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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Helicopter Industry Open for Business at Heli-Expo

By Ernie Stephens, Editor-at-Large

Attendees await the opening of Heli-Expo 2011 in Orlando. This year’s convention and exhibition in Dallas is projected to top last year’s estimated 20,000 visitors.  Photos by Ernie Stephens

This year’s version of Heli-Expo, the annual convention and exposition hosted by Helicopter Association International (HAI), kicks off on Feb. 11 in Dallas, Texas, running through Valentine’s Day. The event is expected to attract thousands of association members, as well as non-member helicopter professionals and enthusiasts, to the Dallas Convention Center.

Each year, Heli-Expo offers attendees a wide variety of workshops, certification courses and seminars of interest to those involved an all aspects of the rotorcraft industry. This year’s courses, which are free of charge to registered convention attendees, include technical briefings from aircraft and engine manufacturers, a finance/leasing roundtable, a heliport design workshop, and a “program of safety” for tour operators. More intensive courses are offered the week prior to HAI for a nominal fee, and cover subjects such as crew resource management, recurrent night vision goggle (NVG) training, and helicopter aerodynamics.

The centerpiece of Heli-Expo is the exposition, where more than 600 exhibitors from all aspects of the helicopter industry will fill the convention center’s 726,000-square-foot hall with dozens of aircraft, equipment—ranging from engines to flight suits—and information on rotorcraft-related services covering everything from maintenance to insurance.

Attendees at Heli-Expo 2011 inspect an MD902 on display. MD Helicopters is at Booth 7425 during this year’s event.
Other events include a golf tournament, a silent auction and an industry job fair. And on the evening prior to Heli-Expo’s close, HAI will hold its annual Salute to Excellence Award banquet, where leaders in areas such as flight training, maintenance, and humanitarian services will be recognized.

Although HAI drew more than 20,000 attendees at last year’s gathering in Orlando, Fla., association president Matt Zuccaro, a licensed helicopter pilot himself, is expecting an even greater turnout this year, saying the event “is going to be another record-breaker.” The exhibit floor “is bigger, the projected number of attendees is up over last year, and the various forums, education courses, mentoring workshops and committee meetings have been expanded in terms of topics and industry concerns.” In keeping with its tradition, HAI will use Heli-Expo as the venue for its annual membership meeting, which frequently includes an address from a prominent member of the aviation community. This year, in accordance with HAI’s Safety First Over All Else—Zero Accidents program, the keynote speaker is Deborah Hersman, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Hersman is currently in her second, two-year term at the helm of the country’s primary aviation accident investigation organization, and is a vocal supporter of safety in the rotorcraft industry, especially in the HEMS sector. “If you are a stakeholder in the international helicopter community, [Heli-Expo 2012] is the place to be,” explains Zuccaro.

For photos and videos from the Heli-Expo 2012 show floor, visit us online at: www.aviationtoday.com/rw/heliexpo2012

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