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Friday, February 1, 2013

HAI’s Heli-Expo Heads to Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Convention Center is the venue for Heli-Expo 2013, the annual gathering of the worldwide helicopter industry, hosted by Alexandria, Va.-based Helicopter Association International (HAI). Thousands of attendees, hundreds of vendors, and dozens of helicopters will converge in Nevada from March 4-7.

HAI President Matt Zuccaro says that Heli-Expo, the world’s largest helicopter tradeshow, is “the one thing that brings the entire international helicopter community together in one place, offering an opportunity to meet with peers, potential customers, regulators and lawmakers.”

As of two months prior to event, the planners of Heli-Expo were expecting at least 700 exhibitors, who will display all varieties of rotorcraft parts, crew supplies and services. This includes 47 exhibitors who plan to display aircraft within the cavernous convention center. 

The exhibit hall is a virtual shopping mall of helicopters, components, avionics, services and supplies. Equipment, such as this FTD from Elite, can be compared before making purchase decisions.
“Last year in Dallas, we had 60 helicopters on display on the exhibit floor,” reports Zuccaro, an experienced helicopter pilot himself. “We expect a similar number this year.”

AgustaWestland, Bell, Enstrom, Eurocopter, Kaman, MD Helicopters, Robinson, Russian Helicopters, and Sikorsky will have large displays, complete with models and production versions of their aircraft for visitor inspection, as well as engineering, support and sales personnel ready to answer questions. Each manufacturer will also host a technical briefing, where operators can get the latest information on the aircraft they fly, and seek solutions for even the most complicated issues. 

In addition, the Helicopter Foundation International will once again host a display of historical aircraft, confirms Zuccaro. Last year in Dallas, the foundation’s exhibit area included a pristine Army OH-13—the military version of the Bell 47 “fish bowl” helicopter—in Korean War-era medevac livery; a Russian Mil Mi-24 “Hind” gunship; and an Army Bell UH-1 Huey from the Vietnam era.

Engine manufacturers including Pratt & Whitney Canada, Rolls-Royce and Turbomeca will have examples of their powerplants on display, as well as technical data. Engineers will be onsite to answer questions, as will the designers of many other components, avionics and diagnostic equipment.

The show floor gives visitors the chance to examine various helicopter models, including this Sikorsky S-92 at the 2012 show.
Heli-Expo is frequently used as the backdrop for the introduction of cutting-edge products. In 2012, Bell unveiled the prototype of its new 525 “Relentless” super-medium helicopter. A few hundred feet away in the Eurocopter display area, attendees were also treated to their first look at the Eurocopter EC130T2, the company’s latest variation of its successful single-engine EC130 platform.

Heli-Expo attendees can expect to see new aircraft and products for the first time.

As usual, Heli-Expo will be preceded by a week of training sessions at or near the convention center. Beginning Feb. 28 and running through March 4, helicopter-industry professionals—both novice and veteran—will be able to attend courses covering a variety of subjects. Some of the topics in the area of maintenance include flight data monitoring, troubleshooting and FAA Part 21 certification. Management courses will include leadership in aviation, project management and helicopter fleet financing. Some of the safety courses offered will be accident investigation, safety management systems and SMS manual development. Pilot-specific courses will delve into human factors, powerline avoidance, inadvertent IMC, and the heavily attended flight instructor refresher course.

New this year is the Rotor Safety Challenge, adds Zuccaro. “[It will be] a series of short courses offered during the show itself that are free to all attendees.” 

The entire course schedule is posted on HAI’s website at www.rotor.com.

AgustaWestland booth at Heli-Expo 2012. The majority of aircraft on display at Heli-Expo are open for close inspection. And it is not uncommon to find the company CEO nearby and available to anyone who wishes to ask a question or share a comment.
Forums and committees that address important issues in the rotorcraft community are held during the convention. Subjects include government regulations, heliport design and flight safety. According to Zuccaro, this year’s keynote speakers will be from “the halls of Congress and the executive offices of the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.”

The annual Salute to Excellence dinner will be held on the evening of March 6, at which time HAI will recognize those individuals—and often groups—who have made noteworthy contributions to the helicopter community. The eight honors are the AgustaWestland Safety award, the Bell Helicopter Lifetime Achievement award, the Eurocopter Golden Hour award, the MD Helicopters Law Enforcement award, the Rolls-Royce Excellence in Helicopter Maintenance award, the Sikorsky Humanitarian Service award, the Excellence in Communications award, and the Pilot of the Year award.

On the last day of the event, a crowd always gathers outside of the venue to watch the fly-out. The air show-like atmosphere centers around the departure of the display aircraft as they liftoff one by one from the adjacent parking lot to return to their home bases.

The common denominator of Heli-Expo remains its ability to bring all facets of the rotorcraft world together for several days of exposure to the latest news, lessons and products the industry has to offer, as well as to network with colleagues whom attendees might not otherwise get to exchange ideas and experiences with. Each day, breakfasts and afterhours events are held in and around the venue that allow everyone from CEOs to student pilots to get to know each other and establish relationships that benefit the rotorcraft universe.

HAI anticipates that more than 20,000 people will attend Heli-Expo this year. The admission price for three days of the convention and exposition varies.

“We offer professional development courses and other educational opportunities you’re just not going to find anywhere else,” says Zuccaro. “As I hear in my travels, ‘Heli-Expo is the one event you cannot miss if you are in the helicopter industry.’”

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