Heli-Expo Preview: Industry rotors up for this year's convention in Dallas

 - September 26, 2006, 4:37 AM

As the helicopter industry once again prepares to hold its annual roundup in Dallas later this month, it is riding the crest of a wave that includes the highest U.S. rotary-wing production figures in more than a decade.

Billed as the world’s largest trade show dedicated to the civil helicopter industry, Heli-Expo has drawn an average of 13,000 attendees each year to venues in Dallas; Las Vegas; Orlando, Fla.; and Anaheim, Calif., in the past five years. Heli-Expo serves as the Helicopter Association International’s annual convention and exposition, where it provides more than 175,000 sq ft of exhibits from more than 470 companies.

This year’s Heli-Expo will be held from February 26 to 28 at the Dallas Convention Center, where most of the scheduled events will be held. The headquarters for the convention is the Wyndham Anatole Hotel, which will be the site for HAI’s 23rd annual membership reception, as well as its Salute to Excellence Awards Celebration.

Events actually begin February 21 with courses on human performance in helicopter maintenance and helicopter operator management. Courses extend through March 3, with the advanced helicopter operator management course. In between there will be forums, symposia, workshops and social gatherings for industry professionals to meet and share information, professional development courses and open meetings of HAI’s 21 active committees.

In late December, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) said in its year-end review and forecast that preliminary figures indicated 925 U.S. civil helicopter shipments for last year, which it said would be a record for civil helicopters. Civil helicopter sales surged from $515 million to a record $750 million, according to AIA.

At last year’s Heli-Expo in Anaheim, engine-makers Rolls-Royce and Honeywell forecasted increased sales and deliveries of new helicopters in the next few years. The engine manufacturers will update those numbers at this month’s event.

Last year, Rolls-Royce predicted that deliveries of new helicopters would increase over the next decade, with a peak during the next five years. Its annual forecast envisioned more than 5,100 new turbine helicopters–most of them single-engine–entering the civilian fleet by 2014.

Last year, Honeywell projected sales of 2,400 helicopters from 2005 to 2009, boosted by corporate, EMS and law-enforcement helicopters. It saw demand for 5,500 new units into 2015.

New Leadership

This month’s convention will be one of the first public outings for new president Matt Zuccaro, who succeeded Roy Resavage on November 1. Resavage retired after eight years at the helm.

No stranger to the helicopter industry or HAI, Zuccaro moved into the association’s presidency from his own consultancy firm. He is a former chairman of HAI and was instrumental in several key HAI initiatives. He also served as chairman or member of many HAI committees, as well as numerous industry research and task force groups.

In a career spanning 35 years, Zuccaro has held executive-level and management positions with commercial, corporate, scheduled and public-service helicopter operators in the Northeast. He is a past president and chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council. During a stint with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, he served in operations management positions at John F. Kennedy International Airport and the authority’s public and private heliports.

“All indications are right now that it’s going to be a good convention for us,” Zuccaro told AIN early last month.

He said exhibitors are so excited about Heli-Expo that HAI was forced to expand into another hall at the convention center to handle the increased registrations. “All of our indications–registrations and everything else–are that we are optimistic about it being a very good show,” Zuccaro added.

As he prepares for his first Heli-Expo as HAI president, Zuccaro said the industry appears to be healthy. “Right now, my perception is that the indicators are very up, very good,” he said. “Everybody appears to be doing well. Obviously, certain segments do a little better than others, but the general health of the industry seems to be extremely strong right now.”

Zuccaro believes there will be many positive things to come out of this year’s Heli-Expo. “We’re looking for a lot of business activity for the exhibitors and a lot of information available to the operators to kind of update everybody on the latest technology,” he said. “I don’t have any negative indicators right now either for the show or the industry, business-wise.”

HAI will kick off its special events schedule with its 23rd annual membership reception in the Wyndham Anatole on February 25, and the next morning the 58th annual membership meeting and breakfast will be held in the convention center. HAI will present its slate of candidates for the board of directors, and voting will begin immediately after the meeting. The last of the special events will be HAI’s Salute to Excellence Awards celebration on February 27 in the Anatole Hotel.

Forums and Workshops

HAI has lined up a number of prominent experts for a series of forums, symposia and workshops. Zuccaro said, “We’ve got a very good signup for the advanced educational series classes.”

The educational courses are designed specifically for helicopter professionals and will be presented before and after Heli-Expo. Each course targets issues of specific concern to helicopter operators, pilots and aviation maintenance professionals, providing current and comprehensive information essential in today’s rapidly changing operating environment.

The first course during HAI is the “Safety Symposium–Present and Future Challenges” on February 25 led by former NTSB member Richard Healing. It will focus on FAA and NTSB studies of recent aeromedical transport accidents.

The same day the safety committee town hall meeting will ask attendees to think about what could be the cause of the next accident in their operations, as well as what they, and others, could do to prevent it from happening.

Members of the HAI safety committee will host the interactive forum, which in the past has led to the development of HAI’s Platinum Program of Safety. The format allows operators, pilots, other crewmembers, maintenance professionals and aviation managers to explore how to better identify risks in helicopter operations and provide guidance on developing tools with which to manage risk and enhance the safety of operations.

Among the new safety courses in the professional education series is “Coping with Crisis 101–Managing an Aviation Disaster.” Taught by Steve Bassett, president and CEO of the Communications Workshop, it covers the significant areas of aviation crisis management, from developing an effective crisis-management plan, to disaster response to handling the news media in crisis situations.

It covers topics including what to expect from the NTSB, disaster family assistance, crisis response and containment, corporate recovery planning, federal regulations, crisis public relations, political fallout, managing the news media and handling news conferences and interviews.

The maintenance directors forum on February 26 will examine regulatory issues that affect maintenance personnel, such as avionics and field approvals. Sarah MacLeod, executive director of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA), and Marshall Filler, managing director and general counsel of ARSA, will conduct the seminar.

An expert in the insurance industry will furnish the latest information on insurance and loss prevention and explain how maintenance directors can reduce these costs. FAA officials will address safety in the maintenance area and give an update on the latest FAA rules and regulations.

Also on February 26 HAI will hold its annual Heli-Expo job fair, where recruiters and jobseekers can match needs and skills. HAI member company representatives will be on hand, and HAI staff will answer general questions and demonstrate the services offered in the forums and jobs section of the association’s Web site.

Also beginning on February 26 are manufacturer technical briefings on specific aircraft models and engines. The briefings meet the FAA’s requirements for renewal of inspection authorization.