You couldn’t miss it.
The huge, double-deck Helicopter Association International (HAI) white tent with the signature blue logo near the flightline at this year’s EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis.
HAI president Matt Zuccaro said the group’s inaugural “Heli-Center” exhibition at the show had several goals: Increase the general public’s awareness of the role of helicopters in their daily lives, boost helicopter appreciation in the fixed-wing community, capture the next generation of helicopter enthusiasts, and give the helicopter community at the show a place to call home.
“Most of the general public has no idea of the vital role helicopters play in their lives,” Zuccaro said. “When they turn a light on in their house, it was a helicopter that planted the transmission tower and later went on to provide power line inspections. When they put fuel in their cars, it often comes from oil pumped from platforms that are 200 and 300 miles offshore and serviced daily by helicopters. The food they eat is protected from pests by helicopters used for aerial applications. The traffic reports on the radio, television news photos, and aerial shots in movies all come from helicopters. Then of course there are the EMS, law enforcement and firefighting missions.”
HAI distributed a video DVD chronicle of those and many other missions at the show. “We are really trying to educate everyone about helicopters, their history, and what they do,” he said.
Zuccaro also said the purpose of the Heli-Center was to show solidarity with the fixed-wing community on issues of vital mutual importance. “We hope to better educate the fixed-wing community and create that camaraderie we need to cooperate and survive. We work with the fixed-wing community all the time; NBAA, AOPA, GAMA, to name a few. We are a unified community and we have to work together. There are numerous examples where this has made the difference already. Our presence here is really a further statement of the unity between these associations. We didn’t have the same level of presence that the other associations had heretofore and I felt strongly that we needed to be here and be here with a commitment,” Zuccaro said.
“We want to let everyone know that we are here. We are sponsoring an educational forum and putting on presentations ourselves. We want the same recognition as everyone else here–the ultralight community, warbirds, Bonanza Club, whatever.”
Zuccaro also said he wants members of the rotorcraft community attending the show to have an “anchor” where they can “come and feel at home.” That includes helicopter industry vendors who do not have a large presence at the show. “It’s a win-win,” he said of these vendors, because “they know our standards and the product we put out.”
Likewise, he wants to have a central location where those–of every age–interested in helicopters can learn more. He pointed to the “kids corner” in the tent. “That’s what it is all about–capturing the next generation.”
The organization will continue to take an active role in future major airshows around the world, from the spring Sun ’n’ Fun fly-in in Florida to the Paris Air Show, said Zuccaro.
“We’re here to play,” he said.