The international vertical aviation community gathered at HAI HELI-EXPO 2023 in Atlanta, demonstrating a robust appetite for in-person education, networking, and sales. More than 12,400 industry professionals from 97 countries attended the four-day show produced by Helicopter Association International (HAI).
The show occupied Halls B through C of the Georgia World Congress Center and featured 639 exhibitors and 49 aircraft. Attendees threaded their way through the busy aisles of the extensive show floor, eager to conduct business in person. “I loved hearing exhibitors say they were so busy at their booth that they barely had time to see others on the floor,” says HAI President and CEO James A. Viola. “Everyone I talked with was enthusiastic about the excitement and level of activity at the show.”
HAI estimates that roughly $2 billion in business occurred at HAI HELI-EXPO 2023. The show featured products and services ranging from the largest aircraft and engine manufacturers to the smaller businesses that are the backbone of the vertical aviation industry. Aircraft on the floor ranged from small but capable personal aircraft to some of the largest helicopters. Several companies displayed advanced air mobility (AAM) mock-ups, uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) models, and other emerging technologies.
HAI made safety the literal centerpiece of the show, with the HAI Rotor Safety Zone centrally located between Halls B and C. The Zone featured presentations and demonstrations on a variety of safety-related topics. A highlight of the booth this year was the US Coast Guard’s newest variant, an Airbus MH-65E Dolphin multimission helicopter, from Air Station Mobile, in Alabama. Attendees could also test virtual-reality simulators and meet with representatives from safety-focused organizations to learn how to fly and work more safely. HAI also offered an extensive slate of free safety education sessions in its Rotor Safety Challenge, providing opportunities for everyone in the industry to learn or improve skills for safer operations.
“Networking and workforce development are always a huge part of this show,” says Jeff Smith, chair of HAI Board of Directors. “Our Helicopter Industry Career Fair hosted more than 15 companies that were actively seeking new employees as well as several thousand job-seekers.” The show also featured the popular Mil2Civ workshop, where military veterans shared the lessons they learned when transitioning from the military to successful careers in the civilian sector.
The conference portion of the show included several events focused on AAM, including a three-part AAM Showcase and a forum that featured senior leaders from the organizations working to make AAM a reality. HAI also released a Roadmap of Advanced Air Mobility Operations, a white paper describing the next steps necessary for AAM development in areas such as regulations, infrastructure and airspace use, and vehicle development.
The show’s education and training sessions also drew large numbers of attendees, with 2,194 people taking 116 courses and sessions. The Professional Education courses provided in-depth professional development for pilots, maintenance technicians, and other aviation professionals. With a focus on supporting its small-business members, HAI again held its Communications U for Small Businesses, which offered free sessions in digital marketing, social media, crisis communications, and building better relationships with elected officials.
HAI turns 75 this year, on Dec. 13, 2023. This year’s Expo kicks off a yearlong observation of this milestone anniversary that will conclude at HAI HELI-EXPO 2024. With the theme of Building Tomorrow, next year’s show will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center Feb. 26–29, with exhibits open Feb. 27–29.