During the early years of HAI, the organization—then known as the Helicopter Association of America (HAA)—held its annual meeting (the Annual Convention) at a variety of venues across the United States, including at helicopter manufacturer facilities. The Bell Helicopter plant in Hurst, Texas, hosted the event in 1954 and 1958; the Piasecki plant in Morton, Pennsylvania, hosted in 1955; and the Hughes Tool Co. did so in Anaheim, California, in 1960.
The Annual Convention also took place at hotels and other meeting sites as attendance grew. One of the more memorable growth stretches began in 1966—and started most likely because of the popularity of the venue. That year, the 18th Annual Convention was held at the Inn of the Six Flags in Arlington, Texas, a meeting facility that was part of the complex that included the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park. While 467 people registered for the event, representing all 50 US states and many countries, around 1,400 people attended. The 19th convention, now named the Annual Meeting and Helicopter Showcase, held in Palm Springs, California, brought in three times the number of attendees of any earlier show due in large part to a concerted publicity campaign that grew membership by 300% in one year.
HAI WAS THERE to continue the growth of the annual meetings. In 1980, the industry exposition was held for the first time in a convention center: the Las Vegas Convention Center in Nevada. In 1981, the organization changed its name to Helicopter Association International (HAI) to recognize its international status and membership makeup. In 1989, HAI changed the name of the yearly member gathering to HAI HELI-EXPO® as a more suitable name for a major worldwide event dedicated to civilian helicopters. In 2023, attendance topped 12,000. Find out more about the history of the early Annual Conventions and join us Feb. 26–29 at HAI HELI-EXPO 2024 in Anaheim, California.
This year, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of HAI, formed on Dec. 13, 1948.
Countdown to HAI’s 75th: 13 days!