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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Commentary: CEOs Miss Huge Opportunity at Forum

By Andrew Drwiega, Military Editor

Entrsom’s Jerry Mullins (shown here at the 2011 Forum) and MD Helicopters’ Lynn Tilton were the only two CEOs at the CEO Forum.

This year’s CEO Forum was shunned by most of the leading CEOs—I guess they were too busy with the ‘grin and grip’ duties with the flurry of new orders (mostly saved to announce at the show) to come and make the forum what it should be, a gathering of rotorcraft giants challenging each other over issues of the day.

Is this really too much to hope for—or expect—at such an occasion, one that prides itself as THE event of the industry? The stands are grand and the visitors plentiful, according to forum moderator and HAI’s executive vice president and corporate secretary, Edward DiCampli: “A day and a half in, we’ve broken the attendance record of 18,500 visitors and 650 exhibitors.” The job fair was going well, industry was pleased with itself—but the punters who had come to hear the mighty speak were short-changed, again.

Surely when such a golden opportunity presents itself, and is actively promoted, to get the world’s rotorcraft leaders together, put them on the stand and get them debating issues of the day, it is a failure of commitment when it does not happen. The pilot or engineer at the door, paying to get in and learn about his future, deserves more than this.

This is Heli-Expo, HAI’s blue-ribbon event. The one day in the year when the HAI management could arm-twist the CEO’s around a table and host a serious discussion, the resulting comments from which could send messages of import far wider than just the regular show and trade media.

Plaudits indeed to the CEOs who did take their time to attend: Enstrom President & CEO Jerry Mullins and Lynn Tilton, CEO of MD Helicopters. They were joined by AgustaWestland’s Louis Bartolotta, executive vice president of marketing and sales for North America, who launched into a pitch for the AW189, AW169 and AW139; Bob Hastings, senior vice president of communications and government affairs for Bell Helicopter; and Anthony DiNota, vice president of commercial sales, marketing and customer support for American Eurocopter.

What was called for was a thundering session that would pack out the standing room in the back—with more crowding the doors to get in. Instead, it was little more than corporate videos and well-spun messages that could be seen down every isle of the exhibit area—and as a result the Forum ballroom was two-thirds empty (and I’m being generous)!

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