HAI president's message: our actions will speak for us

Paul Smith Top Story

Over the past six months, our industry has experienced accidents that received substantial media coverage. As a result, casual observers may believe that the helicopter industry isn’t safe or that we aren’t doing enough to improve safety.

In fact, safety is the No. 1 priority of Helicopter Association International (HAI). Over the past 20 years, our industry has enacted measures that have cut the accident rate by half. We’re headed in the right direction but won’t be satisfied until we reach our vision of zero rotorcraft fatal accidents.

You may be wondering why you’ve not heard much from me or HAI about these accidents.

First, as the vertical operations experts, we don’t comment on active accident investigations. I appreciate that people want to know why accidents occur, but it is counterproductive to speculate, unsupported by factual evidence, about specific occurrences or the companies and individuals involved. It would be potentially harmful to our industry, as well as to the public we serve, to offer comments before the NTSB accident investigators release their findings.  We’ll certainly partner with, and assist, the NTSB and FAA in their efforts as needed, but we need to let them do their jobs.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge the representatives of the agencies and organizations who spend countless hours investigating accidents. They devote their lives to ensuring that the flying community and the public can learn from these tragic events.

Second, HAI actively works all the issues that are in the news; we just don’t use the news to work the issues. Members of your Operations Department here at HAI are constantly working with regulatory agencies on the industry’s behalf. We advocate for regulations that we believe will support our members’ safe operations, and we advocate against those that overreach and may actually reduce safety. The HAI Flight Ops team also represents our international members through ICAO, as well as our affiliate member organizations around the world.

Speaking of advocacy, the HAI Government Affairs team works continuously for the benefit of our members and the industry. Whether it’s on Capitol Hill, within state governments, or even on the municipal level, Cade Clark and John Shea work tirelessly to inform and educate lawmakers on the state of our industry and how well-intentioned laws can have unintended consequences.

Finally, I want to recognize the efforts of you and the other members of HAI. So many of you work each day to the highest professional standards. Your dedication to doing the right thing, even when no one is watching, is a key component of industry safety.

Indeed, each segment of vertical aviation has a critical role to play in improving industry safety. Our manufacturers are building safer, more reliable aircraft. To reduce accident rates, safety professionals are mining operational data as well as lessons learned from other safety-critical industries. I deeply appreciate our flight instructors, pilots, and aviation maintenance personnel, each of whom is on the front lines of keeping themselves, their passengers and crew, and their aircraft safe.

If you have suggestions on safety protocols that you have implemented effectively or procedures and practices you would like to see enacted across the industry to help make rotorcraft safer, please share them with me. That’s part of why I am here … to listen to you. Reach out with your safety ideas at president@rotor.org. I’ll pass your wisdom on to the entirety of our membership and other industry advocates across the globe.

Jim Viola
President and CEO, HAI

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