The diversity of the helicopter industry would appear to be its saving grace as the global economic downturn continues to affect just about every other industry.
“There are some 50 to 60 different mission profiles I can identify,” said Matt Zuccaro yesterday morning at the press conference just before the ribbon cutting that opened the exhibit hall. “Last year’s Heli-Expo was the biggest ever and all signs are pointing to this one being even bigger. We obviously don’t know what the total attendance figures will be, but I can tell you that, as of Sunday, registrations were ahead of Houston’s first-day numbers.”
Although some segments are seeing reductions, Zuccaro said he does not think the helicopter industry will experience a similar drop-off of activity and orders that business aviation experienced after the NBAA Convention last October. Patrick Corr, HAI chairman and senior vice president with Bristow Group, said, “We hope Heli-Expo bodes well for the industry in general, although we do face uncertain times with a degree of trepidation.” He said the offshore segment is seeing some softness in short-term contracts, mainly related to oil exploration, but most of his company’s 500-plus helicopters are engaged in medium- and long-term contracts, which service production activity.
“HAI members recognize that we need a strong association working hard for us so that we’re not hampered by unnecessary government regulations,” Corr added. The association’s staff, which Zuccaro characterized as “dedicated, professional people,” is at full strength and now numbers 38.
Zuccaro said the association’s membership currently totals 2,763, with 227 new members added since December. HAI has changed its rules to allow pilots and maintenance technicians to be individual members, and students receive their first year’s membership free. Highlighting HAI’s increasing efforts to encourage young people to come into the industry are some 100 pilot and technician students who are attending the convention–from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Pacific Helicopters, the University of North Dakota, Salt Lake Community College, Guidance Helicopters, Quantum Helicopters, Penn College, Rotors of the Rockies and Chandler Hillcrest Community College.
HAI established a political action committee in December, Zuccaro added.