Commercial, Personal/Corporate, Products, Public Service, Training

Heli-Expo Preview The Biggest ‘Little Helicopter Show’ In Texas

By By Dale Smith | February 1, 2012

Virginia’s Fairfax County Police Department is displaying its new Bell 429 at Heli-Expo in Dallas. For the full story and coverage from the event, visit and look for Rotor & Wing’s Show Day publication on the convention center floor.
Photo by Ernie Stephens, Editor-at-Large

In case you haven’t attended in the past few years (and why not?), Heli-Expo has grown to be the world’s largest helicopter event. According to Helicopter Association International, this year’s iteration will be one of the biggest ever, taking up more than 1 million square feet of the Dallas Convention Center. The 2012 edition will feature 600-plus exhibitors with more than 60 helicopters on display. That’s on top of hundreds of hours of meetings, technical briefings, educational courses and the ever-popular Job Fair.

With all that floor space and all those exhibitors to cover—not to mention navigating through an expected attendance of above 18,000 people—trying to take it all in three days can be just a bit overwhelming.


In an effort to help save time and energy before hitting the convention floor, we’ve collected a handful of the announcements that helicopter suppliers uncovered leading up to the show. Take a minute to check out a few of these not-to-be-missed exhibitors.

For more highlights, news and coverage from the show, look for Rotor & Wing’s Show Day publication at Heli-Expo, and visit our dedicated web page:


Appareo Systems (Booth 7834)

Appareo Systems, which is best known for its ALERTS (Aircraft Logging and Event Recording for Training and Safety) system, plans to introduce electronic flight bag (EFB) software that is being developed for CHC Helicopter.

According to John Pederson, manager, marketing communications for Appareo Systems, the new CHC EFB will run on the Apple iPad. The software will help CHC flight crews increase efficiency by providing a tool for routing, fuel planning and weight and balance calculations.

The CHC project “taps into our considerable software development expertise, leveraging our experience in mobile development and cloud computing,” notes Barry Batcheller, president and CEO of Appareo. “We’re honored to be partners with CHC,” he adds.

While Appareo will only have a prototype of the EFB at Heli-Expo, the company will have its full array of ALERTS systems on hand, including its latest unit, ALERTS Vision 1000. Jointly developed by Appareo and Eurocopter, Vision 1000 captures inertial and positioning data, as well as cockpit imagery and audio.

Cobham (Booth 3122)

Sikorsky S-61 panel from Carson Helicopters and Cobham.

Cobham and Carson Helicopters recently announced a program to retrofit Sikorsky S-61, S-76 and UH-60 helicopters with Carson’s performance modifications and Cobham’s suite of integrated avionics. The new deck will include Cobham’s large-format EFIS displays with 3D synthetic vision/highway-in-the-sky (HITS), integrated flight hazard alerting (terrain, traffic and weather), VHF com/nav, audio/radio management and more.

According to Frank Carson, owner of Carson Helicopters, adding Cobham’s avionics “dramatically reduces pilot workload, increases safety and provides for future growth.”

Cobham also comes to Heli-Expo 2012 with some additional supplemental type certificate (STC) approvals for its HeliSAS autopilot and stability augmentation system, including for the Bell 206/407 and the Eurocopter AS350 and EC130. The company has also received Brazilian validation for aftermarket installation of its 3D synthetic vision system aboard the Eurocopter AS350/355 series.

Columbia Helicopters (Booth 7334)

Columbia Helicopters is looking toward Heli-Expo to kick-off a big 2012. “Our pursuit of commercial and military helicopter maintenance and operational contracts in new areas has resulted in our ability to hire more people,” reports Michael Fahey, president of the Aurora, Ore.-based company. “At the same time, we are continually developing new contracts with our global petroleum and logging customers.”

The company is certainly enjoying growth across the board. According to its year-end release, hiring is up 12 percent over 2010, with nearly 200 jobs added since late 2009. That brings its global workforce to nearly 700 with over 200 more employed by international subsidiaries or affiliate support organizations.

Columbia’s aircraft fleet is pretty healthy, too. It currently operates seven Model 234 Chinooks and 14 Model 107-IIs. According to Fahey, much of the recent growth has been fueled by the company’s entry into the military operation market. Columbia deployed five heavy-lift helicopters and support personnel to Afghanistan on Dec. 1, 2011 as part of a multi-million dollar contract to supply non-tactical support for the U.S. Transportation Command.

“The Afghanistan mission is a prefect fit for the skill levels and expertise we have built over our 55-year history and our understanding that we are making a difference,” Fahey says. “The military has repeatedly expressed great appreciation of our operational tempo, high level of availability and the flexibility of our crews to perform our missions in a timely, and very professional manner.”

In addition to the growth in its military sector, Columbia continues its support work for its global commercial operators. To keep up with demand the company has recently invested in upgrading maintenance capabilities for both groups, as well as other operators who use helicopters similar to those in the Columbia fleet.

“While we have grown conservatively,” Fahey says, “we do not expect our business model to change.”

Era Training Center (Booth 4023)

To help meet the rapidly growing demand for the AgustaWestland AW139, Era Training Center in Lake Charles, La. has received FAA certification for its Level 6, full-motion flight simulation training device (FSTD).

According to Marc Schechter, general manager, the simulator is the second in North America to receive FAA certification. “With the resounding popularity of this type of aircraft, the demand for AW139 training has been surging.”

The FSTD includes the latest flight software for the AW139’s FMS and replicates the aircraft in every detail. It features a high-fidelity simulation of the helicopter’s flight characteristics and, with the aid of a high-performance electric control loading system, delivers a “realistic” flying experience. The FSTD features a high-resolution visual imagery system presented on a spherical screen using TruVision Global database, which includes over 10,000 runways, coastlines and other geographic features.

Along with the AW139 program, Era Training Center has two other FAA-approved Level 6 FSTDs—one Eurocopter EC135P2+ and one AS350B2. Both simulators are designed by Frasca International to provide training for both single- and dual-pilot IFR configurations. The company also offers a variety of training programs for helicopter pilots and crewmembers, including in the corporate, oil and gas, EMS, ENG, law enforcement, government and military sectors.

Garmin (Booths 31 and 9432)

View of the show floor at Heli-Expo 2011.
Photo by Ernie Stephens

For many Heli-Expo attendees, their first stop this year will be the Garmin booth for the opportunity to reach out and touch the new GTN 650 and GTN 750 series avionics—successors to Garmin’s GNS 430/530 GPS/nav/com. The highlight of the GTN design is a large touchscreen for data entry and radio tuning. The units recently received EASA validation.

The GTN series has received a good market response, “with thousands of units already installed,” says Carl Wolf, Garmin’s vice president of aviation sales and marketing. He adds that because of the EASA validation, European operators can now employ “the latest technology, simplified interface and enhanced safety features” of the GTN series. Garmin also recently announced that its new GMA 35 remote mount audio processor has the ability to interface with the GTN 750. This optional installation configuration will enable the GTN 750 to act as a touchscreen control head for the aircraft’s audio and intercom functions. A Garmin spokesperson said that the company is currently working on a blanket STC from the FAA and EASA covering helicopter installations for the GTN series.

L-3 Communications (Booth 8056)

L-3 Communications recently donated a set of night vision goggles (NVGs) to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott, Ariz. campus. The NVGs will be used in the university’s bachelor of aeronautical science, helicopter specialty degree program.

The NVG system will train students in a variety of environmental conditions. The ground instruction on NVG operations course will be administered in accordance with the requirements outlined in FAR Part 61.31(k). As part of the program, students will also get to the tour L-3 Warrior Systems’ Electron Tube Operations facility to see how the NVGs are made.

“NVGs are playing an ever-increasing role in night helicopter operations,” says Bryan Cox, assistant professor, ERAU. “It provides not only hands-on training, the field trip to L-3 also gives students an appreciation for emerging technology that will undoubtedly be useful in the helicopter industry.”

Rockwell Collins (Booth 6119) and Vector Aerospace Helicopter Services (Booth 7139)

For a company that’s not normally viewed a leader in commercial helicopter avionics systems, Rockwell Collins is headed to Heli-Expo aiming to further position itself in the rotorcraft market. The avionics maker’s booth will feature a mock-up of the Sikorsky S-61 Pro Line 21 avionics upgrade program that Vector Aerospace announced at last year’s event. John Peterson, director of avionics and flight controls marketing for Rockwell Collins, notes that Vector Aerospace received an STC in June 2011 for the Pro Line 21 installation, adding that Vector has “already delivered two aircraft into service.”

Rockwell Collins is “bringing next-gen capabilities to legacy aircraft,” with the Pro Line 21, Peterson says, adding that it “provides a host of features that you typically see on the latest OEM aircraft like graphical weather, charts, runway charts, maps, video inputs, solid state MEMS, ADS-B Out as well as solid-state AHARS.” From an avionics perspective, he continues, “we’ve moved that aircraft well into the future with respect to operations, efficiency and reliability. All of this is certified for Part 29 IMC operations. Rockwell Collins is seeing an increase in demand for the upgrade with S-61 operators around the world. Peterson said the company is also in the process of certifying Pro Line 21’s synthetic vision suite, which will be available on the Vector S-61 upgrades. In addition to the S-61 panel and its new ADS-B Out transponder, Rockwell Collins is also displaying its Venue cabin management system for executive and VIP helicopters.

Marenco Swisshelicopter (Booth 4417)

Marenco Swisshelicopter is planning to bring a full-size pre-prototype carbon-fiber mock-up of the SKYe SH09 light helicopter to Heli-Expo. Unveiled during last year’s convention, the SKYe SH09 is a light, single-engine turbine designed to provide multiple missions in adverse weather environments.

The SKYe SH09 is being developed specifically to meet the needs of operators who require hot and high altitude performance, greater payload capacity, an augmented sling load capability and faster cruise speed, according to the company. Preliminary specifications indicate a cruise speed of 145 knots (270 km/h), making it one of the fastest single-engine light helicopters in the category. Marenco Swisshelicopter says that the first flying prototype is in the assembly stage and the program is on track to begin deliveries in 2015.

The SKYe SH09 will have a maximum takeoff weight of 6,170 lbs. (2,800 kg) and feature a new modular cabin design with a large flat floor and a “unique high ceiling” concept, offering multiple seating configurations for up to seven passengers.

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