Heli-Expo Rebranding! More than a name change.

For those of you that work on or support helicopters or have ever been to the Helicopter Association International’s (HAI) main event — Heli-Expo, you know that it is undoubtedly the largest helicopter tradeshow in the world. This year’s Heli-Expo 2024 was no exception. 

One of the things that I always admired about Heli-Expo is that, in my opinion, it was relatively recession/economy-proof. If you think about it, regardless of the condition the country is in, the use of helicopters in so many different essential services is a sure thing. Law enforcement, search and rescue, EMS, firefighting, news gathering, and more are critical functions that will never wane. And in fact, with a couple of glitches related to the whole COVID fiasco and one bad call about a certain venue that shall not be named (2016) — the Heli-Expo show has remained a very healthy and viable show.

This year was no exception. According to HAI, the show “. . . brought 15,000 professionals from 87 countries to the four-day show. They visited 625 exhibitors and got up close with 63 aircraft and the latest technology, products, and services for vertical aviation businesses.”

That said, there are changes in technology as of late that the Helicopter Association International couldn’t ignore. Drones, for one, are slowly but surely overtaking helicopter usage for specific missions such as surveillance. Another rapidly developing segment is autonomous vehicles (basically large pilotless drone-like vehicles) for the specific purpose of transporting people.

The common denominator with all this technology is new vertical take-off and landing capabilities which have common opportunities and challenges. Therefore, it makes sense for HAI to embrace and support all this technology. 

And so – HAI has rebranded itself as Vertical Aviation International (VAI).

According to VAI, “…the association will expand its advocacy with legislators and regulators and provide a forum where all sectors of vertical flight can collaborate on shared challenges, such as vertical aviation infrastructure, certification of new technology, and the safe integration of that technology into the airspace. 

“Vertical aviation is an essential part of modern life, providing communities with security, connection, and prosperity. Our aircraft fly places others cannot go and accomplish missions that others cannot do,” says James Viola, VAI president and CEO. “VAI’s purpose is to fuel the growth of the vertical aviation industry by providing connection, advocacy, safety, education, and support for our members’ success.” 

VAI assures us it is not abandoning traditional helicopters. In a press conference held at the show, Nicole Battjes, 2023–24 chair of the VAI Board of Directors emphasized that “The helicopters that provide so many essential services, including search and rescue, firefighting, and air ambulance, are not going away. No other aircraft can do what a helicopter does, and we are proud to represent them. Our goal is to enable new vertical flight aircraft to find their essential missions as well.”

In addition to a new logo, VAI has renamed its annual conference and trade show VERTICON. The first edition of that show will welcome thousands of vertical aviation professionals from 90-plus countries to Dallas in March 2025.

Additionally, VAI says it is in the process of building a new website — verticalavi.org, which will be launched in late summer 2024. In the meantime, visitors can use either the new web address or the current one, rotor.org, to access information about VAI. 

Regardless of it is called, VAI’s Verticon 2025 in Dallas promises to be a “Must-Attend” show for all involved in the vertical segment of aviation. Hope to see you all there next year!

Thanks for reading!

Greg Napert, Proud to be an A&P