The uncertain U.S. economy had little effect on sales and attendance here at Heli-Expo’08. A record-setting 16,829 rotorcraft enthusiasts had attended the show through yesterday afternoon, a figure certain to provide a boost to the industry’s confidence in the health of the worldwide helicopter market.
This year’s final count is already guaranteed to exceed the record of 16,200 visitors set in 2005 at the Heli-Expo in Anaheim, Calif. HAI chairman Michael Suldo noted that the numbers are a sign of continued strength in the industry. “It’s hard to see the effects of any recession in the U.S. helicopter market,” he said.
The attendee list includes a “significant” number of international attendees and exhibitors, the organization said, adding that the total number of exhibitors reached 523. Bob Fitzpatrick, senior v-p of marketing and sales for Bell Helicopter, said there is “pent-up demand for helicopters throughout the world. There is a lot of growth in Asia, especially in offshore oil.” Likewise, the largest regional customer base for the AgustaWestland AW139 is the Middle East, accounting for 29 percent of all orders logged by the Italian manufacturer.
There were 63 helicopters on display this year, and HAI estimated that the exhibits occupied 600,000 sq ft of space within the George R. Brown Convention Center. The total exhibition space here at Houston’s convention hall totals 699,000 sq ft.