HAI announces 2020 ROTOR Magazine Photo Contest winners

Paul Smith To Our Members

Helicopter Association International (HAI) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 ROTOR Magazine Photo Contest. Now in its eighth year, the contest encourages photographers from around the world to submit their images of helicopters and drones in a variety of categories that represent the helicopter industry.

In addition to cash prizes, the winning photos will also be displayed at HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 in Anaheim, California, Jan. 28–30, where thousands of attendees will get a chance to see these examples of fine helicopter photography. Winning photos will also be published in the Winter 2020 issue of ROTOR magazine.

“Each year, as we look through the contest entries, we find images that put a fresh, new face on our industry, as though we are seeing helicopters for the first time,” says Gina Kvitkovich, director of publications and media for HAI. “The photographers captured some truly magical moments, and their passion helps the rest of us to remember what is special about these aircraft and the people who fix, fly, and operate them.”

As in the past, HAI received hundreds of excellent photo entries this year, but the photos listed below stood out. Visit contest.rotor.org to view the following winning photos:

  • Grand Prize Winner: Fabio Piacenza, Lombardy, Italy
  • Category Winner – Helicopters/Drones at Work: Papillon Helicopters, Boulder City, Nevada, USA
  • Category Winner – Helicopters in the Military: Ron Kellenaers, Horst, Limburg, The Netherlands
  • Category Winner – People and Their Helicopters/Drones: James DeBry, Cedar City, Utah, USA
  • Category Winner – Digitally Enhanced Photos: Jacob Straube, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to everyone who submitted a photo to this year’s contest. Please plan to participate in the 2021 ROTOR Magazine Photo Contest by submitting your entries at contest.rotor.org, beginning Aug. 1, 2020.


Fabio Piacenza
Venegono Superiore, Lombardy, Italy

This superbly composed shot took this year’s Grand Prize as the top photo submitted in the 2020 ROTOR Magazine Photo Contest. The moody atmospherics and soft curves of nature contrast beautifully with the Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma, highlighted as it emerges from the white mist near the former Mollis Air Base in Switzerland. One of the judges, also a professional aviation photographer, gave Fabio Piacenza the best compliment one photographer can give another, saying, “I wish I had taken that photo.”


Papillon Helicopters
Boulder City, Nevada, USA

This photo of a Papillon Helicopters Eurocopter EC130 flying over Lake Powell, in Page, Arizona, won the Helicopters/Drones at Work category, which is reserved for photos of aircraft in action. The judges chose this image, taken by Desiree Webb, for its sheer beauty, showing off both the landscape and the aircraft to their best advantage.


Ron Kellenaers
Horst, Limburg, The Netherlands

Ron Kellenaers shot this photo of a Royal Netherlands Air Force Eurocopter AS532 Cougar, which won the Helicopters/Drones in the Military category, as it picked up troop members at a training area in the Netherlands. Like the best photos, Kellenaers’s image conveys a wonderful immediacy that puts the viewer right there. You can almost feel the grit in the air, blown up by the rotor downwash.


James DeBry
Cedar City, Utah, USA

This photo, which won the People and Their Helicopters/Drones category, was taken at the hangar of Southern Utah University’s (SUU) College of Aerospace Sciences and Technology.  James DeBry and his colleagues at SUU worked to create this playful image as part of the Tetris Challenge. That meme, which began with law enforcement and military groups, shows personnel, supplies, and equipment unpacked and arranged in a grid pattern. The photo also depicts, as DeBry notes, “just about everything a person needs to become a helicopter pilot.”


Jacob Straube
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

For his winning entry in the Helicopter/Drone Digitally Enhanced Photos category, Jacob Straube, who runs Straube’s Aircraft Services’s Hawaii location, took a series of 13 images in the Temsco Helicopters maintenance hangar in Juneau, Alaska, and then combined them. The judges appreciated his photoediting skills as well as the story Straube tells about a day in the life of an A&P. Straube is a Photo Contest repeat winner, having also won the Digitally Enhanced category in 2018.

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