Out of the office and (finally) into the cockpit!
While the pandemic has slowed everyone’s cross-border operations, I have had the chance to visit HAI members, including Leonardo’s facility in Philadelphia, GrandView Aviation in Maryland, and Brainerd Helicopters in Florida. In August, I not only crossed state lines but traveled internationally and visited Eli-Fly in Esine, Italy. [Editor’s note: In the photo above, Jim takes the controls of an SA 315B Lama as part of his tour of the operator’s facility.]
During my visit to this Italian helicopter operator, I was joined by Peter Moeller, the chairman of the European Helicopter Association (EHA). Capt. Francesco Comensoli provided us with some background on Eli-Fly and its charter, tour, and aerial work operations. We also discussed the near-term challenges of the pandemic, as well as future concerns. HAI, working in concert with EHA, committed to taking action on some European issues and through our working groups will also address global questions.
Another avenue for HAI’s leadership in the worldwide helicopter community is our role in the International Federation of Helicopter Associations. This group of national associations, activated in 1993 through the joint efforts of EHA and HAI, represents the global helicopter industry at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Today, HAI staff are key connectors to several ICAO working groups, most notably the Flight Operations Panel, where we keep an eye on global trends in civil aviation.
Safety is another area in which HAI has taken on an international leadership role. HAI and ICAO are the two senior advisors to the Vertical Aviation Safety Team, which comprises the regional safety teams and other global VTOL stakeholders who have joined together to improve safety in our industry. International cooperation and collaboration will be necessary to achieve our goal of zero fatal accidents.
My July visit to EAA AirVenture 2021 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, provided me with the opportunity to transition from policy discussions to the cockpit—and to experience how the two intersect. Flying cross-country in an R44 was a good opportunity to get back to basics. However, my installation of ADS-B In gave me a beautiful picture of what was going on in the airspace around me. As I closed in on KOSH, seeing the trail of ADS-B targets for miles on arrival made deconfliction decisions easy.
Because I was landing at Appleton International Airport (KATW), I climbed to a mere 2,500 ft. to be above the airplanes. As I looked below the airplane trail, I saw another airplane painting the fields below the trail—an agricultural aviator at work. This is a good example of how modern technology enables us to share the airspace safely, allowing each of us to get to where we are going and get the work done. For those of you who have not yet taken advantage of ADS-B In, I highly recommend it.
The flexibility of aviation, and more specifically, vertical aviation, enables it to provide solutions for many of society’s needs. As we prepare to launch new markets for aviation through advanced air mobility, be ready for their arrival—you are the experts at operating safely, effectively, and efficiently in the environment they will be moving into.
I continue to seek input and vectors from you, our members, to ensure that HAI is taking on the issues that keep you up at night. Your association is here to help, so please help me to understand your problems. Connect with me via email at [email protected].