Today, I ran into my first helium shortage incident here in Livermore, CA.
Alliance Welding Supplies advised they were out of their allocation, but
expected would be able to fill my 80 scf tank this week. I left it with
them. Glad I hadn't set up a commitment to fly.
I asked about priorities, if educational and research applications like
mapping would be higher than party balloons. One guy, not sure if company
policy or his own views, or if they are applying the criteria in rationing
supply said; first, life - as in medical uses, or medical R&D; then perhaps
welding - making things, both higher than "filling balloons." He had to
answer phone before could discuss further. Another guy said they used to
have reserve of 100 helium cylinders, now they have zero.
So, plan ahead, so don't get surprised.