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: Vertical Readers Cite HAI for Pandemic Assistance to Industry
November 16, 2020

HAI’s efforts to support and inform the vertical flight industry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic received recognition in a recent survey by Vertical magazine, a leading publication in the rotorcraft community.

Conducted in September 2020 by independent research firm PMG Intelligence, the survey focused on the effects of COVID-19 on the industry. One question inquired whether “industry associations have been helpful in providing information about resources that are available to you during the pandemic.” 

Respondents were asked to name the associations that have been most helpful to their company.

“Of those associations, HAI was mentioned most often,” reports Elan Head, editorial director of the magazine.

“We’re grateful that our work has been helpful to those in the industry who’ve been affected by the pandemic,” says James Viola, president and CEO of HAI.

“Businesses have been so hurt by this pandemic and the economic disruption it’s caused—75% of the respondents to Vertical’s survey said their business has decreased, and 50% have had to lay off staff. I sincerely hope the work HAI has done has helped some of these companies or individuals find relief.”

Since the spring, HAI’s staff have dedicated much of their time to distributing information or working with governments to find ways to assist the rotorcraft community. The HAI Member Services Department has advocated for the rotorcraft industry before civil aviation authorities around the world, helping to create compliance solutions on behalf of individuals and companies.

HAI’s Government Affairs team has worked with US lawmakers to ensure that the vertical flight industry is included in financial assistance programs. Staff from many of the association’s departments have worked to collect and compile information from operators, rotorcraft trade groups, and government agencies worldwide to post on HAI’s website as a helpful resource.

HAI also this year developed a weekly webinar series, HAI@Work. The initial goal of the program was to provide the rotorcraft community with up-to-date information about the pandemic in a rapidly changing legislative and regulatory landscape, but the webinars now cover other topics of interest to the industry as well. More than 4,300 attendees from over 50 countries have viewed the webinars live, and videos of them have been viewed more than 4,500 times.

“Another statistic from Vertical’s survey that stands out to me is that 53% of their respondents indicated that COVID-19 has prompted changes to their business model,” adds Viola. “The VTOL industry is wonderfully adaptable, and these figures tell me that rotorcraft companies are doing their best to remain flexible and accommodating during the pandemic.”

Viola believes that the rotorcraft industry, with its ability to tackle a diverse set of missions for customers worldwide, is resilient.

“In the long run, it’s this versatility that will help the rotorcraft industry rebound. We know we’re headed into a seasonal slowdown in the Northern Hemisphere, but we experienced a mostly positive summer season in firefighting and agricultural work this year,” Viola told Vertical. 

“Many of those operators are ready to begin their off-season cycle of training and maintenance and are otherwise preparing for next year’s operations. Work is already starting to pick up in areas of the Southern Hemisphere, and a few firefighting operators are shifting aircraft to the other side of the equator,” Viola continued.

It is this ability to adapt, says Viola, that is key to the industry’s long-term future.

“Even as we wait out this pandemic, our industry has continued to evolve,” he added. “Our OEMs are actively developing advanced air mobility and remotely piloted aircraft, working their way through testing and proof-of-concept phases. Our pilots have decades of experience working in the low-altitude, confined-area airspace. The rotorcraft community—manufacturers, operators, pilots, and maintenance—is ideally positioned to build, operate, fix, and fly these aircraft.

“All in all, I’m feeling optimistic for our industry because of our history of adaptation and versatility,” Viola continued. 

“While it may feel that this pandemic will never end, there is, in fact, a light at the end of the tunnel. When that happens (and it will), I want our members to be primed for success and ready to go fly,” he noted.

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: 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: ROTOR Launches New Digital Format
June 05, 2020

With this issue of ROTOR, we debut a robust digital platform for the magazine, making it easier for you to take ROTOR with you wherever you go.

Just visit and click on the link for the latest issue—whether you’re on a laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Our responsive platform will detect your device and resize to fit it. 

With the platform’s mobile phone view, there’s no need to navigate a multicolumn layout on your cell phone: just toggle to the mobile phone view and the content will reflow to fit your screen.

The ROTOR digital platform also enables you to click through to advertisers or to links in articles. And we can now embed video for a richer environment. Simply click on a play button to launch a new window with video content. (There are four videos in this issue: did you find them all?)

The new platform makes moving around the magazine easy. You can navigate through an issue by flipping the “pages” or by clicking on links in the contents page or on thumbnails. There’s also a link to a pdf version of the magazine, so you can download the issue to read later or print some pages. You can easily share content, too, via email or social media.

We’ve upgraded the online tools available to you as well. A sophisticated search feature enables you to search the current issue of the magazine (and, in the future, archived issues) for a word, name, or phrase. Clicking on the search results takes you instantly to the exact location where that item appears.

But wait. “Where’s my print edition?” you might be asking. For this issue of ROTOR, the 2020 Quarter 2 edition (formerly called Spring 2020), we decided to forgo the print version because of the COVID-19 pandemic. By not printing this issue, we determined we wouldn’t flood empty offices with paper copies of the magazine while so many of our readers are working from home.

We hope you enjoy ROTOR’s new digital format and the added benefits it brings. We’d love to know what you think of the platform and the features you like best (and those you don’t care for). Of course, we always want to hear what you do and don’t enjoy about ROTOR, from cover to cover. Let us know at 

Read More: HAI Debuts Weekly Webinar Series
June 05, 2020

HAI is now offering a series of weekly webinars covering a wide range of topics to meet the rotorcraft community’s needs in this rapidly changing era.

The series, HAI@Work, began in April and covers both current and evergreen topics. While the first three webinars focused on subjects related to the COVID-19 pandemic, future sessions will address various matters of interest to industry businesses and individuals.

Each webinar features a panel of subject-matter experts, including HAI staff members and other industry representatives. In the hour-long format, panel members discuss the week’s topic before taking viewers’ questions.

HAI launched the initiative to provide members with up-to-the-minute resources and information during this period of economic and social disruption.

“The worldwide economic slowdown is impacting the rotorcraft community. Flight activity is down, and government agency personnel are working remotely,” says HAI president and CEO James A. Viola. “We know our members need current information on the financial resources and regulatory programs available to help individuals and businesses cope. Getting information straight from the experts, and taking questions in real time, is a resource HAI can provide our industry when it needs it most.

“We knew that information specific to the rotorcraft community was available, but it was spread out,” adds Viola. “Many of our members run small businesses, and some have operations in one country but work globally. Why not bring the information to them so that they don’t have to search for it?”

Webinar topics so far have included the HAI members-only resources available on, regulatory issues, government financial assistance programs, and employment. Future webinars will address other industry-relevant topics, and participants are encouraged to submit subjects or questions they’d like HAI to address.

HAI@Work webinars take place at 4 pm EDT (UTC-4) every Thursday, although some rescheduling may become necessary to accommodate the schedules of the speakers. Videos of the webinars are available shortly after broadcast on the HAI YouTube page.

Weekly announcements about upcoming topics, including the web address for that week’s webinar, are available on HAI’s Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter social media channels.

Read More: HAI Committees Change Names, Gain Email Voting Option
January 17, 2020

The HAI Board of Directors is initiating a series of adjustments intended to bring the association in line with the best practices of similar organizations. One such change is meant to conform to general trade association standards: altering the name of HAI’s “committees” to “working groups.”

Within the structure of many associations, committees are formed by the board and comprise only board members, whereas working groups consist of other, nonboard members who perform board-directed tasks. This change, which takes effect immediately, in no way diminishes the much-appreciated efforts of HAI’s working group members.

Each HAI working group will continue to address the subjects for which it was created, and each will continue to function using its established structure and leadership. The groups assist the board in shaping the association’s policy positions; identifying industrywide practices; and providing programs that enhance safety, encourage professionalism, and foster economic viability while promoting the unique contributions vertical flight offers society.

Additionally, the HAI board has agreed to allow working group members to vote by email. This will allow them to remain close to home while participating in regular working group meetings. While at least one meeting of each group will be held every year at HAI HELI-EXPO®, subsequent meetings may take place during other events or when necessary.

For more information on HAI’s 12 working groups and their missions and members, visit

Read More: Helicopter Foundation International Changes Name
January 16, 2020

Helicopter Foundation International (HFI), HAI’s charitable arm, is undergoing a name change that more closely identifies the nonprofit organization’s role in supporting HAI missions. Effective Jan. 13, 2020, the name officially changed to the HAI Foundation.

“For many years, not everyone realized that HFI is directly connected to HAI, its parent organization,” says HAI President and CEO Jim Viola, who also serves in this role for the foundation. “This name change ties the two organizations more closely together, but the foundation’s mission and goals have not changed.”

The tax-exempt foundation also shares the same Board of Directors as HAI, with the goal of “preserving and promoting the rich heritage of vertical aviation while supporting the next generation of pilots and aviation maintenance technicians.” To achieve that goal, the foundation provides programs in three mission areas: education, safety, and historic preservation.

Most recently, the foundation has focused attention on the helicopter pilot and aviation maintenance technician shortage. It commissioned the HFI–University of North Dakota study, which was the first to document the labor shortage in the helicopter industry. Since that study was released, the foundation has been active in workforce development, holding industry forums and career roundtables addressing the issue.

The foundation has also worked closely with HAI’s Government Affairs Department, helping to initiate the Utah Rotor Pathway Program and providing information and guidance to other states interested in establishing similar educational programs. The foundation also annually awards 19 scholarships for student pilots and aviation maintenance technicians.

All donations to the HAI Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, are tax deductible in the United States. You can make a donation at to fund the foundation’s programs in education, safety, and historic preservation.