Australian Helicopter Industry Association poised for launch

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Australia's new helicopter industry body is on course for launch with its first annual general meeting (AGM) scheduled for Brisbane on 3 November.

The Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA) will be the country's first helicopter association since the collapse of the Helicopter Association of Australasia (HAA) in 2008 after 26 years of service to the sector.

Formation of the AHIA comes as the local helicopter sector undergoes major growth, largely on the back of a booming resources sector. The industry is growing at a rate of 11.4% - three times the growth rate of the country's economy. The fleet has doubled in size in the past 10 years - from just 980 to 1,964 by the end of the fiscal year 2011/12 at the end of June - and is expected to double again in the next seven years.

The AHIA points out that in comparison, the country's fixed-wing general aviation fleet is almost in recession, with a growth rate below 1 per cent. The AHIA expects to celebrate the Civil Aviation Safety Authority helicopter register passing the 2,000 mark at its AGM.

But with growth also come challenges - which the AHIA is seeking to address - including skills shortages, training issues, regulatory hurdles and greater involvement in the wider Asia-Pacific region.

The AHIA's first committee is also set to be confirmed at the AGM. Sydney-based Peter Crook, a former Bell Helicopter sales executive and heading up his own consultancy PKC Aviation, is president of the steering committee, while Sydney-based Mark Scrymgeour, fleet logistics manager for refrigerated transport company Fridgelog, is vice-president. Brisbane-based Rob Rich, a former HAA president who is now an aviation marketing consultant and has spearheaded the launch of the AHIA, is secretary/treasurer of the steering committee and is also responsible for business development, membership and expositions.

The official AHIA launch is planned for the Australian International Airshow at Avalon in Victoria next February, where the association plans to showcase the local helicopter industry and run a helicopter conference.