Above: This photo of the 2019–20 HAI Board of Directors was taken at HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 in Anaheim. (HAI/Robb Cohen Photography)
Being an HAI member is a winning proposition.
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!