Yes! And that is why the vertical aviation fleet is expanding.

As you may know, we rebranded as Vertical Aviation International (VAI) in February, making the announcement at our association’s conference and trade show, HAI HELI-EXPO 2024. But whatever name is on our letterhead, our purpose is to serve our membership, and I want to make clear what our rebrand means for you, our members.

James Viola

The first thing most people will notice is that our name no longer has the word “helicopter” in it. Does that mean we are moving away from our 75 years of proud service to the helicopter industry? Not in the least!

The unique capabilities of helicopters, including their ability to hover, land in confined spaces, and access remote locations, make them indispensable assets to communities around the world. From transporting critical medical supplies to providing aerial support during natural disasters, helicopters serve as lifelines in times of need.

As part of our 75th anniversary celebration in 2023, we identified 44 unique missions that helicopters perform, including helping farmers put food on our tables, monitoring the condition of our infrastructure, and maintaining the power grid. Nicole Battjes, VAI Board chair, summed up our industry’s role perfectly in the title of her first column as chair: “Vertical Aviation Is Vital.”

We rebranded to embrace a vertical aviation fleet that is expanding and diversifying. If the past 75 years have demonstrated any truth about vertical aviation operations, it is that we need a variety of aircraft to serve those 44 distinct missions. This is not a “one-size-fits-all” industry.

I look forward to seeing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles moving to the flight line, but it will be many, many years before an eVTOL aircraft can lift, carry, and drop 12 tons of water on a wildfire. On the other hand, a Chinook is probably not the most economical ride for carrying a handful of passengers over a short distance. The aviation industry is always looking for ways to increase operational efficiency, and expanding the fleet is about creating more options, not fewer.

Helicopters epitomize the versatility of vertical aviation, performing many essential missions that support our daily lives. And when life goes sideways, they are there to provide the emergency services that only vertical aviation aircraft can accomplish. That is why new types of vertical flight aircraft are in development. Helicopters are such vital technology that they have made a convincing case for the utility of all vertical aviation aircraft.

VAI’s rebrand expands the association’s scope to encompass all facets of vertical aviation so that we will be better positioned to address the diverse needs, challenges, and opportunities facing the vertical aviation ecosystem. See “AAM’s Infrastructure Promise” for an example of how VAI’s vision of a unified vertical aviation ecosystem will benefit all our members.

VAI takes immense pride in representing the diverse community of professionals worldwide who build, operate, maintain, supply, and support helicopters and other vertical-capable aircraft. Our association remains firmly committed to advocating for the interests of you, our members, and ensuring that your voices are heard, your contributions are recognized, and your interests are protected.

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James Viola

James Viola

James A. Viola is VAI’s president and CEO. After a career as a US Army aviator, he joined the FAA, where he served as director of the Office of General Aviation Safety Assurance before joining VAI. A dual-rated pilot, James holds ATP ratings in both airplanes and helicopters and is a CFII. James can be contacted at [email protected].