HAI President's Message: Read the media coverage of our industry lately? You should

Paul Smith Top Story

I think we all realize that our industry's public image is slanted more toward the negative than the positive.

Preliminary research at HAI reveals that roughly 80% of media coverage that mentions helicopters is negative. Yes, I said 80%. It appears that missions such as firefighting, law enforcement, air ambulance, and maintaining the national power grid only appear in about 1 in 5 media stories. What we do best would appear to not be of high interest to the media.

This does not surprise me when I consider a phrase used in the news media to prioritize stories: "If it bleeds, it leads." I understand this viewpoint. People tend to be more interested in stories that are sensationalized and outside the normal day-to-day routine. Helicopter incidents and accidents are certainly outside the day-to-day norm and can be sensationalized.

Think about that statement, "outside the normal day-to-day routine." Helicopter incidents and accidents are not part of our normal day-to-day activities. That is why they make great headlines.

So how can we move the media to a more fair and balanced coverage of helicopters?

One element is to provide more stories noting missions that benefit the greater good of society. There is also our initiative establishing safety as the first priority above all else, as well as our implementation of the Land & LIVE program that promotes safety landings to prevent accidents, Rotor Safety Challenge educational sessions, and mission-specific safety symposiums.

To assist us in this effort, we have started working with an international communications team. They will be assisting us in our effort to create more fair and balanced media coverage. Hopefully, this will create a greater awareness within the public, legislative, and regulatory communities regarding the positive effect we have on society that they are not aware of.

As part of this initiative, we will be producing a tool kit for HAI members that will assist them in promoting the positive work they do in their communities, and there are many great stories to tell. Your good work makes our industry better.

In consideration of all I have said so far, I would be remiss if I did not note the obvious. The media would not have the ability to report negative stories if we stopped having accidents.

Organizations such as HAI, the International Helicopter Safety Foundation, and individual operators have clearly stated that one accident is one too many and that the industry goal is Zero Tolerance - Zero Accidents. This information needs to be promoted at the highest level. This cultural philosophy needs to be promoted to others with the realization that no one has more to lose than us; we are in the aircraft and operate them. We the industry are the most motivated to prevent accidents to achieve a zero-accident environment.

All we desire is a media environment that recognizes the millions of flight hours flown that save lives and deliver critical services to society on a daily basis, along with our aggressive efforts to eliminate accidents. What is agreed by all is our joint desire to prevent accidents.

That's my story and I am sticking to it. Let me know what you think at tailrotor@aol.com.

As always, fly safe, fly neighborly, and keep those rotors turning!

Best Regards,

Matt Zuccaro
President and CEO
HAI

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