The best way to support the global VTOL community: join HAI and get involved.
For many years, Helicopter Association International (HAI) has been seen as a membership organization that concentrates mostly on the US helicopter market. But that is changing.
Part of the credit for this change must go to its leadership. Jan Becker, CEO of Becker Helicopters Pilot Academy in Queensland, Australia, and the 2019–20 chair of the HAI Board of Directors, was the source of many positive changes within HAI. A strong, visionary leader, Jan was passionate about strengthening HAI’s international reach, and she educated her colleagues about the importance of acknowledging national and regional differences on matters as simple as meeting times, cultural norms, and terminology.
When Jim Viola became president and CEO of HAI in January 2020, strengthening the “I” in HAI was one of his top priorities. Under his direction, HAI has deepened its relationships with national and regional helicopter associations around the world through its International Partnership Program. In their regular meetings, the partners share information on topics such as COVID-19 safety protocols and aerial firefighting best practices. Building connections such as these enhances safety and efficiencies for operations around the world.
Jim is also passionate about improving global safety, and so HAI is a member of the Vertical Aviation Safety Team, a worldwide initiative to enhance operational flight safety in all sectors of rotorcraft aviation. The causal factors for accidents do not change based on your location, so working together to improve global safety makes sense. In addition, we should remember that any accident, anywhere in the world, could affect how your future customers perceive the risk involved in vertical aviation.
On Nov. 16, 2021, HAI took another step toward embracing a more active global role, as it announced a formal partnership with the European Helicopter Association. While the two associations have collaborated before, the agreement provides a structured path for them to work together on initiatives and programs.
But incorporating an international outlook into HAI policies and programs isn’t just a task for the HAI leadership. We also need the assistance of our members. By providing your regional perspective, just as Jan did, you enable HAI to better understand the pain points and lessons learned of our diverse, global industry. The best way to provide that perspective is by taking an active role within our leadership structure and participating in HAI’s working groups.
With HAI HELI-EXPO 2022 coming up in Dallas, this is a great time to get involved. All HAI working groups will hold meetings in conjunction with our annual conference. Please review the schedule at rotor.org/working-group for the working group that best suits your interests. All provide you with an opportunity to help lead change within the global vertical lift industry.
As a pilot, flight trainer, and aviation executive, I have worked with pilots and operators around the world. We share the same love for aviation that has blessed us with exciting, fulfilling careers. We also share the same challenges globally as we strive to maintain safe, compliant, successful vertical flight operations. This is precisely why HAI exists: to help our members meet those challenges.
I’ve been an HAI member since 1993, and I value my membership now more than ever. Working with various HAI committees (now working groups), I’ve found great satisfaction in having my voice heard and being an effective member of our vertical lift community. Just like the rest of the world, our industry is in a recovery period as we maneuver through worldwide COVID restrictions. We need a robust support system to maintain operations in such a challenging landscape, and HAI continues to provide that.
Over the past few years, the face of HAI has changed. Some changes were reactive measures to survive an economic downturn. A pandemic will do that! A more positive change is the vision of HAI President and CEO Jim Viola. Supported at all levels by the HAI Board of Directors, Jim has brought forward new ideas and methods while cultivating relationships that will carry HAI beyond US borders and enhance the international aspect of our mission.
We also need to ensure we are meeting our responsibilities to our current members. As an HAI member, I felt that a lack of transparency existed about HAI’s day-to-day operations and finances. Recognizing this, the HAI Board of Directors created a Finance, Risk, and Compliance Committee (FRCC) to maintain and honor HAI’s fiscal responsibility to our members. Members of the FRCC, as well as other board members, now meet monthly with a financial consultant from outside HAI, adding a layer of member review to association finances. As an HAI board member for the past five years, I’m pleased to say that HAI is financially strong, in part due to a healthy investment portfolio. In addition, when HAI HELI-EXPO 2021 was canceled due to COVID, HAI staff enacted timely measures to mitigate the financial effects, allowing HAI to minimize any losses while we renegotiated our contractual obligations.
As the 2021–22 HAI chairman, I want to pursue opportunities for HAI members with insurance and employee-benefit providers. Additionally, to combat rising insurance costs, I’d like to investigate having our operator members participate in a consortium for aircraft insurance.
Pre-COVID, the airlines were running well-organized, well-funded recruitment campaigns for new personnel, with one of their targets being our licensed and trained pilots and maintenance technicians. With that industry recovering, our workforce is again being recruited for airline employment, in many cases leaving helicopter operators without qualified replacements. The economics of the situation may appeal to our up-and-coming helicopter pilots and mechanics—and that’s my point. We must examine the ways in which we have erected barriers to working in the rotorcraft profession, including the cost of training and the time required to meet minimum qualifications, that make it difficult to engage in the opportunities our industry has to offer. It’s a competitive marketplace for talent—does our industry have a winning proposition?
Since the helicopter entered commercial aviation in 1946, our industry has successfully overcome challenges through a pioneering spirit that is very much alive today. HAI has been our partner on that journey, sharing our love for vertical flight, our desire to use these amazing aircraft to do great things, and our can-do spirit. I’m excited to work with the HAI Board of Directors, along with HAI leadership and staff, to continue this long-standing tradition, and I look forward to seeing you all at HAI HELI-EXPO 2022 in Dallas, Texas. And in the meantime, stay safe out there!