My first priority: listening to you, the member.

I’m absolutely ecstatic to have been selected by your board to be the next HAI president and CEO. The selection process on your behalf was very fair, and it challenged me to do plenty of research on associations and what we should do for our members. Almost everything I read was about making sure we’re focused on member benefits.

My first priority will be to assess the value that HAI provides its members. Having been an HAI member for more than 10 years, I know many previous chairmen. I plan to reach out to them to see what member initiatives they believe are valuable and important.

I also want to hear from you, the HAI member. Send me a note at [email protected] about:

  • The three things you enjoy the most about your HAI membership
  • The three things you feel are useless or don’t like about your HAI membership
  • The three things HAI could do to grow the membership.

Please note: if HAI is able to give you the new member benefits or services you suggested, then please recruit three new members who will also enjoy those things. The best marketing we can have is members who are enthusiastic about the value they receive from HAI.

I gave the HAI Board of Directors some metrics about what I’m planning to do in my first 90 days on the job. You can hold me to those as well. I want to review the association’s mission, vision, and strategy to make sure they align with members’ expectations. To do that, I will survey the membership and staff for ideas on how to grow the association. I also want to ensure that HAI is truly international, representing the best interests of our members around the world.

Additionally, I’ll look at any structural changes that may be needed to enhance HAI operations, while ensuring the proper staff makeup to enable us to implement any changes to the association’s mission, vision, and strategic direction. I’m looking to develop a list of the three things we could change ASAP to demonstrate rapid improvement in how we meet your expectations—and as I mentioned earlier, I need your input on those.

One year from now, I want to finalize HAI’s mission, vision, and strategy, including any possible rebranding that may be necessary to ensure that we’re inclusive with the future of aviation rather than excluding potential members by using the word “helicopter.”

By getting the human pilot out of the aircraft, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles and operations are rapidly improving safety in missions that were historically accomplished by helicopters. We need to bring that technology and remote piloting to all low-level surveillance flights and operations that statistically have a high risk of flight into wires, towers, and terrain.

This mix of manned and unmanned VTOL aircraft is being used by the US military and others, and HAI, as an association, needs to embrace that philosophy. Each of us should reach out and try to recruit the key players and operators in this sector to join us in what will become an association for anyone who operates VTOL aircraft.

If you have any recommendations for a rebranding of HAI, please send them my way. Of course, if you think that’s a crazy idea, tell me that, too. Then, let’s open a discussion on the pros and cons of what you think we should do for the good of the association.

I’m happy to be here to serve the needs of the HAI membership. Please help me understand how best to do that.



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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].