Read More: Zuccaro Retires as HAI President and CEO
January 20, 2020

Tenure marked by financial growth and safety advocacy.

It’s the end of an era at HAI, as the association bids farewell to its sixth president, Matthew S. Zuccaro. Matt officially retired on Jan. 15, 2020, although he will still attend HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 as a consultant for the HAI Board of Directors.

Matt joined the HAI professional staff in November 2005, after a long career as a pilot, operator, and aviation executive, including a stint as chairman of the HAI Board of Directors in 1991. As president and CEO, he was responsible for executing the vision of the HAI Board of Directors and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the association.

Since 2005, under Matt’s leadership, the association has grown HAI HELI-EXPO® into the world’s largest helicopter trade show. When HAI outgrew its headquarters, Matt led the effort to purchase a four-story office building in Alexandria, Virginia, where the association is headquartered today. Both moves were part of a strategy to provide the association with a stable financial foundation that would underwrite its membership services.

During Matt’s tenure, HAI has been a forceful advocate for its members on regulatory and legislative issues. When topics such as veterans’ flight-training benefits, air traffic control privatization, user fees, and the safe integration of drones into the airspace were debated, Matt and his team were there—frequently as the only ones representing the helicopter industry’s concerns.

HAI has also actively worked across the entire aviation spectrum to improve safety in helicopter operations. From brokering the successful launch of ADS-B services in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009, to serving as the industry co-chair of the International Helicopter Safety Foundation, to providing safety tools, education, and resources for pilots, operators, and mechanics and engineers, Matt has left no doubt that safety is a core value for HAI.

Read More: 8th Annual Photo Contest Winners
January 17, 2020

A series of striking photographs that reflect the beauty, power, and whimsy of the vertical lift community have been selected as winners of HAI’s eighth-annual ROTOR Magazine Photo Contest.

In addition to being featured in this issue, the grand-prize winner and four category winners were displayed at HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 in Anaheim, California, in January 2020. The winners also received a cash prize ($500 for the grand prize and $100 to each category winner).

Thank you to the hundreds of photographers from around the world who entered the contest.
Special recognition goes to this year’s Honorable Mention, Bernhard Stachelberger of Vienna,
Austria, whose photo graces the front cover of this issue’s print edition.

Reviewing the photos submitted for the contest is one of the more fun “tasks” that we do
here at the magazine. The only thing better than looking at these aircraft would be to take one
for a ride.

The ROTOR Photo Contest will reopen on Aug. 1, 2020; start taking your winning shots
now, and submit at!

Grand Prize

Fabio Piacenza
Venegono Superiore, Lombardy, Italy

This superbly composed shot took this year’s Grand Prize as the top photo submitted in the 2020 ROTOR Magazine Photo Contest. The moody atmospherics and soft curves of nature contrast beautifully with the Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma, highlighted as it emerges from the white mist near the former Mollis Air Base in Switzerland.

One of the judges, also a professional aviation photographer, gave Fabio Piacenza the best compliment one photographer can give another, saying, “I wish I had taken that photo.”

Helicopters/Drones at Work

Papillon Helicopters
Boulder City, Nevada, USA

This photo of a Papillon Helicopters Eurocopter EC130 flying over Lake Powell, in Page, Arizona, won the Helicopters/Drones at Work category, which is reserved for photos of aircraft in action. The judges chose this image, taken by Desiree Webb, for its sheer beauty, showing off both the landscape and the aircraft to their best advantage.

Helicopters/Drones in the Military

Ron Kellenaers
Horst, Limburg, the Netherlands

Ron Kellenaers shot this photo of a Royal Netherlands Air Force Eurocopter AS532 Cougar, which won the Helicopters/Drones in the Military category, as it picked up troop members at a training area in the Netherlands.

Like the best photos, Kellenaers’s image conveys a wonderful immediacy that puts the viewer right there. You can almost feel the grit in your eyes, blown up by the rotor downwash.

People and Their Helicopters/Drones

James DeBry
Cedar City, Utah, USA

This photo, which won the People and Their Helicopters/Drones category, was taken at the hangar of Southern Utah University’s (SUU) College of Aerospace Sciences and Technology.

James DeBry and his colleagues at SUU worked to create this playful image as part of the Tetris Challenge. That meme, which began with law enforcement and military groups, shows personnel, supplies, and equipment unpacked and arranged in a grid pattern. The photo also depicts, as DeBry notes, “just about everything a person needs to become a helicopter pilot.”

Read More: Community Engagement: The LA Helicopter Success Story
December 10, 2019

Southern California rotorcraft operators, pilots address community concerns over noise.

This is a good-news, everybody-wins success story in an industry that needs one. Once operating under a congressional mandate to address helicopter noise issues in the greater Los Angeles area, the LA helicopter industry has successfully staved off the looming threat of being regulated out of existence.

Led by volunteers from the Professional Helicopter Pilots Association (PHPA) and the Los Angeles Area Helicopter Operators Association (LAAHOA)—both proud HAI affiliates—LA-area pilots and operators accomplished this victory the hard way: They listened to what the other side had to say. They documented the problems. They conducted extensive outreach and education efforts with homeowner groups and legislators. They also worked to educate the LA rotorcraft community about the importance of minimizing their noise impact—and provided specific techniques for how to do that.

Hard work, yes, but with a big payoff. The once-tense relationship between homeowner groups and the helicopter community has improved so much that in April 2019 they joined together to request that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors allocate funds to continue operation of the Automated Helicopter Noise Complaint System (ACS).

You are likely asking why on earth any self-respecting helicopter pilot would advocate for a way to make it easier for people to complain about their flights. To understand this, let’s look at how we got to where we are today.

Read More: Helicopter OEMs Bring Aviation Experience to UAM Arena
December 10, 2019

Flying taxis in 2023? Aircraft manufacturers say, "Not so fast."

Not since the 1940s and 1950s have so many companies been working so feverishly on new ways to fly from one place to another.

Around 70 years ago, dozens and dozens of companies—from well-established manufacturers to thinly financed entrepreneurs working out of their barns and tool sheds—were rushing to bring to market workable and economically viable vehicles called “helicopters.” What that new aircraft would look like and how it would operate was still very much in flux. (You can read more about that period in helicopter history—when a collective might be a ­re­purposed motorcycle grip or resemble bicycle handlebars suspended from the roof of the cockpit—in the Trailblazers section of the Helicopter Foundation International website,)

Now, a similarly large contingent of companies—more than 150 at last count—is seeking to build what will be the first successful “flying taxis,” or urban air mobility (UAM) vehicles. These efforts range from shoestring attempts mounted by experienced but cash-poor engineers to the self-financed passion projects of billionaires to high-visibility programs mounted by Fortune 500 public companies.

Not all of these would-be makers of flying taxis will succeed. But perhaps a half dozen or more may introduce vehicles capable of flying one or two people, or some relatively light cargo, around major metropolitan areas. Other companies now toiling on potential UAM aircraft almost certainly will be able to sell some of their expertise, research findings, and technical innovations to better-financed, more experienced companies that eventually will become serious competitors in the fledgling market.

There’s also substantial likelihood that long-respected and deep-­pocketed aviation manufacturers—particularly those with considerable experience building helicopters—will take over development of UAM aircraft or otherwise acquire the technologies necessary to mass-produce them. In any case, however the market sorts itself out, it inevitably will take a few years longer than was originally forecast.

Read More: One Flight at a Time
December 10, 2019

It’s early June in Orem, Utah, 6,000 feet above sea level, 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, and a warm day barely breaks 70 degrees. To the northeast, rising another mile into the clear blue sky, is Mount Timpanogos, second-highest peak in the Wasatch Range, its rocky slopes speckled with trees and still draped in snow. I’m too far away to smell the Great Salt Lake, but not so far that the sky doesn’t sport clusters of gulls riding a breeze from the north.

Occasionally, a helicopter takes people to explore the mountain.

For some, it’s the start of a journey.

Read More: Understanding Your Aircraft Systems
December 10, 2019

Knowing how your ship works gives you more options when mechanical issues arise.

During my time as a helicopter flight instructor, I stressed to my students the importance of learning, in great detail, the systems of the aircraft they were flying. Pilots who know their aircraft’s systems are better equipped to both detect and troubleshoot mechanical issues.

This belief stems in part from my own training, both flight and A&P, where many of my instructors were seasoned World War II pilots and mechanics—two piloted Boeing B-17s, and another served as a flight engineer on the massive Convair B-36. (If you have a chance, take a look at the flight engineer’s panel in the movie Six Turning, Four Burning to grasp the complexity of the B-36 systems.) My instructors’ knowledge of aircraft systems was extraordinary, and they would regularly share with student pilots and mechanics the importance of knowing all you can about aircraft systems.

Aircraft Systems and Components

Let’s start with the basics. You should be able to answer the following questions about the function and operation of each of the essential systems and components listed in “Light piston helicopters,” below:

  • What is it?
  • What does it do?
  • How does it do it?

Read More: Jan Becker: Leading the Way
September 03, 2019

First female, international chair in decades sees new opportunity for HAI.

Jan Becker is a dizzying mix of practical skills and boundary-pushing innovator, a combination not always seen together. Consider her various positions: registered nurse and midwife; commercial helicopter pilot; CEO of Becker Helicopters, an Australian helicopter operator and flight school; founder of Midwife Vision, a charity supporting child and maternal health in Tanzania; and PhD candidate studying the role of midwives in sub-Saharan Africa.

On July 1 of this year, Jan added yet another role to the mix: she is the 2019–20 chair of HAI. Jan is not the first woman or first non-US citizen to lead the association, but she is the first to do so in decades. And if Jan has anything to do with it, she won’t be the last.


Read More: HAI 2019–20 Board of Directors
September 03, 2019

The HAI Board of Directors for 2019–20 was installed on July 1, 2019. A reception was held in Alexandria, Virginia, at the end of June to welcome the new board, connect with local HAI members, and offer a hearty thank-you to HAI’s volunteer leaders.
During the reception, outgoing board chairman Jim Wisecup (at right in photo) presented David Bjellos with a plaque expressing HAI’s appreciation of his volunteer work over the years. Bjellos, a pilot and aviation manager for Florida Crystals Corporation, has served on the HAI Board of Directors since 2013 and has worked closely with several committees, including the Environment / Fly Neighborly Committee. Although no longer chairman, Wisecup retained his board seat and is serving as the association’s assistant treasurer for the coming year.

Read More: The Helicopter Caucus
September 03, 2019

Who understands our industry on Capitol Hill? They do.

According to our research, of the 435 representatives and 100 senators in the US Congress, just six have piloted a helicopter and only one has worked as an aviation maintenance technician. These men and women are literally the 1%.

These distinguished men and women include helicopter pilots Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Reps. Ralph Abraham of Louisiana, Jack Bergman of Michigan, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Chris Stewart of Utah. These legislators responded to our questions, and we feature them here.

Rep. Mickie Sherrill of New Jersey, a former US Navy helicopter pilot, was not available for comment. Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia, the lone congressman with experience in aviation maintenance, also could not reply. If we failed to include any other member of Congress with experience in helicopter aviation, we regret the omission.