Heli Expo Busy and Upbeat Despite Huge Challenges

The 2009 Heli Expo wrapped up on Tuesday, and the event was one of the busiest ever in terms of exhibitors-a total of 584 with more than 70 helicopters on the show floor-and record numbers of attendees (15,728 on the first day, alone). But the industry, as is the case everywhere, has been hit hard by the recession. Orders are down everywhere, and the specter of layoffs at airframers is the rule, not the exception. Despite a strong order book, Robinson has cut production by around 20 percent as many of its customers have cancelled or cut orders. And future orders are slow in coming. Eurocopter said that it was trimming expenses in order to weather the downturn, with hopes of a recovery in the coming year, and those manufacturers who didn't say as much are surely taking the same approach to the business. Still, some observers report that manufacturers are making deals, but that customers are insisting on discretion rather than the traditional champagne toasts and handshake ceremonies. MD Helicopters did announce three helicopter sales at the show, and CEO Lynn Tilton said she expects few cancellations this year. MD is expected to deliver up to 70 helicopters in 2009.