Read More: HAI on Social
November 16, 2020

The tips that keep on giving! The seven power networking tips discussed by Stacy Sheard, chair of the HAI Board of Directors, in her profile in the Q3 issue of ROTOR were both entertaining and extremely helpful to HAI’s social followers around the world.

Read More: What changes have you made since experiencing—or narrowly avoiding— an aviation accident?
November 16, 2020

Experiencing an accident or near miss can be a wake-up call—time to go back to basics, dust off that procedures manual, or get additional training. To find out what changes our readers have made since experiencing an accident or close call, ROTOR anonymously surveyed them in September. After reading their suggestions, why not cut out the accident and go straight to improving your flight routine?

More Preflight Inspections, Better CRM. Overwhelmingly, performing a preflight inspection or walk-around is the top change our readers have made post-accident or -incident: 77% of our 31 respondents (24 people) say they now always conduct the safety procedure. Certainly, we hope the 23% of respondents who didn’t select this answer didn’t because they were already conducting walk-arounds, an essential aspect of safe flight.

Exercising better crew resource management (61%, or 19 individuals) and always completing a stabilized hover check before departure (also 61%) are the next most common changes. And 32% now always use a flight risk assessment tool (FRAT) since having had an accident or near miss.

Taking Initiative. Most of our respondents say they’ve taken the initiative to learn on their own since their accident/event. More than half say they’ve changed their personal-minimum criteria to a higher standard (58%, or 18 respondents), and a similar amount now make time for personal aviation study (55%, or 17 readers). Nearly a third of respondents (29%, or 9) have requested additional training with an instructor.

Already Doing That. The least-selected changes our readers have adopted in response to an accident or near-accident are to (1) always complete the required maintenance procedure card without any interruptions or distractions (13%, 4 respondents); (2) always complete a quality-assurance check after maintenance procedures that mandate one (26%, 8 people); and (3) adopt, or increase the frequency with which they practice, in-aircraft and/or simulator training (also 26%). Again, we hope the low number of respondents reporting these changes means they had always incorporated these practices into their flight routine.

ROTOR also asked readers to describe an especially memorable change they’ve made as a result of an accident or close call. Here are some of their responses (edited for space).

Read More: HAI Introduces Membership Services Department
November 16, 2020

Exciting changes are underway at HAI, and the result means significant changes for our members.

HAI’s Operations and Business Development Departments have merged to create the Member Services Department. This group directly supports HAI members by providing services in regulatory assistance and advocacy, operations support, education, and membership and by producing HAI HELI-EXPO, conferences, and other events. This change was prompted by two events: the hiring of Michael Hertzendorf as VP of Operations and the retirement of Karen Gebhart, HAI’s longtime VP of Business Development.

“As we discussed the vacancy in Business Development, it became clear that we had an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to our members,” says James Viola, president and CEO of HAI. “The Operations staff was directly engaged in providing services to our members, often advocating for them before regulatory authorities. And we recognized that increasing our members’ satisfaction is the path to growth. It made sense to reorganize these two departments into an integrated unit focused on providing member value.

“HAI is grateful to Karen for her years of service to the association and her part in making HAI HELI-EXPO the success that it is today,” adds Viola. “The show is recognized as one of the fastest-growing trade events, and it remains the largest helicopter show in the world. Karen’s work, and that of her team, ensured that members of the global vertical lift community could find everything they need in this one event.”

In his expanded role as VP of Member Services, Hertzendorf will oversee HAI’s work for its members in flight operations, maintenance and technology, safety, education, events, and membership. He will also work closely with HAI’s Government Affairs Department to ensure HAI members across the VTOL industry are protected from overly burdensome regulations.

“We’re very pleased Mike accepted this new responsibility just as he was settling in. He understands that continuing to grow member value is a priority for HAI,” says Viola.

After a 29-year career in the US Army as a special operations aviator, Hertzendorf most recently served as CEO of NUAIR (Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research), where he was responsible for the integration, synchronization, and execution of all activities necessary to develop a national unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) traffic management system within New York state’s 50-mile UAS corridor.

His background in both manned aviation and UAS provides Hertzendorf with a unique perspective. “Mike’s history as an army aviator and leader, along with his work at NUAIR, means that he understands the issues and can represent the needs of both rotorcraft operators and those working to integrate new classes of aircraft into the airspace,” says Viola.

“I’m excited to join the HAI team in these unprecedented times for aviation,” says Hertzendorf. “I look forward to advancing HAI’s global presence as well as incorporating future VTOL platforms. With their experience in rotorcraft and low-altitude operations, HAI members are well positioned to take advantage of advancements in VTOL technology that I believe will ultimately improve the economic viability of our industry.”

Read More: Helicopter Events
November 15, 2020


HAI Virtual Aerial Firefighting Conference
Helicopter Association International
Learn more at

NOV. 26
Young Eagle Build and Fly Program
Experimental Aircraft Association
Hilo, Hawaii, USA
Learn more at

NBAA GO Virtual Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (VBACE)
National Business Aviation Association
Learn more at

European Rotors: The VTOL Show and Safety Conference
General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Learn more at

Read More: Mark Bathrick, Director, Office of Aviation Services, US Department of the Interior
November 15, 2020

DOI UAS have conducted nearly 1,800 flights supporting wildland fire operations this year.

As the incredibly intense and destructive 2020 wildfire season begins to wind down, HAI got the chance to ask Mark Bathrick, the director of the Office of Aviation Services for the US Department of the Interior (DOI), how the season went and what next year may hold.

ROTOR: This fire season was certainly one for the books. How were DOI helicopters and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) assets used and how did they make the most impact?

Bathrick: DOI is committed to deploying all resources and technology to protect human health and safety. The department continues using the drone fleet during wildfire response operations. So far this year and despite challenges associated with COVID-19, DOI has conducted fuel management treatments on nearly 1 million acres, putting us ahead of our 10-year average.

Commercially contracted helicopters continued to play a vital role in wildland firefighting in 2020. A critical part of the annual preparation for the fire year is the inspection of aircraft for proper equipment and conditions and the training and evaluation of pilots prior to the contract start.

Working closely with our industry and interagency partners, the Office of Aviation Services (OAS) developed COVID-19 sensitive travel and inspection risk assessments and protocols that enabled us to exceed fire-year readiness requirements while also mitigating the risk of COVID-19 to our employees, commercial vendors, interagency partners, and the communities we visited to perform the inspections.

Our UAS continue to be used across the country in support of wildland fire operations.

Read More: Working in Longline Operations
November 15, 2020

Longline work is a special niche of the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) industry, one that requires precision and intricate teamwork.

1 DON’T rely on the horizon for reference when flying longline.

In most helicopter flights, the pilot faces forward, looking out the windscreen at the nose of the aircraft to determine spatial positioning. But in external-load operations, which typically use lines of 100 to 250 feet that hang below the ship, it’s critical to look out the door of the helicopter and down—a practice even experienced pilots find challenging, says Cody Barton, chief pilot for Columbia Helicopters. “Using vertical reference is the toughest thing about longline to get used to,” he says. “It can frustrate a pilot who’s new to the sector. It really gives you humility.”

2 DO practice, practice, practice.

The key to becoming adept at longline work, say experts, isn’t so much the aircraft you train in but the amount of time you put into it. “It takes about 20 hours of flight time for a pilot with no longline experience to get to a point where you can safely fly a basic longline op,” says Andre Hutchings, director of operations at external-load training company Volo Mission (VM). In VM’s in-person classes, participants practice with various line lengths—50 feet versus 200 feet, for example—to solidify their skills. And in the ground portion of the course, they learn to appreciate the perspective of the ground crew, who must complete their work with helicopters hovering over their heads.

Read More: HAI on Social
August 16, 2020

Reach the beach! According to comments on social media, challenging landings at austere locations, like this one performed by an Airbus H145 operated by Scandinavian AirAmbulance, occur more often than we might think.

Read More: In the Spotlight: Randall Rochon, Vice Chair, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals
August 14, 2020

When black students see people like them succeeding in aviation, then they know they can do it too.

In 1976, 38 black US airline pilots—roughly half of all black pilots then employed by US carriers—met for two days in Chicago to discuss how they might increase the number of minority young people seeking to enter the field of aviation; the group ended up founding the Organization of Black Airline Pilots.

In the 44 years since, the group has renamed itself the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) and embraced a broader focus: to increase minority participation in aerospace through exposure, training, mentoring, and scholarships. OBAP’s staff, volunteers, and mentors have touched hundreds of thousands of lives through the organization’s outreach and education programs. Still, less than 3% of US commercial pilots are black, and the number of black executives and engineers in aviation barely registers on the percentage scales. So much more work remains to be done.

Randall Rochon, a United Airlines 757/767 first officer and OBAP’s vice chairman, is the best kind of ambassador for the group: someone who has directly benefited from its work. Rochon had fallen in love with flying as a kid, choosing a career as a pilot over the FBI. He attended OBAP’s Aerospace Career Education Academy and benefited from OBAP mentoring and networking during college. Thanks to that support, Rochon received a Diversity in Aviation Scholarship from Western Michigan University in conjunction with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, earning a bachelor’s degree in flight.

ROTOR: How involved is OBAP in promoting rotorcraft careers?
Rochon: A number of minority pilots enter the helicopter side of the business from the military. That’s the primary source of black and minority pilots in the commercial helicopter world.

But one of the things we’ve identified is the need to promote helicopter flying as an option to minority students. We don’t have numbers yet, but it’s pretty obvious that minorities are a very small percentage of the employment base there.

At OBAP Aerospace Professionals in School (APIS) events at elementary schools, students get to talk to the pilots and other rotary aviation people we bring out, and to check out the helicopters. For most of our kids, it’s the first time they’ve ever seen a helicopter up close or thought about possibly flying or working with helicopters.

Have you seen any positive results?
Yes, a little. And it’s growing. Just this year we were able, with the support of Airbus Helicopters, to provide two full scholarships for students to go to Airbus’s facility in Grand Prairie, Texas, and get their type ratings there in an Airbus helicopter. That was generous of Airbus.

Those two scholarship slots were filled within a week of our first announcing their availability, so demand was surprisingly high. There are lots of opportunities in the rotary world between the military, police, medical, and offshore operators. And I now have more and more students coming to me who are interested in helicopters.

Are there still barriers for minority kids trying to get into aviation?
Definitely. Aviation is something minority kids usually don’t think much about. And even if they do, they don’t know how to be involved in it.

That’s why we started the APIS program: to introduce elementary kids to the idea that there’s this whole big field that they’ve never thought about before in which they can, if they put their minds to it, build a very nice career.

But getting that career isn’t easy, and it’s not cheap.
Once students get serious about it and discover that becoming a pilot is going to cost $150,000, OBAP is here to help them think through the options. Are there ways to help them pay for it? Do they want to start looking at working in management instead of flying? Things like that.

And that’s really our No. 2 focus: mentor­ship. We talk with them about their options: going into the military sector, the cargo sector, aerial survey work, flying for police departments or medical operators, or engineering or management. OBAP is here to open their eyes to all the possibilities and opportunities available to them in the aviation world.

At the end of the day, it’s important to black students—especially those who don’t see others like them doing this, who begin thinking that maybe there’s not a place for them in this world—to see that there are people who do look and speak like them who are doing it. That communicates that they can do it too.

Not long ago, 80% of our students who entered college aviation programs wanted to be pilots. Now the split is about 60/40, with about 40% of them looking to become engineers, executives, or air traffic controllers or to get some other challenging and good-paying jobs in aviation. 

Read More: HAI Board of Directors Elects Officers, Adds Directors and UAS Adviser
August 14, 2020

HAI is pleased to announce the election of three new members to its Board of Directors, selected by HAI members during HELI-EXPO 2020 in Anaheim. Additionally, the board created the role of special adviser for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to consult on shaping the safe integration of UAS into our shared airspace.

The Board of Directors also established its slate of officers for the 2020–21 year, which began on Jun. 30. Stacy Sheard took over as board chair, Marc Stanley assumed the duties of vice chair, Randy Rowles serves as treasurer, and Jeff Smith is assistant treasurer.

An Additional Director This Year

The HAI Board of Directors typically has nine members but will have an extra member this year. Directors are elected to represent one of three industry sectors—commercial aviation, government service, or general aviation—and seats are allocated based on the number of HAI members in those sectors. The board routinely adjusts the apportionment of seats to match the current population of HAI members. However, rather than removing a seated director, an extra position is added until an existing director reaches the end of his or her three-year term.
Leaving the board this year were Dan Schwarzbach of the Houston (Texas) Police Department and James Wisecup of Air Methods Corp. At a June ceremony, both men were honored for their many years of service to HAI and the industry. Additionally, Rick Domingo, executive director, FAA Flight Standards Service, honored Wisecup with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. (For more about Wisecup, who died Jul. 30, see this article.)
The new board members are business owners and managers from across the United States. “The newly elected directors are exciting additions to the team, and we welcome their backgrounds and experience,” says Sheard. “The board members all come together to ensure our industry stays relevant and maintains its path to supporting all our members in the global helicopter and VTOL industry.“

New for 2020–21

Filling a board government service seat is B. Adam Hammond, manager of helicopter services for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the largest US public utility. In that role, he manages five pilots and nine helicopters that fly power-line patrols and perform power-­line maintenance and construction over a seven-state region. The aviation team also supports TVA’s economic development team and executives. On the board, Hammond says, he’ll advocate for the needs of public aircraft operators and for safe and effective operations.

New HAI director Mark Schlaefli is the director of operations for Las Vegas tour operator Sundance Helicopters, where he is responsible for all day-to-day operations, from flight activities to customer experience and beyond. Filling a commercial aviation seat on the board, Schlaefli is passionate about mentoring the next generation of pilots and promoting the industry as a whole. “I look forward to working with industry professionals and stakeholders outside the industry to highlight the benefits of helicopters worldwide,” he says.

Also filling a commercial aviation seat is board member Nicole Vandelaar, owner and chief pilot of Hawaiian operator Novictor Helicopters, where she leads the business and daily flight operations. Serving on the HAI board, Vandelaar says, is a way to “use my experience as a business owner to help our operators improve relations with their communities through our Fly Neighborly program and other community relations initiatives. Everything we do as operators must be done safely, so I also want to use my position on the board to expand education to our members on safety management systems and help them grow their safety cultures.”

The board also appointed Scott Burgess, PhD, as its special adviser on UAS issues. An associate professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with 35-plus years of experience in military and civil aviation, Burgess conducts research in helicopter and UAS safety. He’s a founding member of the HAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems Working Group and a US Helicopter Safety Team member. In his work for the HAI board, Burgess says, he’ll consult on the “integration of UAS in our industry as it pertains to safety, training, operations, regulations, and other relevant areas.” 

Read More: COVID Clean Program Helps HAI Members Promote Safe Operations
August 14, 2020

Many aspects of our prepandemic lives, such as shaking hands or drinking from public water fountains, may never return, and there can be confusion about what activities are OK. To help its members reassure the public about their commitment to safe practices, HAI has introduced the COVID Clean Program.

The program helps HAI members—particularly those who carry passengers—demonstrate their efforts to protect customers and employees from the COVID-19 virus and other infectious diseases. HAI assists participating companies by providing them with tools to promote their efforts at their locations, on their websites, in local media, and in social media and other digital channels.

Participating companies must agree to a set of recommended COVID cleaning standards and policies (see the pledge language below). “Most of our members were already taking these steps to protect themselves and their customers,” says James A. Viola, president and CEO of HAI. “Committing to the COVID Clean Pledge provides these operators with the tools to demonstrate their commitment to the health and safety of passengers and crew in a visible and reassuring way.

“Tour, charter, and air ambulance operations are the likeliest users of this program,” continues Viola, “but it has value for any company that interacts with the public. In our new normal, making a public commitment to protect customers and employees is a standard expectation. The more quickly we can build public confidence in our high standards, the more quickly our industry can return to pre­pandemic operational levels.”

 HAI members can visit to take the COVID Clean Pledge. Below are participating HAI members as of late July: