Above: This photo of the 2019–20 HAI Board of Directors was taken at HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 in Anaheim. (HAI/Robb Cohen Photography)

HAI is the voice for the global VTOL industry.

In this edition of ROTOR, you’ll see a lot of discussion about an issue that HAI is taking very seriously: the decision by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow telecommunications company Ligado Networks to operate on spectrum adjacent to the frequencies used by GPS and air-to-ground communications, causing interference that would make GPS and those comms channels unreliable.

If the paragraph above made your eyes glaze over, I completely understand. But put simply: the interference caused by Ligado Networks will endanger aviation safety.

On Wednesday, Jun. 23, HAI President and CEO James Viola and I participated in a press briefing organized by Sen. James Inhofe’s office. There are plenty of others who oppose the Ligado plan, but Jim and I were there to share the perspective of the vertical lift industry. Our industry will be particularly hard-hit, as pilots conducting low-altitude missions will be closer to the Ligado towers and handsets that will be the sources of the interference.

The fight against the Ligado plan isn’t over. But I have never been prouder to lead this organization than I was on that day.

As pilots, we are trained to focus on planning for the next flight and then on executing that plan to the best of our ability. And then we focus on planning for the flight after that and executing that one, and so on. In the day-to-day scrum of work and family, it’s easy to lose sight of what we gain from our membership in HAI.

Some issues confronting our industry can seem remote or unlikely. After all, the FCC wouldn’t really endanger the reliability of GPS, would it? But yes, it did. Is insurance for operators becoming prohibitively expensive, effectively limiting their ability to conduct business? Yes, it is.

This is why HAI is so necessary and why it’s important to be an HAI member. It is the only organization that speaks for us and the international VTOL industry, that is dedicated to relieving our pain points.

I belong to several other aviation organizations, and I enjoy their particular emphasis. The Army Aviation Association of America does a great job of supporting the US Army aviation soldier and their families, and I try to do my part through my work in helping fellow veterans make a successful transition to the civil VTOL industry. Founded in 1955 by 13 female pilots who overcame great obstacles to pursue their love of flying helicopters, the Whirly-Girls is a historic organization that speaks to the determination of women to take our place in the right seat.

But there is only one organization that advocates for the global VTOL industry, that works to protect us from the fallout from overly burdensome regulations or uninformed policy decisions—and that’s HAI. The important, lifesaving, essential services provided by our industry are put at risk when there is no one at the table speaking for us. And as HAI grows in membership, our voice with regulators and legislators will grow stronger.

By the time you read this, Randy Rowles will be the chair of this association, although I will continue to serve on the HAI Board of Directors. Thank you for giving me this chance to represent you as your 2020–21 board chair. I’m proud to be part of this industry and proud to be part of HAI.

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Stacy Sheard

Stacy Sheard

Stacy Sheard’s aviation career began as a US Army Huey and Black Hawk pilot. After leaving the military to pursue a commercial flying career, Stacy flew in the charter, tour, news-gathering, air ambulance, and corporate aviation sectors; she was also a production test pilot for Sikorsky. She is currently an AW139 corporate captain with Fanatics/EJM. Stacy was first elected to the VAI Board of Directors in 2016 and was the 2020–21 chair.

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