2009 Spring

Helicopter Association International
President's Message
Matt Zuccaro, President, HAI

The Economy and
Maintenance Personnel

As Rodney Dangerfield used to say,
"They get no respect."

As always our plate is full at HAI, with many irons in the fire. We are busy doing our thing, which in reality is your thing, since you are the members we serve. Now that I think of it, if you are reading this and not an HAI member, what is that all about? What are you thinking? Get on your computer right now. Go directly to www.rotor.com and sign up, we are waiting for you. Enough said.

Recently a trade publication accurately noted that I had expressed optimism regarding our industry and its future in the face of the current economy. My take is, "enough already with all this gloom and doom talk." Are some segments of our industry slowing down? Absolutely. Are some individuals losing their jobs? Yes again. However, the international helicopter community is not imploding, although you would not know that by listening to the media and purveyors of the apocalypse theory. Months before HELI-EXPO® 2009, industry pundits were expressing dire concerns about the success of the show. Like many of you, over the past 40 years I have been through the ups and downs, no pun intended, and admittedly at times I too thought the world was going to end. But you know what? It did not. The sun eventually rose again; we all survived and subsequently prospered. Worry all you want, but any industry that can provide people with good, 40 to 50 year careers, cannot be all bad. And we get to have fun while we do our work.

As for the success of HELI-EXPO®, we broke previous records again, with 18,000 attendees, 65 helicopters, 600 plus students in our classes, 565 exhibitors, and a nonstop schedule of packed meetings, forums, and social events attended by a lot of smiling people. Am I optimistic? You bet I am — so much so that I expect even more people to join us at HELI-EXPO® 2010 in Houston, Texas. That being said, let us continue to do what helicopter people do best, survive the bad times and prosper during the good times. We have been doing it for over 60 years; let us go for another 60. And let us not forget, the pioneers of this industry had to deal with a lot worse than we do.

On to another subject; one of the best elements of my job is the road trips I take to visit with operators, manufacturers, heliport managers, pilots, maintenance technicians, students, and community groups. I took such a trip recently to Arizona, participating in the Chandler Gilbert College Maintenance Conference/IA renewal course. I was honored to give the keynote presentation at lunch to an audience of 1,000 maintenance technicians, and I also conducted two helicopter safety sessions for the IA renewal course.

Being a pilot, I know some of us believe we are God's gift to vertical flight. Just listen to our war stories or hangar flying tales, mine included — which of course I think are the best. However, the reality is that maintenance technicians are the unsung heroes of our industry. No matter how good we think we can fly, pilots cannot do their job without our maintenance brethren, working as a team. Consider that not all maintenance is accomplished in pristine hangars. Many times it is in remote open areas, varying weather conditions, day and night, with limited infrastructure and equipment. Then there is the two years of initial education which continues for the rest of their careers, for each type of aircraft, engine or component, as well as new regulatory requirements.

How important are the maintenance personnel? Extremely important when you consider that pilots and passengers place their lives in the hands of these skilled individuals every day. Also for consideration is the fact that maintenance personnel perform their duties in the shadows, out of the limelight, often without recognition or appreciation for what they do. They rarely get to meet the end user/passengers or others who benefit from helicopter flight.

So, from my perspective, I would like to thank all of the maintenance men and women who I have had the privilege to work with over the years — both civilian and military. You have kept me, my fellow pilots, our passengers, and on occasion our families, safe by providing professionally maintained, airworthy aircraft. I know it is not easy, and I sincerely appreciate what you do for our industry.

To my fellow airmen, take a minute and give a big thank you to your maintenance techs, they deserve it.

And by the way, that last war story that I told, about being at 20,000 feet over Hanoi at night, out of ammo, on instruments in a thunderstorm, avoiding heat seeking missiles, with a complete engine out situation, it is absolutely true. Well, sort of.

As always, that is my story and I am sticking to it. Have a Safe Flight and Fly Neighborly.


Matt Zuccaro is President of HAI.

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