-Eindhoven. Niels Perriens, Loek Tonnaer and Roel de Natris had the amazing idea, to go by helicopter or private jet to the spring Agora 2014, which takes place in the end of April in Patra, Greece. And everyone else can join, too! The new Helicopter Working Group is still working on itineraries and prices, but they are determined to travel to the Agora like no one ever has done before. The Golden Times spoke to Roel de Natris.

Roel de Natris
Roel de Natris

Golden Times: AEGEE-Eindhoven wants to go via helicopter to the Agora in Patra. Is this just a joke or are you dead serious?
Roel de Natris: The term “Sunday Morning Proposal” was for a long time associated with AEGEE-Eindhoven, making creative inspired or funny proposals on the last day of the Agora, which was mostly on Sunday. In Mannheim, the return of this type of proposals showed up once again. On behalf of AEGEE-Eindhoven, Koen Berghuis and I proposed to include invalid voting as an option in the online voting system. During our first talks with the Juridical Commission and others, they thought we were joking, but it turned out to be a valid point: adding this option indeed influences the results. With this helicopter statement, made with the same reasoning as the Sunday Morning Proposals, we would like to show the network that thinking out of the box may work and inspire other antennae to come up with great ideas the like.

Golden Times: How and when did you get the idea?
Roel: Actually, the idea was not born on the last day of the Agora, but rather the first. Nevertheless, it reflects well the spirit of our antenna. During a discussion about the next Agora and travelling to Patra, I put forward to rent a helicopter. As with Zaragoza, Patra is not closely situated to a main airport, making it hard for people to reach the Agora. And there have been more similar cases in recent years. Arranging a helicopter in this perspective makes sense, as you get great flexibility on your starting point as well as end point making it more comfortable to reach an Agora.

The Helicopter Working Group at work

Golden Times: The feedback that you got at the Agora and especially for your Facebook event is great. Did you expect that?
Roel: We are actually overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, but we also see it as a confirmation of our gut feeling: many people see getting to an Agora as a significant hurdle for their judgment on participation.

Golden Times: Will one helicopter actually be enough?
Roel: Clearly one helicopter will not be sufficient, as capacity is typically limited to 12 to 14 people. With the figures we now have, about 12 helicopters should be rented. We are very proud to announce in this interview that instead of helicopters we are now discussing private jets as well. Although it may sound a bit strange for people sleeping in a gym during events, but the great number of people interested proves to be sufficient ground to take this into account as well.

Helicopter travel routes
Potential helicopter travel routes

Golden Times: A jet? Are you serious? But where could the jet land?
Roel: Landing is no problem, as those jets can land at small local airports.

Golden Times: So, how many people can maximum participate? And how much would that trip cost per person?
Roel: As far as we know, neither AEGEE-Eindhoven nor AEGEE-Europe has ever rented a helicopter or private jet. For this reason we apply an iterative approach, where we try to get to an optimal solution concerning the number of participants and the price per person. Soon, a poll will be opened investigating how much one is willing to spend. We hope people hereby also take into account that there is no necessity to go further by public transport. In other words, the number should include what they are willing to spend on a total trip to any Agora.

Golden Times: And that is…?
Roel: Given the price for regular airlines flying to Patra, cost of local transportation and the exclusive factor we are aiming at a maximum of about 300 to 500 Euro per person, both ways, including one complimentary beer during the flight.

helicopter voting
Voting on the helicopter event page about the travel routes

Golden Times: The beer is a great extra. Can you tell us more about the trip?
Roel: Here again we would like to introduce something new, we see many people are willing to participate in a pre-event. If we make a pre-event out of the helicopter journey, we are able to use the pre-event fee to cover a bit of the helicopter expenses. The unique thing will be the post-event, which is a must for the return flight. Basically AEGEE-Eindhoven is trying to reform the way how people travel to an Agora: if we sleep together, why not travel together? Of course, taking part of the pre-event – flight to Patra – does not automatically mean you will join the post event. Even so it is possible to join the post event, the flight back, without attending the pre-event. On a side note: did we already indicate that alcohol consumption is not forbidden in helicopters?

Patra, the Agora location

Golden Times: No you didn’t… On the Internet you discuss already travel routes. How many stops will you make? Can people join there, too?
Roel: Exactly, as previously indicated, we want to put forward a new concept. Asking a participant from the more Southern locals to first fly to Eindhoven and then to Patra would not make sense. For this reason, we would like to plan additional stops at places which offer cheap flights and are easy to reach from a great number of locations, for example Budapest, making it possible for people to join from these stops onward.

Golden Times: Are you in contact with companies already?
Roel: We are now in touch with multiple companies, some offering both helicopter as well as jet rental. Besides, we are in touch with the Royal Air Force to discuss this unique promotion possibility for them, by lending us one or two of their Chinook helicopters. Niels Perriens, Loek Tonnaer and I from the AEGEE-Eindhoven Helicopter Working Group (HWG) are currently responsible for these contacts. Additionally, together, we make sure that promotion and communication to the rest of the network is organized.

Alpha beer
Alfa beer will be provided on board of the plane or helicopter.

Golden Times: You need a helicopter or plane, petrol, pilots… isn’t that a huge logistical challenge?
Roel: Indeed, we should take into account that we need to park the helicopters or private jet. And the pilot probably is not in favor for sleeping in a gym neither. Petrol can be easily taken care of while making intermediate stops

Golden Times: Did your antenna make a trip by helicopter before?
Roel: No, normally AEGEE-Eindhoven introduces riding a bicycle to the participants of our Summer University, and to basically anyone who visits Eindhoven. Helicopters are new to us and the only thing in common with a bicycle is that in both you are sitting during transportation.

Golden Times: How can people find out more about it? Or what else do they need to know?
Roel: For now, we will use Facebook as our communication channel. Soon we will release an application form asking for more details – for example whether you are afraid of heights – and see how many are truly interested. Of course, if anybody knows a company which is possibly willing to sponsor this unique Pre-Agora-Post helicopter event, we would like to get in touch. If you have any other comments, please feel free to contact us via Facebook or helicopter@aegee-eindhoven.nl.

More info: www.facebook.com/events/577149765673210/