Support our industry and recruit the next generation.
I don’t know about you, but I love my job. Do I love everything about it? Absolutely not. Is there anything else in this world that I would rather be doing? Absolutely not. As I tell people every day, “Flying a helicopter sure beats working for a living.”
Our industry is currently suffering from a shortfall of qualified pilots and maintenance technicians. Low oil prices and the resulting downturn in the offshore sector somewhat masked this scarcity, but that will change in the future.
Unfortunately, our industry is competing for these folks with the airlines and, for a variety of reasons, the airlines are winning. For one, that industry is heavily vertically integrated—compare the 17 major air carriers in the United States with the thousands of helicopter operators. Large companies have more resources to address recruitment, including rotorcraft transition programs and beefed-up salary and benefit packages. They can also spread the cost of their workforce over 50 to 500 paying customers per flight, compared with zero to maybe 24 for our industry.
One way we can compete with the airlines’ big pockets is by advocating for our industry with the younger generation. And when I say “we,” I mean each one of us. This means promoting helicopter aviation in your local community, whenever you can, at events like school career days or in scouting programs. If every person in our industry took the time to mentor at least one individual and encourage him or her to enter helicopter aviation, we could make an impact.
Become a regular at your local airport and flight and maintenance schools. Talk about your passion for the helicopter industry and explain the opportunities we present. Offer to help with rotorcraft curriculum or with job searches for graduates. Just expressing an interest in these students will go a long way to encouraging people to consider our industry.
I’m closer to retirement than many, so I won’t see the worst of the shortage. But I am active in outreach because I am grateful to the pioneers who built this industry that has provided for me and my family for the past 50 years. Risking everything, they invested in the future of helicopters and thus provided opportunities for me and thousands of others. I feel an obligation to repay some of the blood, sweat, and tears that has been poured into this industry.
Another way to strengthen our industry is to support Helicopter Foundation International (HFI). The foundation annually offers up to 22 scholarships for aspiring pilots and maintenance technicians and sponsors several events at HAI HELI-EXPO® each year, such as the Military to Civilian Transition Workshop and the Helicopter Industry Career and Mentoring Fair. In addition to an Equipment Donation Program that will expand rotorcraft education at A&P schools, the foundation is also working to increase the number of high schools and postsecondary schools that offer helicopter-specific courses or instruction.
You can participate in the foundation’s several fundraising events at HAI HELI-EXPO 2019, such as its Online Silent Auction (rotor.org/auction) or its Scholarship Golf Tournament (rotor.org/golf). You can also support HFI throughout the year by visiting rotor.org/donate.
I would say, “Pay it forward,” but for me and many others, our efforts on behalf of the industry are more about how we can pay it back. We stand on the shoulders of giants; let’s give the next generation a hand up.