With an attendance expected to be within 1 to 3 percent of last year’s more than 17,000 and the increase in exhibitors filling the floor of the George R. Brown Convention Center, Helicopter Association International chairman Mark Gibson said the association is optimistic about this Heli-Expo.
“The numbers seem to look very good at this point in time,” he said at a press conference yesterday morning. “Given the tough economic times, we are looking forward and we’re optimistic, and I think it’s going to be a great show.”
HAI president Matt Zuccaro said that over the past four or five years the event has been performing in an excellent manner, reaching milestones in each successive show.
Giving an update on HAI’s current activities, Zuccaro said HAI is teaming with the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), developer of the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO), on a helicopter accreditation program. “As I indicated previously, it’s a voluntary program open to HAI members to submit themselves for consideration of HAI accreditation,” he explained. “We have an agreement of intent with IBAC.”
HAI will use the IS-BAO standards as the core foundation accreditation criteria. On top of that HAI will add its mission-specific audit program, which will combine HAI standards and IS-BAO standards and go beyond the normal audit process that usually occurs.
IS-BAO is a code of best practices developed by industry and the IBAC in 2002. At the core of IS-BAO is the operator’s safety management system (SMS), which requires that flight departments implement an SMS program.
Zuccaro said the helicopter accreditation will incorporate 29 disciplines that are unique to the rotary-wing industry. HAI and IS-BAO expect to finalize the working agreement on July 1.
“If you are doing a particular type of mission…we will specifically review your operation to see how you are performing and what standard level you are at with that mission, and it could be anything from electronic newsgathering to tour operations to firefighting to offshore; every one of those operations has nuances to your environment,” he noted.
Asked about the acceptance of ADS-B, which just went operational in the Gulf of Mexico in mid-January, Zuccaro said acceptance by the operators “has been quite good,” adding that it was like going from night to day. “I like to say, they have now joined the National Airspace System.”
He said that one of the biggest benefits of ADS-B is enhanced, real-time weather reporting. Before ADS-B, when the weather went down the operators lost 90 to 95 percent of their flights. “It’s being very well-received,” Zuccaro said.