Helicopter Association International (HAI) is supporting the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) industry by holding an in-person HAI Heli-Expo 2021 in New Orleans from 22-25 March, with exhibits open 23-25 March.
“I want to be as transparent as possible in addressing the concerns of our industry,” says James Viola, president and CEO of HAI. “By partnering with the staff of the convention centre, the city and local businesses to mitigate the risks for HAI Heli-Expo participants, we believe we can achieve a safe environment for the show. Please visit the COVID-19 webpage on the heliexpo.com website to see all the health and safety protocols that we will have in place in New Orleans. Masks, social distancing, frequent cleanings; these are only the tip of the spear in our risk management plan.
“The State of Louisiana has approved our trade show event, and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center has more than 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space alone, so even with social distancing, it holds a lot of people. The only thing that will prevent us from holding HAI Heli-Expo this March is if the New Orleans area is in a Phase One lockdown at that time.”
HAI has also consulted closely with Dr. Allison Stock, an epidemiologist formerly with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), who is working with the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans on health and safety issues.
“Convention centre staff have undergone specific sanitation training as part of the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accreditation, which certifies that the convention centre meets the industry's highest standards of infectious disease prevention,” says Stock. “We are also working with HAI to make sure its on-site protocols and processes will meet the health and safety guidelines of the CDC and state and local public health authorities. While we are in Phase One with tighter restrictions right now, that is scheduled to expire on January 29. I fully expect that we will be able to host a show like HAI Heli-Expo in March.”
“Working with people like Dr. Stock and the rest of the staff at the convention centre has made our risk assessment and hazard mitigation process much easier,” continues Viola. “We also expect HAI Heli-Expo attendees to do their part. We will insist on compliance with all health and safety guidelines by all participants.”
However, Viola acknowledges that travelling to New Orleans for the show will be difficult for some. International travel is restricted, and some exhibitors, including some larger companies, have cancelled. “Travel at this time is a very personal decision,” says Viola. “I think each person has the right to make that decision for themselves and for their company. For those who can't make it, we understand, and we'll see them next year. But we still have hundreds of companies and thousands of attendees who expect to attend, exhibit or participate in education or industry meetings. We know attendance at this show will be lower than usual, but we expect that many in our industry will still come to New Orleans in order to conduct the business necessary to keep their employees working and their companies moving ahead.”
Viola finishes by saying that holding the show under present conditions represents a financial loss for HAI, but he sees it as an investment in the industry. “Our industry needs this boost right now, and it has always been our responsibility to help our members keep their rotors turning. The doors of HAI Heli-Expo will be open to those who want to buy or sell, receive training, look for a new job or just network with their industry peers. I hope to see you there.”