Community engagement is about telling our story … and listening, too.

The vertical aviation industry is facing a wave of threats from external actors who do not understand the value of the services our industry provides. Take a look at what has been reported in this and previous issues of ROTOR:

  • A story in the December 2022 ROTOR described how the US National Park Service (NPS) is issuing air tour management plans (ATMPs) that will eliminate air tours over some NPS lands while others will be drastically reduced.
  • In this issue’s Advocating for You column, you can read about efforts to close the Indianapolis, Indiana, Downtown Heliport, even though that facility supports crucial public services for the city, including law enforcement and air medical access.
  • Also in Advocating for You, the HAI Government Affairs team explains why two state bills in Hawaii—both specifically aimed at giving individuals in that state the legal standing to sue owners and operators over the sound created by their helicopters—were defeated on technical grounds.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

HAI recognizes that our industry needs to do a better job of telling our story, because it is a great one. As our incoming chair, Nicole Battjes, says, our industry is not just a nice-to-have accessory—we are vital to the world. We provide needed services, and sometimes, our aircraft are the only way to accomplish that service.

Part of the HAI Strategic Industry Plan is an expanded website that will feature materials aimed at a general audience that explain the importance of what we do and how we help society work. Of course, our greatest asset is you—the people who fill the cockpits and hangars, the flight lines and manufacturing floors. Whatever your role in aviation, an essential aspect of what we provide our colleagues and customers is our determination to do this aviation thing RIGHT.

Telling our story, however, is only the start. Real engagement features a conversation—a two-way dialogue where both parties not only talk but listen. And here is where I want to recognize our outgoing chair, Jeff Smith, for his decades of work on behalf of our industry. While volunteering with the Eastern Region Helicopter Council and, later, as a member of the HAI Board of Directors, Jeff has been an exceptionally effective ambassador for our industry.

You can read in this issue about his successful work on your behalf to address sound complaints in the Washington, D.C., area. Jeff led a data-driven effort to document sound complaints and then worked with government and industry partners to find a way to safely address those concerns. As Jeff says in the article, “We can all work together toward mutually beneficial results when communication and collaboration are involved.”

I challenge everyone reading this to become an ambassador for our industry. Yes, that means telling your story—of the pride you take in your work and how that work contributes to the security, prosperity, and quality of life of those in your community. But it also requires that you listen. What are the concerns of your neighbors? If you lived where they do or viewed your operations from their perspective, what would your concerns be? Then start a conversation.

As always, your HAI team is here to support you; contact me at [email protected] if you need the conversation to start with us.

Author

  • 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].

Share the Story
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].

Leave a Reply