HAI Heli Expo 2016 vs HAI Heli Expo 2015: what's changed

HAI Heli Expo 2016 vs HAI Heli Expo 2015: what's changed

The most important event of the helicopters industry prepares to land in Louisville, Kentucky: all you need to know (starting from the location)

by Stefano Silvestre

The international circus of the helicopter industry is ready for its annual fashion show. There are only the last-minute details to complete for the HAI Heli Expo 2016 line up, which will set up in Louisville (KY) from Monday 29th February to Thursday, March 3th: the most important event of the rotary wing industry will be this year heavily based on of the current state of market.

And the news, as is well known, are not so positive.

Among the oil and gas neverending crisis, the AgustaWestland rebranding and an unusual location, we made the point for this year compared to what we saw in HAI Heli Expo 2015 in Orlando.


"Why Kentucky?". That was the main question among insiders, press and producers after seeing the back of the welcome signs seen in Orlando last year (which usually bear the HAI Heli Expo location for the following year).

The choice of location, to be honest, is a news of 2013. Three years later, however, it is not yet clear what really Kentucky has to do with the industry of civil helicopters. Home to Fort Campbell (itself home of the famous 101st Airborne Division of the US Army), bluegrass, bourbon, Kentucky Derby and of course, home of Cassius Clay-Muhammad Ali, Louisville has been officially selected – these are words of the HAI president Matt Zuccaro - because of its “known hospitality and the charm tied to its culture”.

And of course for a solid exhibition center a stone's throw from Louisville international airport.

In 2015 there were sun and the sights of Florida, a land where the helicopters are certainly not the last to arrive. In 2016 the industry has managed to find a location certainly less hot and a level of attractions completely opposite to what we saw in Orlando.

And, we say, it's deeply different compared to what we saw in Anaheim (Los Angeles) in 2014, and in Las Vegas in 2013.


The mournful notes comes from the main manufacturers exhibition line up and from the total absence of major news. The first day at HAI Heli Expo 2015 opened up with fireworks: Airbus Helicopters presented in style the new H160, Finmeccanica-AgustaWestland announced the first international agreement for the AW609 tiltrotor, while Bell Helicopter took the prize for the so-called deal of the century.

That will not this year's case. There will be no new models presentations, Airbus – which is the main helicopter manufacturer in the world - will bring five helicopters including H130, H145, H135, H215 and H125, and a virtual reality experience with the H160 and H175.

Expectations are even higher for Finmeccanica, in its first HAI Heli Expo without the AgustaWestland brand, a name changed in a less powerful Finmeccanica Helicopter Division or, if you're sentimental, Divisione Elicotteri. The exhibition line up of the Anglo Italian manufacturer has not yet been revealed, but in all likelihood will include all helicopters from the AgustaWestland Family (yes, we still love to call it like that) and at least a couple of notable additions, just like we saw last year with the Bristow AW609. The spotlight will be focused on the intermediate twin AW169, which has been already delivered to a number of operators around the world and which will finally entry into operational service in the next weeks.

In the video: Airbus Helicopters H160, our good citizen

Bell Helicopter will be on the frontline. For the texan manufacturer the prominent news is that there will be a new CEO. After the departure of the charismatic John Garrison, the burden of the great West Point-style speeches in will fall in the hand of Mitch Snyder. That's not just a detail: the new Bell's CEO comes from the military and is one of the makers of the V280 Valor tiltrotor program, an aircraft that will come to dominate this year (it will be a mockup) next to the notorius Bell 525 Relentless (that will be FAA certified in 2017), the short light single Bell 505 and the evergreen Bell 429.

No news from Sikorsky. The American manufacturer “powered by Lockheed Martin” plays around the corner from his house, but this year has changed more than ever in its core structure. At HAI Heli Expo 2015 Sikorsky brought one of the most unexpected sights and appreciated by the public, an S-92 SAR custom configurated for the United Kingdom SAR service that attracted more people than hot dog stands around the convention center in Orlando. In 2016, all eyes and ears will be set up to know something about the new parent company programs, which seems to be more and more military-oriented.

Half a news comes instead from Robinson, who will bring his (new?) R44 Cadet, a kind of R44 that comes stripped of the the rear seats and with an interesting price tag.


For the third consecutive year we will follow for you directly from the Convention Center in Louisville the entire duration of the event.

From Monday, February 29 you will find on Helipress all pictures from the HAI Heli Expo, the innovations by the manufacturers and, of course, our analysis on the state of the industry.

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