HAI’s efforts to support and inform the vertical flight industry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic received recognition in a recent survey by Vertical magazine, a leading publication in the rotorcraft community.
Conducted in September 2020 by independent research firm PMG Intelligence, the survey focused on the effects of COVID-19 on the industry. One question inquired whether “industry associations have been helpful in providing information about resources that are available to you during the pandemic.”
Respondents were asked to name the associations that have been most helpful to their company.
“Of those associations, HAI was mentioned most often,” reports Elan Head, editorial director of the magazine.
“We’re grateful that our work has been helpful to those in the industry who’ve been affected by the pandemic,” says James Viola, president and CEO of HAI.
“Businesses have been so hurt by this pandemic and the economic disruption it’s caused—75% of the respondents to Vertical’s survey said their business has decreased, and 50% have had to lay off staff. I sincerely hope the work HAI has done has helped some of these companies or individuals find relief.”
Since the spring, HAI’s staff have dedicated much of their time to distributing information or working with governments to find ways to assist the rotorcraft community. The HAI Member Services Department has advocated for the rotorcraft industry before civil aviation authorities around the world, helping to create compliance solutions on behalf of individuals and companies.
HAI’s Government Affairs team has worked with US lawmakers to ensure that the vertical flight industry is included in financial assistance programs. Staff from many of the association’s departments have worked to collect and compile information from operators, rotorcraft trade groups, and government agencies worldwide to post on HAI’s website as a helpful resource.
HAI also this year developed a weekly webinar series, HAI@Work. The initial goal of the program was to provide the rotorcraft community with up-to-date information about the pandemic in a rapidly changing legislative and regulatory landscape, but the webinars now cover other topics of interest to the industry as well. More than 4,300 attendees from over 50 countries have viewed the webinars live, and videos of them have been viewed more than 4,500 times.
“Another statistic from Vertical’s survey that stands out to me is that 53% of their respondents indicated that COVID-19 has prompted changes to their business model,” adds Viola. “The VTOL industry is wonderfully adaptable, and these figures tell me that rotorcraft companies are doing their best to remain flexible and accommodating during the pandemic.”
Viola believes that the rotorcraft industry, with its ability to tackle a diverse set of missions for customers worldwide, is resilient.
“In the long run, it’s this versatility that will help the rotorcraft industry rebound. We know we’re headed into a seasonal slowdown in the Northern Hemisphere, but we experienced a mostly positive summer season in firefighting and agricultural work this year,” Viola told Vertical.
“Many of those operators are ready to begin their off-season cycle of training and maintenance and are otherwise preparing for next year’s operations. Work is already starting to pick up in areas of the Southern Hemisphere, and a few firefighting operators are shifting aircraft to the other side of the equator,” Viola continued.
It is this ability to adapt, says Viola, that is key to the industry’s long-term future.
“Even as we wait out this pandemic, our industry has continued to evolve,” he added. “Our OEMs are actively developing advanced air mobility and remotely piloted aircraft, working their way through testing and proof-of-concept phases. Our pilots have decades of experience working in the low-altitude, confined-area airspace. The rotorcraft community—manufacturers, operators, pilots, and maintenance—is ideally positioned to build, operate, fix, and fly these aircraft.
“All in all, I’m feeling optimistic for our industry because of our history of adaptation and versatility,” Viola continued.
“While it may feel that this pandemic will never end, there is, in fact, a light at the end of the tunnel. When that happens (and it will), I want our members to be primed for success and ready to go fly,” he noted.