The three-day Asian Business Aviation Conference and Exposition (ABACE) in Shanghai, China, concluded Thursday, March 29. HAI and participating member companies successfully promoted the importance of helicopters among a sea of fixed-wing jets, as China civil aviation continues to progress.
On opening day, March 27, ABACE host and NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen welcomed U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari, several Chinese government dignitaries, and two association presidents, Matt Zuccaro of HAI and Pete Bunce of GAMA, all of whom participated in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Throughout the show, the HAI team — Zuccaro, Vice President for Business Development and Expositions Karen Gebhart, Director of Flight Operations and Technical Services Harold Summers, and HAI Board of Directors Chairman Mark Gibson — interacted with many business, government, and industry attendees. Two manufacturers were present: Bell had a display and Eurocopter had two helicopters on the flight line.
Most of the questions and discussions were about pilot training, helicopter operations, and the availability of aircraft in China. With the eventual opening of low-level airspace in China to civilian aviation, the utility of helicopters in the Chinese economy will increase, from emergency medical services to the diverse mission types we enjoy in the United States and elsewhere around the world.
In addition to networking with attendees, the HAI team held meetings with various industry representatives to discuss operations and progress in working in the Chinese market. This included an impromptu visit from Daniel Yuen, managing director for Asia and Pacific Rim marketing for FlightSafety International.
Zuccaro was invited to present as part of the panel on technology advancements that are improving safety. Chris Buchholz of Hong Kong Jet described many recent technological developments, including enhanced vision, heads-up display, traffic collision avoidance systems, and flight-data monitoring. Katie Pribyl of GAMA addressed air traffic control modernization and expanding advanced avionics technology.
While Zuccaro agreed that the new technology will be beneficial, his focus on improving safety emphasizes the human factors in decision-making and risk assessment. Zuccaro described his work with the International Helicopter Safety Team, which has a goal of zero accidents, and HAI safety initiatives in three areas: safety as the first priority, safety above all else, and flying to a higher standard. Zuccaro ended his comments by stating, “Pilots are the final safety gate.”
The show ended with Gibson awarding Fiona Wu from Taikoo Aircraft Engineering, a Chinese engineering and aircraft maintenance company, a new iTouch as the winner of the HAI drawing.
Following the show, the HAI team was invited by Lu Yong, chairman of RuoHang Transportation Development Company, a Chinese helicopter operator, to visit a heliport development in the Nanjing area outside Shanghai. Although Chinese civil aviation is in its infancy, it is clearly planning for future growth in helicopter operations as the challenges of airspace, flight training, maintenance, and infrastructure are gradually addressed in China during the months and years to come.
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