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:

Read More: Are You Prepared for Flight after COVID?
August 13, 2020

Operations both small and large have experienced a lower volume of flights because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as layoffs and furloughs. In this environment, keeping your skills current can be challenging.

To learn what pilots are doing now to get ready for flight after the pandemic, we surveyed our readers anonymously. Specifically, we inquired about their companies’—and their own—investment in training and the effect the virus has had on their employment and proficiency status.

Company-Sponsored Training

Of the 47 respondents, about 60% (28) have remained employed during the crisis and have maintained their required qualifications or desired proficiency; 47% (22) say their companies have provided them with the resources needed to complete individual in-aircraft flight training. Individual classroom training was provided to 26% (12), and 13% (6) reported receiving high-fidelity simulator training through their company.

Read More: AHIA Signs On as HAI International Partner
August 13, 2020

HAI is pleased to announce the launch of the International Partnership Program to enhance safety and cooperation across the worldwide vertical lift community. This program will benefit the entire rotorcraft industry by promoting common safety and operational standards and best practices, and by facilitating a collaborative approach to building and sustaining the global industry.

“We are very excited to strengthen HAI’s ties with other vertical lift organizations,” says HAI President and CEO James A. Viola. “Aviation is a global industry in both manufacturing and operations, and this is reflected in our challenges. By working together, the international industry can better leverage our finite resources to pursue common priorities and goals.”

The program was launched on Jun. 30, 2020, with the signing of an agreement by Viola and Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA) President Ray Cronin. “We launched this program with our close partners in Australia, but we will continue to expand to other vertical lift associations around the world,” says Viola.

“AHIA is committed to use all resources to ensure its members are fully informed on safety and innovative programs that enhance the use of rotorcraft. Partnering with HAI through the IPP is a firsthand opportunity to achieve this goal,” says Cronin. “In addition, with the second-­largest fleet in the world, Australia has a broad cross section of rotorcraft activities operating in sometimes challenging climatic conditions, as was evidenced in the 2019–20 wildfire season. We need to communicate lessons learned and safety outcomes to the international community in a timely manner, and the IPP will be a conduit for this.”

“Thanks to the efforts made by my predecessor, Jan Becker, and Jim Viola, HAI is making great strides in furthering its international reach,” says Stacy Sheard, chair of the HAI Board of Directors. “Stepping up our international collaborations through the IPP will help us to see other perspectives from around the world, open global lines of communication, and learn from each other’s experiences. Supporting the worldwide vertical lift community will bring immeasurable returns, both to our industry and to HAI.”

Through the IPP program, HAI and its partners agree to work together to:

  • Provide members with services that directly benefit their operations
  • Promote, produce, and deliver programs that improve industry safety
  • Collaborate with regulatory and legislative authorities to promote industry objectives
  • Educate key stakeholders on the unique contributions vertical flight offers society, and foster public confidence in the value and safety of vertical lift operations
  • Facilitate an open exchange of information between rotorcraft owners, operators, customers, pilots, aeronautical engineers, and other stakeholders
  • Promote professionalism, economic viability, and integrity within the industry.

Read More: NFL Star Helps Kids Pursue Aviation Careers
June 08, 2020

Jimmy Graham: Chicago Bears tight end and instrument-rated pilot.

NFL tight end Jimmy Graham—newly signed to a lucrative free-agent contract by the Chicago Bears—didn’t get much attention or encouragement at home, growing up in what can best be described as a highly dysfunctional military family. Things got so bad that his mother effectively abandoned him as an 11-year-old when she placed him in a group home in Goldsboro, North Carolina, where the older and bigger boys beat him regularly.

So it makes sense now that, after his improbable rise to stardom and wealth in the NFL, Graham is committed to encouraging youngsters—especially those from similarly tough and impoverished backgrounds—to aim for futures that seemingly are beyond their reach.

What’s surprising, though, is that the 6-foot 7-inch, 270-lb All Pro pass-catching machine isn’t using his athletic prowess and fame to help kids excel in athletics. Rather, Graham depends on his personal Bell UH-1 Huey helicopter—plus his Extra 330 LX aerobatic plane (it’s a really tight fit) and his 1957 de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver seaplane (with retractable skis)—to point kids toward potential careers in aviation.

Though he’d only been a licensed pilot for a little less than eight years at the time, Graham jumped at the chance in 2018 to follow in the footsteps of Gen. Chuck Yeager, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, and actors Harrison Ford and Cliff Robertson as chairman of the Young Eagles. The organization, founded in 1992 by the US Experimental Aircraft Association, gives children ages 8 to 17 opportunities to experience flight in a general aviation aircraft and to learn about aviation. 

Because he can take only one kid at a time up with him in his Extra 330, and only two or three in his Beaver, Graham’s Young Eagles ride of choice is his Huey. The aircraft, along with his charitable organization, The Jimmy Graham Foundation, is based at Miami Executive Airport (KTMB), outside of Miami, Florida. 

The iconic model is fully restored to the way it looked when it flew with the US Army’s 170th Assault Helicopter Co. during 21 months from 1968 through 1969. The helicopter operated in the Vietnamese Central Highlands, ferry­ing soldiers into and out of battle zones. It also flew into and out of Cambodia and Laos in support of the 5th Special Forces Group. These days, the Huey mostly carries children via the Young Eagles program, along with Vietnam veterans taking brief trips down memory lane.

ROTOR: Given your challenged childhood and the huge amount of time you’ve committed to becoming a top athlete, how did you get so involved in flying?
Graham: The first movie I remember watching was Top Gun. My dream was to be a fighter pilot, but then I grew to a freakish six-seven and there went that dream. We lived around military bases—my original parents were in the military. I randomly loitered around airports, talking a lot about aviation and asking a lot of questions. I met a guy named John. He said if I ever wanted to go up [in an aircraft], he’d give me a ride. So I flew with him and loved it.

When did you get your pilot’s license?
I played basketball at the University of Miami for four years, then played one year of football there before being drafted by the New Orleans Saints. I’d never had the time or money to learn to fly. But after my first NFL season, I had some money and, for the first time, some [spare] time in the offseason, so I started lessons. I took my checkride before the end of that year. Except in years when I had off-season surgeries, I’ve learned new ways of flying or gotten new licenses every off-season since.

What licenses do you have?
Beyond my private pilot’s license, I’ve got my airplane single-engine sea and land, airplane multi-engine land, tailwheel, rotorcraft, instrument (airplane and helicopter), and commercial helicopter licenses. I’ll probably add my sea and land commercial license, and after I retire from football I want to move into gliders. I’ve kept this under wraps until now, but I’m also a licensed skydiver.

During the season, I may only have time to fly two or three days. But the rest of the year, I fly on average five days a week. I just love it; I love everything about flying.

Where does that passion and commitment come from?
To be honest, I don’t just half-ass anything. Whether it’s football, or athletics, or flying, or investing my money, I want to do it to the very best of my ability and keep learning more and more about it. I’m kinda’ weird that way, I guess. But even if I’m doing a charity event, I guarantee you … it’s going to be excellent.

Have your coaches or teams ever raised concerns about your flying?
They don’t want to go there with me. One time when I was with the Saints, [Head Coach] Sean Payton and [General Manager] Mickey Loomis, before I signed my big deal, actually mentioned that they didn’t want me to be in a private plane if it wasn’t a jet with two engines and had a copilot. I told them I wouldn’t sign that contract and that there were 31 other teams that would give me the same contract AND let me fly. No organization has ever mentioned it again.

How did you get involved in the Young Eagles?
A good friend of mine, Sean D. Tucker, flies airshows. He’s been doing it about 30 years solo. And this last year, he wanted to go to a two-plane operation. So I got involved with him with my aerobatic plane. He also got me involved with the Young Eagles program, and I quickly saw the benefits of their mission. [Editor’s note: Tucker followed Sullenberger as the Young Eagles’ chairman in 2013 and continues to serve as co-chair alongside Graham.]

You could champion any cause you wanted, or just spend all your time flying. Why get deeply involved in the Young Eagles?
I’m a gutter kid. I came from the gutter. I always tell kids that, as a boy, I had my PhD—poor, hungry, and driven. And that’s a gift.

I’m thankful for every hardship I had. It made me grow up fast and [gave me drive]. The Young Eagles program gives me a chance to talk to kids—especially kids from tough backgrounds like mine who probably never dreamed they could do something like this—and get them thinking about aviation as a career. It gives me a chance to motivate them and encourage them not to be held back by whatever negative circumstances they’ve had to deal with

Read More: HAI on Social
June 08, 2020

An industry that’s safe together saves lives together! We shared our COVID-19 checklist on HAI’s social media platforms as a supplement to operators’ equipment manuals and company policies, and it received 2,127 engagements on Facebook. We’re ecstatic that our members and followers are prioritizing safety, whether for themselves, their colleagues, or their passengers during the pandemic. Continue to fly safe!

Read More: Helicopter Events
June 05, 2020


The following events have been canceled for 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic:
Originally scheduled for Jul. 20–25, 2020
Airborne Public Safety Association

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2020
Originally scheduled for Jul. 20–26, 2020
Experimental Aircraft Association

2020 White Plains (New York) Regional Forum
Originally scheduled for Jun. 10, 2020
National Business Aviation Association

The following events were on schedule as of mid-May:


JUN. 21
Father’s Day Fly-In Breakfast
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
Geneseo, Illinois, USA

SEP. 5–7
2020 Cleveland National Air Show
Cleveland, Ohio, USA

SEP. 8–11
46th European Rotorcraft Forum
Moscow, Russia

OCT. 5–8
(postponed from May 4–7)
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
Dallas, Texas, USA (originally scheduled for Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Visit HAI at Booth #1601

OCT. 6–8
2020 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition
National Business Aviation Association
Orlando, Florida, USA​-convention​-exhibition/
Visit HAI at Booth #4230

OCT. 27–29
2020 Rotorcraft Safety Conference
Federal Aviation Administration
Hurst, Texas, USA

NOV. 2–4
2020 Air Medical Transport Conference
The Association of Air Medical Services
Nashville, Tennessee, USA


MAR. 22–25 / EXHIBITS OPEN MAR. 23–25
Helicopter Association International
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Read More: Unplanned VFR Flight into IMC
June 05, 2020

1 DO get trained and stay proficient. Training, certification, and proficiency are the best weapons against inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC). Even if you’re not instrument rated or have lapsed in currency, you can still improve your recognition of and recovery from unplanned flight into degraded visual environments. You can conduct this training in an aircraft or Level D simulator, but you can also use low-cost aviation training devices or desktop simulation programs to develop and maintain your instrument skills and improve your confidence to deal with unplanned IMC. 

2 DON’T even think about attempting VFR flight into deteriorating weather conditions. The FAA offers a subtle warning in its Helicopter Flying Handbook: “If the pilot isn’t instrument rated, instrument current, or proficient, or is flying a non–IFR-equipped helicopter, remaining in VMC [visual meteorological conditions] is paramount” (, pages 11–24 through 11–26). 

We prefer to state it more boldly: In an unplanned VFR flight into IMC, if you’re not a highly proficient ­instrument-rated pilot operating a fully certificated IFR aircraft, your chances of surviving beyond two minutes are nearly ZERO. 

3 DO set, announce, and follow your personal limits. Clearly understand and consistently abide by the limitations of your aircraft, your skills, and regulations—without compromise! Always brief your takeoff minimums and en route decision points before you fly. Doing so manages the expectations of your crew and passengers and ensures that active risk management is integrated into all phases of flight planning and execution.

4 DON’T scud run! IFR does not stand for “I follow roads.” Focusing on what’s below you is a sure way to collide with what’s in front of you (terrain, wires, towers, etc.). Take note if you’re getting lower (for example, 500 feet agl) or slower (such as 50 KIAS [knots indicated airspeed]) just to maintain your visual references. You likely have already reached a decision point and need to return home, amend your flight to avoid IMC, or if a safe landing can be made, simply get the helicopter on the ground and Land & LIVE! 

5 DO respond immediately and decisively if you enter IMC. Despite warnings to avoid continued VFR flight into bad weather, it still happens. If you have an unexpected entry into IMC, what you do in the next few seconds will determine your fate. First and always, make helicopter control a priority above all other duties or distractions.

Here are the five basic steps all pilots should be trained to execute immediately if they ever encounter IIMC: 

  1. Wings: Level the bank angle using the attitude indicator 
  2. Attitude: Set a climb attitude that achieves a safe climb speed
  3. Airspeed: Verify that the attitude selected has achieved the desired airspeed 
  4. Power: Adjust to a climb power setting relative to the desired airspeed
  5. Heading and trim: Pick a heading known to be free of obstacles and maintain it.

Note: The guidance available on IIMC is much too extensive to limit to only five steps. We strongly encourage all pilots to refer to the 2019 release of the FAA’s Helicopter Flying Handbook, FAA-H-8083-21B. Pages 11–24 through 11–26 include several updates addressing how best to avoid and respond to VFR flight into IMC.