The Story Continues. In part 1 of my round-up I talked about how I got to HELI-EXPO and the people that really came through to make it happen for me. I’m going to recap HELI-EXPO here and try and be brief about it but so much amazing stuff happened it may be very hard to keep the post short and sweet.
Vendors were setting up their displays, construction teams were everywhere, and attendees were picking up their registration materials. The highlight of the day though was the HAI hosted Welcome Reception for HELI-EXPO 2014. At least for me it was – because my flight didn’t get in until a few hours before the reception so I missed all the grunt work of setting up. (An option I don’t get next year at Orlando – I’ll most likely be lugging a TV and building a booth for HeliOps Magazine).
This year HAI opted to have the reception outside, in the Anaheim convention center courtyard. The area was gated off and a half dozen gourmet food trucks were lined up and down either side. Bars dotted the area and at the stoke of 7pm on the clock – hundreds, if not thousands, of attendees came to eat, drink, and mingle. It was a chance to meet up with friends, meet new friends, and run into former co-workers that you really had never anticipated seeing again.
For those of you that don’t know – I am the admin of the Helicopter Pilots group on facebook (one of five admins) and had created an unofficial meetup event for our members on the page. I was feeding rendezvous coordinates into the social media sphere in real time. It didn’t take long until people were walking up to me, tentatively, and asking if I was “…the facebook guy?” (I wish – he’s worth a ton of money…I’m just an unpaid guy that you all know). I wound up meeting probably a dozen or more people that I had been in communication with or that knew me through the group that night. We gathered around the propane heaters, swapped stories, and gave food critiques on the trucks.
On one of my regular walks through the courtyard I ran into some people I was not expecting to see. Eric Main and Scott Schroeder, and a few other guys from TEMSCO Helicopters in Alaska. Guys I worked with when I was at the Juneau base for 3 seasons on the ground. Scott summed my career up pretty aptly when we were catching up – “Look at you! Man! 3 years you were saying ‘I’m going to be a pilot’ and now here you are! Way to go!” It was awesome seeing these guys again. I can’t wait until our paths cross in the future, it’s a small world this helicopter business of ours and I have no doubt it will happen.
Around 11pm things started to wrap up in the courtyard so we moved the party into the Marriott bar where a few more helicopter pilot group stragglers made their way to say hello and hang out for a bit. I wound up running into Monica Reich from Robinson Helicopters who has been a friend of mine on Facebook for a about a year (or more) now. Monica and I finally met face to face last year when I attended the Robinson safety course, but this was the first time we got to actually spend any time just hanging out and having fun! (RSC is all work and no play…)
I’ll be honest – I didn’t make it to bed until about 3am, because the Hilton in it’s glory kept their bar open one hour later than the Marriott. Now, as a regular attendee of HELI-EXPO this wouldn’t have mattered so much because the floor didn’t open until 10am anyways, so you can sleep in. But for a guy there with the press and for HeliOps Magazine I had a 7:15am date with AIRBUS HELICOPTERS for their press breakfast. Thank god for that. Food and coffee made for a very happy Roaming Pilot. I met up with Ned Dawson, and Alan, and Ashleigh out front of the press breakfast and grabbed my credentials from the HeliOps Team. We strolled in a grabbed a table near the back, plated some eggs and bacon and fruit, and waited for things to kick off. AIRBUS HELICOPTERS summarized 2013, built up 2014, announced more details on the new x4 helicopter, and then took questions from the crowd.
Ashleigh, who was working our booth on the floor, and I ducked out as the questions started to lapse in quality and headed to the floor to get things ready for the day. After a little bit of setting up – I took off for my first walk around the massive show room. It was HUGE. We’re talking over 1,000,000 square feet of displays, over 65 aircraft, and over the course of the Expo – 20,000 people would attend. FYI…that’s the amount of people that live in Moses Lake, WA where I am working right now. I’ve only got so much upload space available on this free blog’o’mine so instead of putting the photos here – I’m going to link you to our gallery on the HeliOps Magazine page. CLICK THIS HERE.
After taking some time to walk the entire 1,000,000 sq.ft of show floor (and missing a lot I’m sure) I made my way back to the booth to check back in with the team. We rallied, compared notes, outlined our plans, and like a regular American Football (I have to specify – the rest of these people are from New Zealand, Australia, and the UK) huddle we broke and went out into the Expo! First stop was Bell Helicopters, where CEO John Garrison made the Bell 505 Jet Ranger Announcement! With all the bells (pun intended) and whistles too, the crowd was wowed by the showmanship the company is becoming famous for.
After that I headed up to the 3rd floor for the career fair and met with some potential future employers, shook a lot of hands, and met the State Army Aviation Officer for the California National Guard. Great guy! And also, working with me personally to get my Warrant Officer Packet in front of his upcoming selection board. I’m stoked to have made this connection – and who knows, I may be roaming to Ft. Rucker, Alabama in the near future to start Army flight training. After spending 20-30 minutes with the Colonel I ducked out of the Career Fair for the Pilot Mentoring Panel. The Mentoring panel is going to get its own post because of how damn awesome it was. I can’t underline that enough, stomp my foot, or emphasize in fancy typography, how awesome it was. Every young (career young) pilot should attend these panels. Especially CFI’s on the cusp of crossing their 1000 hour mark. So stay tuned for that.
The rest of Tuesday was spent off and on with Ned meeting company PR officials, moving throughout the expo floor visiting booths, making connections, and finally at the close of the night having a beer from DART Aerospace while Lynn Tilton did the MD Helicopters booth announcement for the new MD 530G Scout Attack Helicopter.
Monica, the night before, had told me that Robinson Helicopters was hosting a party at the Hilton at 7pm and that I had better be there. I spent the first part of the party with a lot of the crew from Mauna Loa Helicopters in Hawaii and eventually teamed up with Monica for a round of serious introductions to everyone from Leasing company owners, to companies looking to hire commercial pilots for everything from news, to police, to utility work. She even introduced me to Robinson Helicopters CEO Kurt Robinson. The night went on and the party was a lot of fun. As things wound down we headed out to (what became our regular haunt) the Marriott bar across the way.
Soooooo…I didn’t make it to bed until about 3am again. Check back later for the final installment of my roundup, which will cover days 3 and 4 of HELI-EXPO 2014, to include the fly out on Thursday, the House of Blues party (and how we quickly became a highlight in the crowd) and of course more photos.