Read More: Giving Thanks
August 06, 2018

Through my work on the HAI Board of Directors and several FAA working groups, I have recently gotten to know colleagues from different areas of the helicopter industry — people whom I’m not usually exposed to in my work in public safety aviation. I’ve been impressed with the passion they show for their respective areas of concern within the industry.

As a line pilot for a public safety agency, I never gave much thought to the engineering genius that goes into the modern helicopter. Through the FAA working groups, I’ve met some of the brilliant engineers who design these amazing aircraft. I’m constantly in awe of their analytic ability and the ease with which they solve complex problems.

I don’t have an engineering or manufacturing background; I’m a street cop who grew up working in retail. My dad was a CPA with no mechanical aptitude, a trait that was apparently inherited by me. So maybe I’m just easily impressed, but I don’t think so.

The passion these engineers have demonstrated for designing the safest aircraft and systems possible provides me with a new comfort level as a pilot. So, to all you helicopter engineers running your mathematical formulas to keep us aviators safe, a sincere thank-you.

An equally sincere thank-you goes to the mechanics who maintain the finished product on a daily basis. Your expertise has allowed me to pursue my passion for helicopters — and to go home safely every night for more than 30 years.

Another benefit of participating in these working groups is validation that I work in the part of the helicopter industry in which my passion truly lies. I love to help others by using helicopters to catch bad guys. More specifically, I want to pilot the helicopter while we catch the bad guys.

When I’m not flying, my passion is developing and conducting training events for those involved in public safety aviation so they can complete each mission safely and successfully. Like all of us, I feel I have the best helicopter job in the world. I’m not cut out to be a designer, engineer, maintainer, or even a crew member in any field other than public safety aviation.
This is my final message as chairman, so I’d like to share some parting thoughts. If I had to sum up the last 30 years, in one word, it would be “thankful.”

I’m thankful for the airborne law enforcement pioneers who made a career in public safety aviation possible. Mohammad Ali is credited with saying, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” To have a job where I can serve others — while fulfilling my dream of being a helicopter pilot —  is a privilege and an honor.

I’m thankful for the Houston Police Department, which has supported my years of association work and my chairmanship of the HAI Board of Directors. I’m also thankful for the members and staff of the Airborne Public Safety Association and its Board of Directors, who have supported and encouraged my participation on the HAI board. My colleagues in public safety have been with me every step of the way.

I’m thankful for the opportunities that HAI has provided me to make a difference and give back to this amazing industry we are all lucky enough to be a part of. My sincerest thanks to my fellow HAI board members, both past and present, for your guidance and support, and to the HAI staff, who work so hard to promote this industry.

HAI offers us a place to come together as a community, whether that’s to promote safety, discuss technical developments, or just tell a great story or two. And in coming together, we learn a bit about each other.

Most importantly, I’m thankful for my wife and family, whose patience, support, and sacrifice have allowed me to follow my dreams.

Finally, I want to thank all my fellow rotorheads. We work in a unique industry, one that is full of amazing people with a vast array of skills. While I love helicopters, they are, after all, just machines. The positive contributions helicopters provide to society are the result of your efforts.

Give More; Expect Less,


Read More: Flying in the Grand Canyon: A Dream Job with Unique Challenges
July 03, 2018

The helitack team at Grand Canyon National Park has to be prepared for anything. With weather conditions ranging from sun and 125-degree heat, to snow, wind, and dust, it takes more than just skill to operate in the canyon — it takes hard work and dedication. The combination of weather, remote terrain, and canyon flying requires advanced mountain flying skills.

The helitack team is drawn from Grand Canyon National Park staff and employees at Papillon Airways, working under contract with the park. Its MD 900 is on 365 days per year, while an AS350 comes on May 1 to add fire season support for about 90 to 150 days per year.

The helitack team performs a variety of missions inside the park during daylight hours. What started as park maintenance support in 1972 has expanded to firefighting, search and rescue, and utility work. The team also helps support management of threatened and endangered species by flying in personnel and equipment for research management, and even animals when appropriate.

With only a small staff available for any given mission (there are four employees on staff in the winter, and six more are added in the summer for the fire season), it’s not uncommon for the team to get pulled in many different directions. “We’ll be working on a pipeline break and literally switch hats and do a medical mission or respond to a fire, or even all three in one day,” says Eric C. Graff, Grand Canyon Flight Crew helicopter program manager.

Read More: Bell Sets a New Course
May 13, 2018

For a company focused on multimillion-dollar aircraft sales to government, military, and commercial clients around the world, Bell was behaving curiously. Its big reveal at HAI HELI‑EXPO 2017, the FCX-001, was less aircraft than a customer-experience concept vehicle. Bell followed up that mold-breaking exhibition by becoming the first aircraft company to ever make a big splash at the annual, quirky, and hip display of cutting-edge consumer technology that is the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

There (and at HAI HELI‑EXPO 2018), Bell displayed a cabin mock-up of its proposed entry in the race to develop the world’s first commercially successful air taxi. And though that mock-up looked more like a smallish, more angular, and cooler version of a passenger cabin in one of Bell’s helicopters, the company assured everyone that the vehicle will be a very, very different kind of machine, one powered by hybrid electric engines and capable of operating quietly, quickly, and in an environmentally friendly way within urban environments.

What next? On February 22, the company announced its first name change since 1960, when Textron Inc. acquired the Bell Helicopter division of Bell Aircraft — evolving from Bell Helicopter to simply, “Bell.” Of course, some — maybe even most — rebranding is merely cosmetic. But for Bell, shedding the one word that has defined not only its products but its very essence for the last 60 years is game changing.

Read More: Business Bounces Back at HAI HELI-EXPO 2018
May 13, 2018

The mood at HAI HELI‑EXPO 2018 in Las Vegas was one of optimism, with several small signs — and one big victory — pointing toward bluer skies ahead for the helicopter industry.

This year, more than 17,300 attendees walked the halls, visiting 705 exhibitors and 51 helicopters. What’s more, 2,368 people attended the HFI Rotor Safety Challenge education sessions, doing their part to make the industry safer.

“The exhibitors really loved the activity on the floor, and the ability to bring in aircraft using our temporary heliport just outside the doors was a real benefit,” says HAI President and CEO Matt Zuccaro. “From an HAI perspective, we were able to do what we wanted most — focus on safety. We rolled out our online certificate program for safety managers and were able to provide 50 free Rotor Safety Challenge courses, where in many of them it was standing room only.”

While business was brisk on the show floor, a victory in Washington, D.C., on February 28 also fueled the fires of optimism. U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Schuster (R-Pa.) withdrew his proposal to privatize US air traffic control (ATC) services from the House FAA reauthorization bill, ending, for now, talks of privatizing ATC. Under the proposed scheme, US ATC would have been run by a private board dominated by airline interests — a group unlikely to prioritize services for general aviation (GA).

“This is a great example of what can happen when people unite and speak with one voice. I offer my deepest appreciation to the entire GA community for its tireless work defending our industry,” Zuccaro said in an email to all HAI members shortly after the announcement. “HAI stands committed to working with Congress to modernize the FAA to maintain its world-class level of service and safety.”

Read More: Accident Recovery: 1 + 1 + 1 = Tragedy
May 13, 2018

Unlikely things do happen during flights … and not always one at a time. Some of aviation’s most catastrophic accidents are the products of extended sequences of events and miscalculations, each almost prohibitively unlikely, yet combining to create an event that changes lives.

The immediate cause of the March 2009 crash of Cougar Helicopters Flight 91 (CHI91), a Sikorsky S-92A ferrying workers to a North Atlantic oil platform, was traced to a design flaw aggravated by real-world maintenance practices more intensive than those scheduled by the manufacturer, and compounded by certification standards based on unrealistic assumptions. Faulty decision-making arising from a misunderstanding of the aircraft’s systems and survival gear imperfectly matched to the environment of a ditched aircraft also contributed to the loss of 17 of the 18 people on board.