We have a new brand but the same purpose: serving you.

It’s been an honor and privilege to serve as YOUR board chair over the past year, a period of exciting, monumental changes that transformed our association to better serve you, our members.

Nicole Battjes

We’ve accomplished a tremendous amount since last Jul. 1, when I became chair. The board diligently executed our strategic plan to strengthen the association and deliver greater value to our members. This included rebranding our association as Vertical Aviation International (VAI) this past February. The rebranding brings with it other changes, beginning with a new name for our annual event, the world’s largest vertical aviation conference and trade show. The website for VERTICON 2025, verticon.org, is already live, and the VAI staff is busy preparing for next year’s show in Dallas.

The new website for the association, verticalavi.org, will launch by mid-August to provide members a single point of access for all their member benefits. And, after 36 years, this will be the final issue of ROTOR magazine, which has served as the voice of vertical aviation since 1988. But don’t worry, you’ll still get all the news and stories that keep you on top of the vertical aviation industry: the first issue of VAI’s new magazine, POWER UP, will land (vertically of course!) in your mailbox in September.

The association continues to advocate on behalf of our members. We have engaged at local, state, and national levels to preserve the ability of air tour operators to continue to fly, thereby protecting a critical part of the industry workforce development pipeline. Going forward, I ask all of you to reach out to the VAI staff and board to express any legislative or regulatory concerns that you need your association to address. The association’s advocacy efforts can have powerful effects, but only if VAI knows which way to direct them.

Now I want to recognize some people who’ve been critical to my success as chair. First and foremost, I thank you, our members, for your support and for trusting me to lead the association during this important year. It’s been incredibly rewarding to interact with so many of you and hear about your vertical aviation journeys. My sincere thanks go to James Viola, our president and CEO, who helped me lead the association through this historic transition.

I also want to thank the entire board for their steadfast support as we worked through the many decisions necessary to transform our association for the better. Mark Schlaefli and Stacy Sheard deserve special mention as they joined me on the Strategic Planning Committee that led our rebranding process. The VAI staff, led by COO Mike Hertzendorf, has delivered incredible support throughout my time as chair. Their professionalism and selfless service are a testament to the quality of people our industry attracts. There aren’t enough words to thank each of them for their efforts, day in and day out, that keep the association running.

Although my time as chair is coming to an end, I’m proud to continue to serve you as a member of the VAI Board of Directors. Your association will be in good hands as I pass the gavel to Mark Schlaefli, owner and director of operations of Dakota Rotors. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working closely with Mark over the past few years, and I’m confident he’ll continue to execute our vision to Power Up!

The future is bright for our industry, and I look forward to the journey. As we say in Hawaii, mahalo nui loa (thank you very much) and a hui hou (until we meet again)!

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Nicole Battjes

Nicole Battjes

Nicole Battjes is the owner and director of operations for Rainbow Helicopters, a Part 135 air tour operation based in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the 2023–24 chair of the VAI Board of Directors. She is a dual-rated pilot, flight instructor, and check pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in helicopters. An active industry volunteer and advocate, Nicole has worked on issues such as community compatibility and SMS implementation for small operators in the Hawaiian Islands.