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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Aviation Today: How Long Can The Party Last?

John Persinos

Igor Sikorsky, the godfather of the modern helicopter, perhaps summed it up best: "Aeronautics was neither an industry nor a science. It was a miracle."

When I served as editor-in-chief of Rotor & Wing during the mid-to-late 1990s, I was always struck by the sheer passion of the people in the helicopter market. Their devotion to rotorcraft made editing this magazine a joy and a privilege. I know my eminent successor, Jim McKenna, feels the same way.

My current role is publisher and editorial director of Aviation Today, the online portal for all aviation publications (including R&W) produced by our corporate parent, Access Intelligence. The publishing world is increasingly migrating to electronic media, or "e-media", but some truths never change.

As the global economy slips into recession, can the helicopter market maintain its unprecedented growth?

One immutable verity in an uncertain world is the intense affinity that leaders in the helicopter field have for R&W, the longtime bible of the industry. Today, the helicopter market is in the throes of what’s arguably its greatest period of expansion, and the industry’s decision-makers need actionable advice more than ever.

This historic boom in the helicopter market has given birth to a new webinar: "Rotorcraft’s Winning Streak: How to Leverage The Helicopter Market’s Growth". Sponsored by Aviation Today, the webinar is scheduled for Thursday, April 17 at 2 – 3 pm (ET).

The webinar’s speakers will include Matt Zuccaro, president of the Helicopter Assn International; Raymond Jaworowski, senior aerospace analyst at Forecast International, and Jim McKenna, editor-in-chief of the magazine that you’re now holding in your hands. I will serve as the moderator. You can register for this timely webinar, at www.AviationToday.com.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, military and homeland defense budgets have received large boosts every year. A healthy portion of this funding has gone to helicopters, which Pentagon strategists perceive as particularly adept tools for fighting terrorism and the regional, asymmetrical guerrilla wars of the 21st century.

Meanwhile, in the civilian helicopter sector, operators in all niches continue to enjoy robust demand for their services. In turn, OEMs report backlogs that stretch far into the future.

Sure, coffers are full, but how long can the party last? As the global economy slips into recession and companies of all types shed employees, can the helicopter market maintain its unprecedented growth? If a downturn is imminent, how can various helicopter industry segments protect themselves? If growth will continue in 2008, as most analysts seem to think, then what’s the best way to leverage this growth for maximum advantage?

The rotorcraft industry as a whole continues to be racked by realignment, whether through outright mergers and acquisitions, alterations in the structures of existing joint venture agreements, or the establishment of various industry teams that take on specific procurement programs.

A famous Canadian futurist once said: "The medium is the message." (No, not William Shatner. I’m referring to Marshall McLuhan.) The late Professor McLuhan, a communications theorist, meant that a medium affects individuals and society not merely by the content delivered over it, but by the characteristics of the medium itself.

The medium of the Internet conditions your audience to expect information anytime, anywhere, instantly, and on demand — regardless of content. That’s a powerful combination of qualities.

Combining the efficiency of online communications with the credible content of print makes the message even more powerful. Accordingly, combining the online medium of a webinar with the expertise of a print journalist of Mr. McKenna’s bona fides is a one-two punch.

Webinars, such as the one mentioned above, typically use colorful PowerPoints as their foundation. They’re also participatory, interactive events that allow registrants to e-mail questions to the moderator, who presents these inquiries to the speakers for discussion in real time.

Despite increasing globalization and its ruthless emphasis on "the bottom line", the aviation sector remains blessed with hard-working executives, pilots, engineers, and mechanics who still harbor a great passion for rotorcraft — and for excellence. Many of them will be sharing and swapping ideas in cyberspace during our webinar on April 17. I hope you can make it.

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