Read More: The Post-Election Landscape
November 16, 2020

HAI sets its legislative agenda for the new Congress.

Now that the US general election has concluded, Congress has returned to Washington. While candidates elected to the US Senate and House of Representatives won’t be sworn in until Jan. 3, 2021, the Congress that has been in place since January 2019 began a lame duck session that is expected to extend well into December. Passing appropriations bills, defense legislation, and a new COVID relief package before the end of the year will be among the top legislative priorities.

Historically, Congress has an easier time advancing must-pass legislation like appropriations packages in a lame duck session, due to the conclusion of election frenzy, but that may not be the case this year. With some state results in the presidential race being challenged by the Trump administration and two Senate races heading to a January 2021 runoff that will determine which political party controls the upper chamber, the same partisan gridlock that’s plagued the 116th Congress could continue for the remainder of the year.

The 117th Congress

When the 117th Congress convenes in the beginning of January, a new legislative year will begin. All unpassed legislation of the previous Congress will expire (with the exception of treaties). If any of those bills is to move forward, it must be reintroduced.

On opening day of the 117th Congress, the House will elect a speaker, announce party leaders, and establish rules for the legislative body as well as policies for certain floor practices. The House may also adopt resolutions assigning some or many of its members to committees. This process regularly continues over several more weeks.

The committee assignment process occurs primarily within the party groups—the Republican Conference and the Democratic Caucus. There are representatives and senators currently serving who represent other parties, but their numbers are so small (one in the House, who actually retires at the end of the 116th Congress, and two in the Senate) that they must work with the two main parties. In fact, both the House and Senate are primarily organized around our two-party system. Legislators and their staff—there’s a red team and a blue team, and everyone knows which one you play for.

The Senate will follow a similar protocol in January. After swearing in senators elected or reelected in the general election (approximately one-third of the Senate), the upper chamber will adopt administrative resolutions and standing orders. If there is a vacancy or a change in party control, the senators may elect a new president pro tempore (generally the longest-serving senator from the majority party; in the 116th Congress, Sen. Chuck Grassley [R-Iowa] served in this role) and one or more Senate officers.

Negotiations between parties over committee sizes and ratios, action on committee assignments, and decisions on party leadership changes and organization may begin during the early organization meetings for the new Senate, which will occur in November and December. The committee assignment process may continue after the beginning days of the 117th Congress. At some time, usually other than opening day, the Senate adopts committee assignment resolutions. Any changes in Senate party leadership take place in respective party conference meetings.

As a result of the November elections, Democrats will maintain their majority in the House but by fewer seats than they held in the 116th Congress. The majority in the Senate will be determined by the results of the runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5. If the 117th Congress ends up with the same parties in the majority as the previous 116th Congress, party and committee leadership aren’t expected to change too dramatically. Legislative priorities for the two chambers will be set by their respective leadership and could resemble those of the 116th Congress.

Read More: Advocating for You
August 16, 2020

Legislative Update

As the HAI government affairs team, John Shea and I represent your ­interests to your elected representatives, advocating for a legal and regulatory environ­ment that will enhance the growth and stability of our industry. I find the inner workings of congressional committees or the tortuous path of a bill through the system to be fascinating. However, I’m often told that I’m using that word incorrectly; I probably meant “frustrating” or “incomprehensible” or “dysfunctional.”

However, with a global economy and political systems reacting to a pandemic and less than 90 days until a US national election, it’s only natural if your interest in politics is heightened (maybe not to the level of “fascinating”) in recognition of these legislators’ very real ability to enact laws that affect us. For some recent examples of how the US government COVID relief programs have benefited the vertical flight industry, please see Figure 1 or visit the Legislative Action Center.

As of this writing, Congress is in the middle of intense negotiations over what the next COVID relief package will look like (see the “Legislative Spotlight” section, below). However, as important as that is, there’s some other vital work Congress must address in a very short time frame. One must-do is averting a government shutdown.

Congressional spending is authorized through the end of September. The House has finished its work on the majority of the 12 FY 2020–21 appropriations bills (Homeland Security and legislative branch appropriations have made it out of committee but haven’t yet received a House vote). Due to partisan disagreement, however, those bills aren’t expected to reach the president’s desk.

In the Senate, the appropriations process has stalled because of disagreements over proposed amendments to the bills. As a result, it’s increasingly likely that Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past Sep. 30, 2020. With the recent deliberations on the next COVID relief package stalled, Congress very well could be coming back from August recess with just weeks to deal with funding the government and the relief package, making for a very complicated September. 

While the COVID relief and appropriations bills inch forward, politicians are also deep into reelection activity. In the Senate, 35 seats are up for election: 12 Democrat and 23 Repub­lican. However, if Democrats net just 4 of those 23 Republican seats without losing any of their own, they’ll take control of the Senate.

Over in the House, election politics are making for some interesting races. Several incumbents face high-profile primaries, with some already out of a job. The GOP released a list of more than 50 targeted seats, including 30 districts that President Donald Trump won in 2016. Democrats aim to protect their freshmen, listing 42 competitive seats they intend to aggressively defend. Most of these freshmen seats are in suburban areas that have experienced rapid, diverse population growth in recent years. Democrats are also recruiting top-tier candidates to take on Republican incumbents.

The census provides a fascinating angle of political intrigue. Based on the recent analysis of the census count, 17 states may see a change in their number of congressional seats. It’s likely Texas, Florida, and North Carolina will gain seats while Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania will lose a seat. This situation will come into play in the 2022 midterm congressional elections.

If this process isn’t fascinating, I don’t know what is. Congress is in the middle of deciding important policies that will impact our industry. HAI continues to advocate on your behalf to keep the rotors turning.

– Cade Clark

HAI’s VP of government affairs, Cade Clark has directed association advocacy programs for nearly 20 years. Growing up, he worked at an FBO where Cade learned to fly, washed planes, got in the mechanics’ way, idolized the old-timers and their stories, and deepened his love for all things general aviation.


Read More: Advocating for You
June 05, 2020

Legislative Update

The US Congress has been busy this year attempting to provide a financial lifeline to the nation’s economy since the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading across the country (see “Legislative Spotlight,” p. 12, for a detailed summary of the COVID-19 relief packages). Congress typically does not move that quickly on bills containing such large programs and price tags. The nation, however, is obviously facing a crisis during which the playbook is being written on the fly, and the Senate and House are doing their best to provide solutions.

Since passage of H.R. 266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, the Senate has remained in session to work on previously scheduled, non-COVID–related legislation. While the House decreased its days in session following passage of H.R. 266, on May 15, the chamber passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES, Act, a new $3 trillion relief package. The roughly 1,800-page bill includes $875 billion for state and local governments, $75 billion for mortgage relief, $100 billion in assistance for renters, $25 billion for the US Postal Service, $3.6 billion to shore up elections, and $10 billion for small businesses.

Congress is now debating policy priorities for a CARES Act 2.0, a COVID-19 relief package that many assume to be Congress’s last attempt at financial assistance for the pandemic. While the HEROES Act was the House’s opening bid for what the CARES Act 2.0 package could look like, Senate Republicans have largely dismissed the legislation.

Senate leaders are moving cautiously on CARES Act 2.0, stating their desire to see if the relief packages previously passed by Congress are working as intended. On Jun. 5, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 2.5 million jobs in May. Republicans are pointing to these job numbers in a renewed push for a slimmed-down approach to CARES Act 2.0.

Minimalist approach or not, Republican leaders have noted the importance of CARES Act 2.0. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently indicated that Congress will likely need to pass another round of COVID-19 relief legislation, and President Donald Trump has also expressed support.

Republicans are discussing different policy priorities to include in the CARES Act 2.0 that would address liability protections for employers who reopen their businesses and tax incentives to encourage businesses and events to resume. The next COVID relief bill to be signed into law will likely include and exclude provisions from both bills.

The two chambers will have a heavy workload to process in a severely compressed congressional time frame, as the coronavirus has disrupted the schedule in an already-packed year. Historically, during election years, Congress extends the August recess and considerably decreases the number of days it will be in session for the remainder of the calendar year, especially in presidential cycles such as this one. This allows lawmakers facing re­­election the time to campaign in their respective districts and states. However, the COVID pandemic has the potential to change this norm and add days if not weeks to the legislative calendar.

Also on the Congressional Agenda

In addition to providing pandemic relief, Congress faces an abbreviated time line to pass all 12 appropriations bills before the Sep. 30 deadline in order to fund the government and avoid another shutdown.

Other major issues Congress plans to address in this session include:

  • Defense authorization
  • Surface transportation reauthorization
  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization
  • Federal health-care programs, now set to expire Nov. 30
  • Pandemic-response programs, many of which expire at the end of 2020
  • Tax extenders, which expire Dec. 31.

Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations

Congress is also working on the fiscal year 2021 appropriations numbers. The current plan is for House appropriators to hold subcommittee and full committee markups on funding bills during the first two weeks of July, with floor consideration likely occurring the last two weeks of July. The Senate Appropriations Committee is tentatively planning to begin marking up spending bills the third week of June.

Funding for transportation, housing, and urban development will vary based on whether infrastructure and housing aid are addressed in a CARES Act 2.0 COVID relief package. For context, President Trump has called on Congress to invest $2 trillion in infrastructure, while Democrats have proposed a $760 billion, five-year package that includes surface transportation, airports, water, broadband, ports, and more.

On top of this unprecedented round of activity, of course, 2020 is a national election year. Posturing and campaigning—all while figuring out how to do so amid a pandemic—are sure to bring new dynamics to the work of Congress. Although it’s unclear what August campaigning will look like, we highly encourage you to reach out and engage your elected officials during this campaign season.

As Congress debates a CARES Act 2.0 and addresses other pressing legislative deadlines, HAI will focus on ensuring that the vertical flight industry’s priorities are included in a potential relief package as well as the appropriations process. Stay up-to-date on congressional action and access the latest government resources at HAI’s members-only Legislative Action Center.

Read More: Advocating for You
January 16, 2020

HAI members: HAI is here for you! Contact with your legislative challenges.

A new decade, a new year, a new issue of ROTOR, and a new way of presenting the advocacy message for HAI members—one that will help you better understand:

  • WHAT legislation is on the horizon that will affect general aviation and the helicopter and drone industries
  • WHY that legislation will affect you and your business
  • HOW HAI supports our members through information and advocacy.

In the new approach to Advocating for You, Cade Clark, HAI vice president of government affairs, and John Shea, HAI director of government affairs, will cover critical legislation, updates to previously reported bills, any applicable calls to action (and how to contact Congress), and our grassroots outreach and member visits. They’ll also be providing more coverage of legislation and government affairs issues occurring around the world. Throughout, the HAI Government Affairs Department will provide its insider perspective into the legislative machine.

HAI has also launched its new members-only Legislative Action Center, Visit the center often for greater insight into current legislation, tools that make it easier for you to take action, and helpful resources such as updates on appropriations and elections.

We hope this new reporting format provides better value to you. Let us know what you think at!

Legislative Spotlight: H.R. 5423, Aircraft Noise Reduction Act (ANRA)

What’s in the Bill. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO-2) recently introduced this bill, which would give general aviation (GA) airports the authority to impose certain operational restrictions relating to noise concerns, such as limiting the number and type of aircraft that could operate and setting curfews or specific hours in which they could fly.

Background. In 1990, Congress enacted the Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA), which provided a process for scrutinizing noise and other access restrictions managed by the FAA. ANCA and other laws and regulations currently in place have proven to be successful over the past 30 years in allowing the public to have input on aircraft operations, and for airports, air carriers, and GA operators to thrive in the safest, most-efficient national airspace system in the world.

In addition, H.R. 5423 would overturn a current regulation that requires airports that receive federal funding to accept all aviation operations that are compliant with FAA regulations. Under the new bill, airports could restrict or limit operations for entire classes of aircraft.

What the Bill Would Do. H.R. 5423 would dismantle the national system of airports while undermining ANCA and nearly a century of precedent. It would undercut the utility and safety of thousands of airports across the United States and reverse course on a basic principle of US aviation: the need to regulate aviation matters at the federal level, which Congress has recognized since the 1920s.

Thumbs Up or Down? HAI is strongly opposed to this legislation. We’ve sent a joint letter, signed by HAI and other industry groups, to the congressional committees of jurisdiction outlining our opposition. In the meantime, we’ll continue to track the bill’s progress.

Legislative Updates

Major Victory in FY2020 Appropriations

Congress recently passed legislation funding the US government for FY 2020. In the legislation, lawmakers fully funded the new aviation technician and pilot workforce grant programs that HAI had successfully lobbied to be included in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.

During the appropriations process, the House provided full funding for the program while the Senate appropriated half the amount. HAI worked in concert with other interested organizations to advocate for full funding. We’re very pleased to report that the aviation technician and pilot workforce development program is now fully funded at $10 million.

Under the program, grants of up to $500,000 may be used to:

  • Establish new educational programs that teach technical skills used in aviation maintenance, including purchasing equipment or improving existing programs
  • Establish scholarships or apprenticeships for individuals pursuing work in the aviation maintenance industry
  • Support outreach about careers in the aviation maintenance industry to primary, secondary, and postsecondary school students or to communities underrepresented in the industry
  • Support educational opportunities related to aviation maintenance in economically disadvantaged geographic areas
  • Support transition to careers in aviation maintenance, including for members of the US armed forces
  • Otherwise enhance aviation maintenance technical education or the aviation maintenance industry workforce.

The FAA hasn’t yet released information about the grant application process. However, to encourage the aviation community to work together, all grants must be supported by an aviation business or union, a school, or a government agency.

Public Aircraft and Logging Flight Times

HAI advocated in support of Sec. 517 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. This provision states that the FAA administrator shall issue regulations modifying 14 CFR 61.51(j)(4) to include aircraft under the direct operational control of forestry and fire protection agencies as public aircraft eligible for logging flight times.

The implications of Sec. 517 are important for pilots who are currently flying public aircraft but are unable to log their flight time. While the legislative text is straightforward and a win for our industry, which has long pushed for this change, the FAA hasn’t yet prioritized the task of writing the regulation that will implement the language in the reauthorization bill.

HAI has been in regular communication with the committees of jurisdiction as well as other congressional offices regarding the FAA’s implementation of Sec. 517. The House Transportation Infrastructure Committee recently held a hearing on the progress of implementing provisions from the reauthorization bill. A question was submitted to FAA inquiring about the status of Sec. 517, but a response hasn’t yet been provided.

HAI will continue to work with Congress to ensure this issue is addressed and implementation is prioritized with the FAA.


Read More: Make This Election Work for You
December 10, 2019

Engaging with candidates builds relationships that matter.

Ah, campaign season in America—isn’t it grand? With the amount of media and attention focused on the November 2020 elections, you may be excused for thinking the presidential elections were right around the corner. Although watching other recent international elections shows that it isn’t just America that enjoys a good campaign season with exciting political results.

Read More: Utah Gets Moving on Workforce Development
September 03, 2019

Its Rotor Pathways Program could show other states the way.

Washington, D.C., is a town full of ideas and “solutions” to the many problems we face. However, finding a resolution for an issue as large as workforce development for the helicopter industry may require changing national policy on education and training. And perhaps you haven’t noticed, but things can move pretty slowly inside the Beltway.

However, let’s not forget the states and their power to create their own solutions. With their smaller scale, states can be more nimble, more experimental than the larger federal government. One example of this agility is the exciting Utah Rotor Pathways Program: a public-private partnership that brings together the Utah rotorcraft industry, educators, and government to increase rotorcraft educational opportunities for students in that state.

Utah is a state that values its industries, its workforce, and the heart of the matter, its people. A large segment of the helicopter industry in Utah consists of air medical, firefighting, and training operations. With its large rural stretches, mountainous terrain, and weather, helicopter companies in Utah are conducting highly skilled operations that require well-trained pilots and technicians.

According to a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Contribution of General Aviation to the US Economy in 2013, the total economic output of general aviation in Utah is $2.2 billion. The helicopter industry contributes to that figure, and its firefighting capabilities further provide value to this semi-arid western state.

HAI approached the Utah governor’s office last year to brief his staff on the helicopter industry in Utah and our workforce shortage. In our initial meeting with Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and staff representing Gov. Gary Herbert, I discussed the 2018 Helicopter Foundation International (HFI) study that documented the problem. I outlined our findings from the HFI-sponsored HeliFutures forums, where industry stakeholders met to discuss their efforts to attract and retain pilots and maintenance technicians.

I was glad that I could report that our industry recognized the seriousness of the issue and was already working on solutions. Folks are more likely to help when they see that you are investing your own resources to improve the situation.

Cox immediately understood the usefulness and impact of the helicopter industry and how supporting it could benefit his state. Before I was on my flight back to D.C., we had agreed to move forward with a plan to bring more pilot and maintenance technician students into the pipeline. In other words, we had the initial glimmers of a workforce development plan that would become the Utah Rotor Pathways Program.

Bringing more pilots and maintenance technicians into the industry is the program’s goal. Its workforce development strategy is to provide more Utah high school and post-secondary students with access to rotorcraft education. The idea is simple: if more students are exposed to rotorcraft aviation, more of them will choose careers in the helicopter industry.

It’s a straightforward concept that allows for great flexibility in delivery. The program teams industry, high schools, post-secondary schools such as colleges and technical schools, and other stakeholders. I’m sure there are some teaming variations yet to be discovered.

Universities can team up with a local high school to teach rotor-specific aviation flight training and technician classes, where high school students learn the basics and gain college credit in the process. High school students will also have opportunities to work with industry partners in a variety of roles, such as job shadowing, internships, and mentoring. Once students graduate from the university system, they have an opportunity to interview with industry partners.

An important role for industry is to work with education partners to ensure the skills they need are being taught. In today’s ­educational environment, where post­secondary schools are required to track and report their job placement metrics, this type of cooperation with industry is welcomed.

While the Utah Rotor Pathways Program is in the very initial stages of implementation, we already have some great success. First, we have more than 40 members representing 22 different program partners, ranging from local helicopter operators focusing on air medical and heavy lift, to universities, flight schools, tour operators, and local government agencies. It is exciting to see such enthusiasm by all stakeholders and a desire to work together to solve our workforce issue at a local level.

Second, we have teamed up with Cedar Valley High School, in Eagle Mountain, Utah, which will hold its grand opening this August. In addition to the traditional high school curriculum, the Aviators, as they are called, will offer students rotor-specific ­education in both pilot and maintenance tracks. 

This school’s students will be some of the first to benefit from the Utah Rotor Pathways Program. For aviation curriculum and other educational resources, the Aviators have teamed up with two of our program members, Southern Utah Uni­versity (SUU) and Utah Valley University. The grand opening ceremony will host a number of prominent Utah elected officials and dignitaries, and will include numerous flyovers by local Utah helicopter companies. From Day 1, ­rotary-wing aviation will be a central theme of this school!

Third, the Utah Rotor Pathways Program has applied for and won state government grants. It’s great to talk about teaming up and teaching that or doing this, but without resources, not much can be done. Program participants were eligible to apply for a grant for workforce development from the Utah Department of Workforce Services. 

SUU was awarded a grant for $103,000 to implement a program to provide hands-on aviation electronics training and online training. These resources will be used in local high schools to bring rotor training to a new generation of students who might otherwise never have been exposed to our industry.

Our next step as a program will be to apply to the Strategic Workforce Initiative, which is a funding source from the Utah legislature. The grants will provide ongoing money to implement and run high school rotor education programs, duplicating the Cedar Valley model in high schools throughout the state.

Why is this program working in Utah? We found leaders in industry, education, and government willing to think outside the box. University flight schools committed to teaching the next generation and were willing to partner with local high schools. Industry partners were willing to step up and get involved. Lastly, state officials were willing to fund educational opportunities that connect its citizens with technical careers in an industry that desperately needs them, while supporting Utah’s aviation industry.

Think this approach to workforce development could work in your state? Reach out to me (, and let’s discuss. Let’s move forward to solve our industry’s workforce shortage.

Read More: Tell Them About It
June 19, 2019

Frustrated by a Congress that doesn’t understand your issues?

Those of us who work or play in general aviation (GA) have specialized knowledge that most folks don’t possess. The average person who is not part of our world knows very little about aviation other than baggage fees, TSA lines, and which airlines serve the best snacks.
Our industry is comprised of experts working every day out in the field. You operate, fix, and fly helicopters—or you offer products and services to support those who do. If anybody understands how our industry works or how we contribute to our communities, it’s you, the person working every day to make it happen.
I spend my days working with government staffers, providing information on our industry that relates to the many policy issues our lawmakers are working on. As a resource, I am only as valuable as my information. The data and insights I provide need to be straightforward and honest. The minute you start spinning that information—shaving a little truth here, telling alternative facts there—that is when you become known as a peddler of one-sided goods that don’t stand up to scrutiny. If you want to be trusted, you must dependably provide the good with the ugly.
At times, it may appear that more words than actions roll off the Hill and that Congress is not focused on issues important to you or your community. It also may seem that our representatives don’t have all the details or have all the wrong details. While we can all tell some fun jokes at Congress’s expense, seeing our elected representatives only through that lens is shortsighted and unproductive.
Until we have a Congress drawn exclusively from the helicopter industry, our elected officials will need reliable data that tells the entire story. As the experts in that field, we need to help them understand what we do and why we do it that way.
I’m not talking about providing confidential or proprietary company data. I’m talking about sharing something even more important: your impact on your community. This includes more than your contributions to the tax base and your payroll. What about the missions you fly? How many homes did you save in the recent fire season? How many lives have you influenced for the better?
As your trade association, HAI advocates for your interests before legislators and regulators. We file comments on proposed regulations, and we regularly bring stakeholders together to craft consensus around common-sense policies that serve the greater good. But how involved are you in government and community outreach, either personally or for your company?
As you come out of winter hibernation, you may not be thinking of August just yet. But it’s right around the corner. Congress is in recess for the entire month, and all of the representatives will be back home in their districts to reconnect with constituents. Now is the perfect time to begin a relationship or strengthen an existing one. Reach out and invite your representative for a tour of your operations. (Let me know at if you do; I can share some tips to help you plan the visit.)
If you are reading ROTOR, you are probably a big fan of the helicopter industry. Don’t be afraid to share the good news about all that we do—with friends and neighbors, local schools, and your elected government officials. Don’t assume that they know your struggles and triumphs. Tell them about it! 

Read More: Introducing Ourselves to a New Congress
February 28, 2019

Let's build on our effective advocacy for the helicopter industry.

The 116th US Congress is now gaveled in and tackling our nation’s problems. Your government is hard at work on your behalf.

Did you just roll your eyes at the thought that Congress understands your daily struggles and what you go through to keep the lights on at home or for your business? Be honest.

Reading the headlines about shutdowns, it may be a bit of a herculean task to believe that any good can come out of Washington. But it’s a new year, and I haven’t yet broken my resolutions (the brownie I had at lunch was small, so it didn’t count).

Considering the successes that we had with the 115th Congress, let’s approach the new year with optimism. Let’s quickly review why 2018 was such a good year for our industry on Capitol Hill.

HAI’s 2018 Legislative Wins

HAI was deeply involved in advocating for the helicopter industry while legislators were hammering out the details of the five-year FAA reauthorization bill that passed Congress in October. Our work produced substantive ROI for the helicopter industry in the many provisions in the bill with real-world impact on members’ businesses:

  • HAI ensured that the legislation gave the industry opportunities to provide input on and participate in the creation of upcoming FAA regulations
  • HAI secured specific language that included helipads as eligible projects in airport construction or improvement initiatives
  • Important safety provisions for crash-resistant fuel systems were implemented to comply with recommendations from the FAA’s Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group, which HAI staff members participated in
  • HAI helped secure the inclusion of drone policies that would safely accelerate their integration into the National Airspace System, including requirements for remote identification
  • HAI helped to include in the bill important aviation workforce development programs that will provide resources and grants to increase the number of pilots and mechanics in the industry
  • HAI helped push through language to modernize Part 147 training programs, providing new business opportunities for HAI members.

In other 2018 advocacy wins, HAI stopped legislation that would have capped veterans’ flight benefits for helicopter training. And let’s not forget our largest victory of the 115th Congress, when general aviation stepped up and stopped the privatization of the US air traffic control system.

The Blueprint for Success

Looking back, our industry had a very successful year. Where will this success and optimism take us in the 116th Congress?

You may have been right to roll your eyes when I said Congress was solving your problems. However, if they don’t know about your problems, how can they help?

That is why HAI’s work on Capitol Hill is so important. Advocacy is the mechanism by which HAI and its members communicate with Congress. We share our stories on the legislative and regulatory pinch-points that negatively impact our businesses and stand in the way of our success. We educate Congress on legislation that can help our industry grow. We help develop policies that will ensure a healthy, competitive, and level playing field.

I’ve made it a point to visit local HAI members whenever I get outside of the Beltway bubble to attend a conference or engage in state legislative work. In these invaluable meetings, members educate me on the legislative issues causing roadblocks for them and we strategize together on ways to address their concern.

One issue that I keep hearing about is that operators are having trouble finding qualified mechanics and pilots. As you may know, HAI’s charitable arm, Helicopter Foundation International (HFI), recently undertook a study with the University of North Dakota (UND) to validate the long-standing assertion that the United States is not producing pilots and mechanics in sufficient numbers. The 2018 HFI-UND study found that in just over 15 years, the industry will face a shortage of more than 7,400 helicopter pilots and over 40,000 mechanics.

In addition to documenting the projected shortage, the study gathered information on how it is already changing operations. For example, more than 50 percent of surveyed operators said that the shortage of pilots and mechanics would definitely or probably interfere with their operation’s ability to grow over the next five years.

This workforce shortage issue is real, and you may be already feeling its effects. HAI began to address this issue from a legislative perspective in the FAA reauthorization bill, which contains a grant program to fund workforce development programs for pilots and mechanics.

This grant program came about because we talked to Congress about the problem and offered a potential solution. They listened and included the program in the bill.

I admit, it was a bit more complicated than that. There was a lot of work that had to be done educating Congress about the issue. But in fact, that is how the process is supposed to work. Our industry defines a problem, identifies a solution, and provides our congressional representatives with solid, realistic, actionable solutions to the problem. In this case, we presented a compelling argument that the United States needs a sustainable aviation workforce, and Congress agreed. Granted, this one program is not a silver bullet for the workforce development issue, but it is a start.

HAI is also working directly with the states to address the workforce shortage. HAI and its Utah-based members are working with that state’s governor, Gary Herbert, and his staff on setting up a rotorcraft pathways educational program that will bring new students into the industry. This exciting initiative is moving forward because HAI contacted the Utah governor’s office and met with Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox to discuss workforce issues. We jointly identified a potential solution and are now working together to find success.

Help Government Understand Your Needs

How can we accomplish this—working with Congress and state governments to solve our problems—on a regular basis?
For this to occur, we must educate our elected officials on the issues that are confronting us and then be willing to provide potential solutions that we can work on together. These folks are busy and have a lot on their plate (like running the state of Utah, for instance). Don’t assume that they know your pain points, let alone how to solve them.

Policy, legislative, or regulatory language may have unintended (and sometimes intended) negative consequences on our businesses. Grassroots advocacy is our tool to reach out to our elected officials and show them how they can make a difference and provide positive solutions.

The 116th Congress as well as most state legislative sessions are now in full swing. They have many issues confronting them, and constituents representing all different perspectives are clamoring for attention. Get to know your elected officials. Make sure your issues get on their radar.

You are business owners and operators; you provide economic solutions and benefits to the people they represent. Your perspective and insights matter. Make a goal this year to host your elected official at your business. Let them see all you do and what you provide to your local community.

Don’t know where to start? That’s why you have an association. Reach out to me at, and I will gladly help you set up a visit.

To expand our advocacy outreach, we are building on the success of our campaign to prevent ATC privatization. If you haven’t done so previously, text ROTOR to 40649 to sign up and stay up-to-date on legislation affecting the helicopter industry.

As your association, HAI represents the helicopter industry to government officials. Together, let’s make 2019 another year of effective advocacy! 

Read More: FAA Reauthorization Bill: What's In and What's Out
November 14, 2018

Reauthorized for the next five years, the FAA can tackle new programs and priorities

Well, it’s done. Congress finally passed the FAA reauthorization bill (H.R.302) and only needed one little extension of a few days to wrap it up. A five-year reauthorization hasn’t happened in 36 years—since 1982. We are on a roll!

Let’s talk about what is in, and just as importantly, what is not in the bill. But first, what exactly is a reauthorization bill, is it different than funding, and why am I making such a big deal about it?

Quite simply, congressional authorization authority is what gives a federal agency the legal authority to exist and operate. The FAA is now authorized to exist and operate for the next five years.

The reauthorization bill does not, however, give it the money to operate. In a separate funding process, Congress will provide the necessary (or what Congress deems to be appropriate) finances for the FAA to perform its authorized duties. Congress is currently working on the funding levels for the FAA; those decisions were punted until after the November elections.

So why is reauthorization a big deal? It’s not like Congress would cancel the FAA. But as we have seen in the past, the FAA hasn’t always had access to a stable operating and funding environment. The last time the agency came up for reauthorization, there were 23 short-term extensions before a four-year authorization bill was passed in 2012. Many believe that the agency was ill served by the short-term operating environment, leading to a lack of progress on several long-term initiatives.

In addition to providing the legal authority for an agency to operate, Congress uses reauthorization bills to set new priorities and initiatives for an agency. Whatever your view is on Congress, I’m sure you can appreciate that there are complex issues raised when you invite 535 legislators to participate in setting aviation policy for our country. All types of new ideas come flooding into the process; some good, some bad. Add in the legislative process, with all its nuances and strange bedfellows, and sometimes you can open a real can of worms. Reauthorization can be a gamble!

Speaking of bad gambles, let’s mention what is NOT in the bill: privatization of the US air traffic control (ATC) system. This tremendous victory is a testament to all HAI members who worked hand in hand with the rest of the general aviation (GA) to oppose this provision. HAI advocated for the industry on Capitol Hill, and our members flooded their elected officials’ in-boxes with their advice on this issue.

It was a hard-fought battle, but we won, and we couldn’t have done it without you, our members. Thank you for your involvement! However, don’t think that proponents of ATC privatization won’t try again. (Are you already dreading the columns that I will be writing five years from now, as we discuss the next reauthorization bill?) My advice is to always watch the can of worms.

This wonderful little FAA bill is 1,200 pages long. You’ll get through a lot of Diet Pepsi and brownies before you get to the last page. Trust me. However, because I did that, you don’t have to. HAI has compiled a summary of provisions important to GA and the helicopter industry. You can find both a copy of the bill and our 14-page summary of it on the advocacy page of our website: For those of you who want the Reader’s Digest version, read on.

The FAA reauthorization bill contains a number of good, even great, provisions that provide long-term stability to the FAA and advance important priorities for GA. Like many in our industry, HAI has expressed concern over the aviation workforce shortage. We recently conducted a study with the University of North Dakota that conclusively demonstrates that the helicopter industry faces a severe pilot and mechanic shortage. The FAA reauthorization bill provides important solutions to tackle this critical industry issue. Additionally, the bill addresses needed reform to FAA regulations pertaining to training programs at aviation maintenance technician schools.

H.R. 302 also provides needed clarity on the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace, allowing that sector to move forward with exciting commercial opportunities. HAI views safety as priority No. 1, and we have long advocated for the safe integration of UAS. Our perspective is unique, as our members are the ones operating in the same airspace as UAS for most of our flight profiles—and in some cases, our members are also the ones who are flying the UAS. The FAA’s ability to fully regulate all aircraft, including UAS, in the National Airspace System is paramount for safety, and H.R. 302 confirms that authority to the FAA, including standards for remotely identifying UAS.

The bill also addresses an important helicopter safety issue with crash-resistant fuel systems by adopting the recommendations of the Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group. HAI worked closely with Congress to ensure that the recommendations of the Working Group were fully captured and incorporated in the legislative text.

H.R. 302 contains a host of regulatory opportunities for the industry. The bill directs the FAA to conduct numerous studies and collaborative outreach for new initiatives. The FAA has literally been directed by Congress to reach out to aviation stakeholders—us—for input. HAI will be deeply involved in this process, but don’t forgo the opportunity that may exist for your company by participating in such research and outreach.

The FAA reauthorization bill was a lot of work for everyone. I realize that reading, or even just skimming, 1,200 pages of legislative prose may not be your definition of fun. But this can of worms brings new ideas, initiatives, solutions, and opportunities to the industry. Making sure those opportunities exist is exactly why you have a trade association representing your interests.

Thank you again for your involvement in our advocacy efforts to ensure this reauthorization bill advances the helicopter industry. Congress incorporated your voice and positions in H.R. 302. Keep up the active participation, as the industry and the FAA move to tackle our next challenges.

Read More: Before Google Could Translate
August 03, 2018

My first trip abroad was to the Soviet Union. As a youngster growing up at the end of the Cold War, I was not sure what to expect.

My stay with a host family was wonderful, and it turned out that the Russian family was a lot like mine: the kids complained about doing chores and didn’t like vegetables, but everyone loved Grandma’s cooking. It was eye-opening to see firsthand how many similarities we had.

My Soviet summer came to an end too soon, and I headed home … just missing the real excitement a couple of weeks later when, on August 18, 1991, Russian president Boris Yeltsin lead the resistance to an attempted coup. The coup was unsuccessful — but it set the stage for the breakup of the Soviet Union by the end of the year.

It was such a fascinating adventure, I had to go back. A few years later I returned, this time to the Russian Federation. By this time, I was a private fixed-wing pilot and had been working for some time with my dad at a small FBO that he ran at a local general aviation airport.

Along with other operations, we ran some cargo flights in Piper Navajos and Beech 99s. I don’t recall why, but at the time there was a lot of chatter in our area about the Soviet Antonov An-2 and its possible use in cargo missions. Naturally, when I returned to Russia, I was determined to discover if and how this single-engine biplane could be used in our operations.

I told my host family of my quest to talk to some pilots. A few weeks later, I found myself packed into their little Lada, headed out to a “surprise.” We drove through the beautiful wooded Russian countryside until suddenly, we pulled up at a little airstrip where members of an aero club were critiquing the aerobatic flight skills of their fellow pilots.

I was introduced to a number of the pilots and immediately hit it off. Several proudly introduced themselves as former members of the Soviet Air Forces, noting with a grin that they were trained to shoot down my country’s aircraft. I told them of my respect for their flying ability and remarked how great it was that we could all now come together as friends with a shared love of aviation.

When I stop to think about it, this was quite a moment. What really separated me from my new friends?

We grew up under two opposite political systems and, as they dryly remarked, we had considered each other to be enemies, trained to shoot each other down. But once we got over that minor historical speed bump, it was apparent that, just like my Soviet host family, we were more alike than different. We enjoyed talking about aviation and adventures, like any long-lost friends.

While watching the club members go through their aerobatic practice, I noticed a couple of An-2s parked on the far side of the grass strip. I asked all about them and the commercial prospects of bringing an An-2 to America. At least that’s what I think I said. I might have said, “I like chocolate ice cream” or even, in my rudimentary Russian, “Ice cream like chocolate me.” There’s really no way to be sure.

There was a commotion behind me and suddenly, a large pack was slapped on my back — a parachute, as it turns out. I was led to a Yak-52, the primary Soviet trainer aircraft, and promptly secured in the back seat.

At that point, my mind was racing, trying to remember exactly what I said about the An-2. I was hoping I hadn’t agreed to purchase a fleet of the aircraft. I was also thinking I didn’t catch a word about how to use the parachute. One of my new buddies bounded in and asked if I was ready to go. I wasn’t sure where we were going, but the only right answer at that point was “Da!”

Next thing I knew we were over the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. Then I heard over the headset the Russian equivalent of “Get ready.” My friend then took me through my first aerobatic experience. To say I was having the time of my life would be an understatement. I squealed like a little kid with such joy that my new friend burst into laughter as he took us through one aerobatic maneuver after another. He even let me do a few loops.

I was wishing we would stay up forever, but alas we headed back to the field and he let me land, which was a new experience from my perch in the back. We rolled up to the ramp and relived our flight, talking till it was finally time to leave. I stayed in touch with my friends for quite some time until addresses changed and mail was lost. (This was, after all, before email.)

Why this trip down memory lane and how does it relate to HAI? Well, at HAI we work on your behalf to keep the rotors turning. We connect people and ideas to advance the industry. No matter where you live in the world, as HAI members we are connected by our love of aviation.

We may have grown up in different political systems, countries, and cultures, but we share a unique bond. Who knew that, just like me, Soviet kids didn’t like vegetables? It wasn’t until I was there, speaking and connecting with people, that I realized that we had many similarities we could build on — similarities that formed a bridge over our differences.

Flipping through the air over the beautiful Gulf of Finland with my new Russian buddy, the one trained to shoot down American aviators, we shared laughter and the sheer joy of the freedom of flight. It was an incredible experience brought about by a host family seeking to connect a kid and his crazy scheme for a Russian aircraft with the local Russian aviation community.

HAI, located just across the river from Washington, D.C., frequently works with regulators and legislators on issues important to our industry. But frankly, they wouldn’t be interested in working with us if we didn’t work for you.

Elected officials put a high priority on helping their constituents back home, and they know that HAI connects them with issues and solutions for those voters. Our power in advocacy comes from the grassroots strength of our members.

Advocacy works the same way in any country in which our members live. HAI is a resource for you to connect people and ideas. We have many affiliates throughout the world who can furnish expert analysis on local operational issues and opportunities. HAI is ready to help you make that connection.

This coming October, HAI will be attending and exhibiting at Helitech International in Amsterdam. If you are planning to be there, stop by our booth and let’s chat. Building networks and relationships is how we strengthen this industry and move it forward. We can all learn and build from each other’s experiences.

To craft common-sense aviation polices, our elected officials, no matter the country, need the expertise our industry can provide. Let’s learn from each other about how effective education and advocacy campaigns can be built. How have you been able to influence your government’s legislative or regulatory decision-making process? Share your victories as well as defeats. We can all learn, refine, and improve our approach in sharing our message about the positive contributions of the helicopter industry.

Finally, get involved politically. For HAI members in America, don’t forget that Congress has an August recess and the House is scheduled to be home in the districts campaigning. This is the perfect time for you to schedule a visit with your elected official. Invite them to your place of business and show them the good work you are doing for your community.

HAI international members, look for the same opportunities according to the openings in your elected officials’ calendars. Become a resource to your elected officials on aviation issues. Help them develop the best aviation policies possible.

By building stronger networks among the aviation community — and inviting others to understand our contributions to a healthy economy and safe communities — we will build a successful, united helicopter industry. In English, we call that “keeping the rotors turning.” How do you say it in your language? Let me know at