Heli-Expo’09 defies gravity

 - February 21, 2009, 5:21 PM

As a wave of negative signs points to evidence of a prolonged economic downturn, perhaps the biggest surprise at the start of Heli-Expo’09 is how packed the exhibition hall seems.

The number of exhibitors is up about 12 percent compared to last year’s record show in Houston, from 523 to 584.

Exhibitors continued to apply for floor space in the days leading to the start of the show, which is “nearly sold out.” Heli-Expo organizers said late yesterday they did not have the exact number of new additions but that the total figure includes 81 new exhibitors, which is “good news,” according to Marilyn McKinnis, HAI’s vice president of marketing and exhibitions.

The real barometer of the show’s success, of course, will be in just how many visitors Heli-Expo’09 ultimately attracts. McKinnis said she has “no idea” what the attendance will be for this show, but said Heli-Expo organizers are hopeful it will exceed expectations in spite of the recession. Last year’s attendance had already reached a record high of 16,829 by the second day of the show.

Despite a sharp slowdown in buying activity by corporate and offshore oil operators, this year’s Heli-Expo will likely break a number of records. Net exhibition space has increased compared to last year’s show, to 259,000 sq ft. The figure represents a 2.25-percent increase over Heli-Expo’08. McKinnis said this year’s total is also an increase over that of the 2005 event, the last time Heli-Expo took place in Anaheim.

Gross exhibition space, which includes aisle space and anything not directly related to exhibitor space, is “very close” to the more than 600,000 sq ft taken up at last year’s Houston event. “I don’t think we should look only at the numbers to determine a show’s success, but I know we’re up and I think that’s great,” McKinnis said.

There are 64 aircraft on display this year, as well as two mockups. That compares to 63 last year. McKinnis said the aircraft on display this year represent a combination of product demonstrators, new helicopters and used helicopters for sale.
Organizers also have high hopes for next year’s event in Houston. “When one segment in this industry is hurting, another is strong,” McKinnis said. “We hope things will remain steady.”    o