International visitors lower priority for Heli-Expo 2016

International visitors lower priority for Heli-Expo 2016

6-May-2015 Source:

In picking the venue for Heli-Expo 2016, Helicopter Association International (HAI) have – perhaps unwittingly – signalled to international visitors that they are less important.  Chris Dancy, HAI’s director of Communications and Public Relations told that 20-25% of exhibitors and visitors are from outside the US.

Heli-Expo 2016 will be held at Louisville, Kentucky from 29th February to 3rd March, with the exhibition open 1st to 3rd March.

Louisville Airport serves a total of just 20 destinations, all to domestic cities.  This means that every international visitor will have the inconvenience of interlining via a second airport, something that would rarely be required for the other Heli-Expo venues in recent years – Anaheim (part of the Los Angeles conurbation), Orlando, Dallas, Las Vegas etc.  There’s no question about accomodating the volume of visitors – as the home of the first jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown — the Kentucky Derby — the city has extensive experience dealing with large crowds.   Dancy told “international visitors to Louisville routinely arrive at ports of entry such as Atlanta, Chicago, New York, or Washington”, despite a clear preference by the vast majority of travellers to avoid a mid-journey break.

By comparison with other Heli-Expo destinations – figures have been sourced from the airport authorities themselves

  • Louisville – 20 destinations, 0 outside USA
  • Las Vegas – 135 destinations, 23 outside USA (March 2015 figures)
  • Los Angeles – 195 destinations, 103 outside USA (March 2015 figures)
  • Orlando – 209 destinations, 45 outside USA (27 year-round and 18 seasonal)

Louisville weather in late February and early March is not reliable, and NOAA climate data shows almost half of the snowfall each year in the city falls in February and March.  On 16th February this year the Courier-Journal published “The airport saw the cancellation of 33 flights out of a typical 71 daily departures, despite round-the-clock salting, plowing and deicing.” and the potential for disruption in the crucial run-up to the event appears much higher than for other locations.  While that situation was unusual, it’s clear that the weather is less reliable than other Heli-Expo destinations.  February weather will also need to be taken into account for those exhibitors flying aircraft into the convention venue.

HAI told that they have “considered all aspects in picking a new location”, and presumably weighed up the risks associated with alienating a proportion of international visitors or poor weather two years running.  Only the visitor stats in 2016 wil tell us.  For the record, the 2015 numbers showed the following:-

  • 18,272 attendees
  • 735 exhibitors
  • 116 first time exhibitors
  • 57 aircraft on display


Jeremy Parkin –

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