Read More: The Pressure to Fix
May 20, 2019

Pressuring maintenance technicians to rush helps no one.

Feeling pressure to fly is a common topic of conversation in aviation safety circles. Flying an aircraft while maintaining the expected level of safety for all aboard is complex and should command our full attention.

There are many policies and industry best practices aimed at preventing external stressors from affecting pilots and crewmembers. These stresses are many and varied. They may include personal stressors from home or family; work stresses from co-workers, bosses, and customers; or flight conditions such as the current or forecast weather.

But what about the pressure on maintenance technicians? The number of aircraft in service today has outpaced the supply of maintenance technicians, resulting in fewer mechanics to service an ever-growing fleet. They perform both mandated maintenance and unexpected repairs, often in a rapidly changing environment. In many cases, the people they work for are concerned about the amount of time the aircraft will be out of service or the cost of the work to be performed. 

Human factors are a direct cause of or a contributing factor to most aviation accidents, and we should not forget that this applies to maintenance technicians too. One simple way to prevent an A&P from feeling pressure is to give them the time and space to do their job.

I was recently asked to repair the engine of a Beech Debonair that had developed an internal gear problem. I accepted the task and assembled a capable team to assist me. This not only enabled me to get the job done faster but also provided redundant quality assurance.
 

Read More: Rotorcorp Serves the Global Market
May 20, 2019

Doing its part to keep Robinson helicopters flying.

Tucked back in a corner of Atlanta’s Fulton County Airport (KFTY), the Rotorcorp office is small and unassuming. You’d never guess that this humble operation maintains the largest in-stock inventory of Robinson Helicopter Company parts in the world.

An authorized service center for R22, R44, and R66 helicopters, Rotorcorp has just five employees. In addition to its Atlanta headquarters, the company also has maintenance facilities in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

In an industry where AOG is defined as “lost revenue,” Rotorcorp’s challenge is to process and ship orders to customers in more than 45 countries quickly and efficiently.

Read More: About This Issue
March 01, 2019

On the cover: Dan Sweet, HAI’s director of public relations and communications, set out to discover how the Robinson Helicopter Company captured top marks in customer service in a recent industry survey. While conducting interviews for the story that appears here, Dan shot Robinson’s test pilot Scot Woolums as he maneuvers a Robinson R66 through the skies above the Port of Long Beach in Southern California. 

Winter 2019 | Vol. 31 No. 4

©2019 Helicopter Association International. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ROTOR (ISSN) 0897-831X is published quarterly by Helicopter Association International, 1920 Ballenger Ave., 4th Flr., Alexandria, VA 22314‑2898.

Subscriptions: ROTOR is available by subscription (visit rotor.org/subscribe). Subscriptions are free to US residents; foreign residents pay a $20 annual postage charge.

Permissions: No part of this publication may be reproduced, adapted, used for commercial purposes, or distributed without prior written permission from HAI. 

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Disclaimers: All statements of fact and expressions of opinion by contributing authors are attributable to those authors alone and may not necessarily reflect the views of HAI. Moreover, HAI cannot guarantee the completeness or accuracy of information provided by contributing authors, and HAI will not accept liability for any injuries or damages caused to the reader that may result from the reader’s acting upon or otherwise relying upon the content contained in this publication. Readers are strongly advised to follow all instructions, to rely on their professional knowledge and experience, and to confirm any information presented in this publication before acting on the basis of such content.

The publisher has not tested any of the products advertised in this publication, nor has it verified any of the statements made in any of the advertisements.

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Read More: Pay it Forward
February 28, 2019

Support our industry and recruit the next generation.

I don’t know about you, but I love my job. Do I love everything about it? Absolutely not. Is there anything else in this world that I would rather be doing? Absolutely not. As I tell people every day, “Flying a helicopter sure beats working for a living.”

Our industry is currently suffering from a shortfall of qualified pilots and maintenance technicians. Low oil prices and the resulting downturn in the offshore sector somewhat masked this scarcity, but that will change in the future.

Unfortunately, our industry is competing for these folks with the airlines and, for a variety of reasons, the airlines are winning. For one, that industry is heavily vertically integrated—compare the 17 major air carriers in the United States with the thousands of helicopter operators. Large companies have more resources to address recruitment, including rotorcraft transition programs and beefed-up salary and benefit packages. They can also spread the cost of their workforce over 50 to 500 paying customers per flight, compared with zero to maybe 24 for our industry.

One way we can compete with the airlines’ big pockets is by advocating for our industry with the younger generation. And when I say “we,” I mean each one of us. This means promoting helicopter aviation in your local community, whenever you can, at events like school career days or in scouting programs. If every person in our industry took the time to mentor at least one individual and encourage him or her to enter helicopter aviation, we could make an impact.

Become a regular at your local airport and flight and maintenance schools. Talk about your passion for the helicopter industry and explain the opportunities we present. Offer to help with rotorcraft curriculum or with job searches for graduates. Just expressing an interest in these students will go a long way to encouraging people to consider our industry.

I’m closer to retirement than many, so I won’t see the worst of the shortage. But I am active in outreach because I am grateful to the pioneers who built this industry that has provided for me and my family for the past 50 years. Risking everything, they invested in the future of helicopters and thus provided opportunities for me and thousands of others. I feel an obligation to repay some of the blood, sweat, and tears that has been poured into this industry.

Another way to strengthen our industry is to support Helicopter Foundation International (HFI). The foundation annually offers up to 22 scholarships for aspiring pilots and maintenance technicians and sponsors several events at HAI HELI-EXPO® each year, such as the Military to Civilian Transition Workshop and the Helicopter Industry Career and Mentoring Fair. In addition to an Equipment Donation Program that will expand rotorcraft education at A&P schools, the foundation is also working to increase the number of high schools and postsecondary schools that offer helicopter-specific courses or instruction.

You can participate in the foundation’s several fundraising events at HAI HELI-EXPO 2019, such as its Online Silent Auction (rotor.org/auction) or its Scholarship Golf Tournament (rotor.org/golf). You can also support HFI throughout the year by visiting rotor.org/donate.

I would say, “Pay it forward,” but for me and many others, our efforts on behalf of the industry are more about how we can pay it back. We stand on the shoulders of giants; let’s give the next generation a hand up. 

Cheers,
Jim Wisecup
 

Read More: After 70 Years, Still Going Strong
February 28, 2019

Helicopter Association International (HAI) has been going strong for 70 years, representing the international helicopter community and its efforts to build a safe, sustainable industry. HAI remains focused on its primary mission: to support our members so they can “keep the rotors turning.” We do this by advocating against overburdensome regulations and legislation, and by supporting a safe, efficient operating environment that is economically sustainable.

Since HAI’s founding, our industry has proven its value to society time and again. The list of helicopter missions has expanded to include firefighting, helicopter air ambulance, search and rescue, electronic news gathering, building and maintaining the international power grid, disaster relief, and law enforcement, to name a few.

As our industry has matured, we have come to recognize that simple compliance with regulations, while essential, is not enough. Most regulations define the minimum expectations of safety and professionalism. HAI continues to advocate for the adoption of higher standards by our industry as an expression of our social and moral responsibility to the public, our customers and passengers, and our co-workers.

It is essential that we “do the right thing” when conducting our operations—always. Yes, safety is our No. 1 priority, but doing the right thing also includes mitigating our impact on the communities we fly over and operate within.

In the past decade, we have been lucky to be part of a major watershed moment for our industry: the advent of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones. HAI is focused on the safe integration of unmanned aircraft into an already-busy airspace.

Both industry and government are working to establish the appropriate technology, operating protocols, and safeguards for this new sector of aviation, and I believe we will be successful. UAS have already proven their utility in a variety of missions, and more innovations are on the horizon, such as eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft for urban air taxis.

I am, however, concerned about our ability to create the required infrastructure for these new ventures, such as takeoff and landing sites and access to airspace. Many ambitious proposals for air taxi operations have been unveiled, but it is unclear how the accompanying infrastructure will be developed.

The biggest obstacle facing the growth of the urban air mobility sector is the current regulatory and legislative climate, promoted by well-organized opponents of helicopter aviation, that pushes to restrict aircraft and heliport operations. If we ignore this reality and challenge, we do so at our own peril.

People who oppose helicopter operations mention noise and safety, but the issues are in fact complex, multifaceted, and beyond noise and safety. HAI is ready to sponsor and join in a robust discussion of these issues and to do our part to ensure a successful implementation of this new, exciting rotorcraft sector.

I would appreciate your thoughts regarding our current efforts. More importantly, if you have any additional issues or concerns that you would like HAI to address, please let me know.

That’s my story and I am sticking to it. Let me know what you think at tailrotor@aol.com.

As always, fly safe, fly neighborly—and keep those rotors turning! 

Best Regards,
Matt Zuccaro

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 cade.clark@rotor.org, 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: ROTOR Wash: HAI Briefs
February 28, 2019

Hold on … HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 is WHEN?

Attendees and exhibitors should start planning and budgeting for HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 in Anaheim now, because it’s already less than a year away. HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 will take place a few weeks earlier than normal, January 27–30, 2020, with the exhibit floor open January 28–30.

As you probably know, HAI rotates the location of the show, moving each year between large convention centers in a select group of cities. This gives industry operators and other companies the chance to participate in an Expo “in their own backyard” every few years. For 2020, it’s time to visit the West Coast of the United States.

HAI typically hosts its annual trade show in the southern tier of the United States, where the weather is more likely to cooperate for fly-ins and fly-outs. Surpris­ingly, Anaheim is the only convention center on the West Coast with the 1 million square feet of exhibit floor and meeting space required to put on HAI HELI-EXPO®, the world’s largest helicopter trade show and exposition.

Anaheim is historically one of the most popular destinations for HAI HELI-EXPO attendees. The combination of weather, world-class attractions, easy access, and unbeatable industry networking and education will make for a productive and memorable show.

So plan to come to HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 a bit earlier than usual. Start your year and decade strong in warm, sunny, fun Anaheim.
 

Read More: "The Challenge We Have Across Aviation is Dealing with Automation"
February 28, 2019

A challenge for Earl Lawrence, who took over as the FAA’s new Executive Director for Aircraft Certification in early December, is dealing with new technology—in both manned and unmanned aircraft, and especially in the National Airspace System, where the two will meet. ROTOR asked Lawrence about those big challenges ahead.

How will your shop help the helicopter industry comply with the 18-month window for crash-resistant fuel systems equipage set by the 2018 FAA bill?

Lawrence: It’s a tough deadline for us all. But I think that as long as both industry and the FAA keep focused on the safety missions we’re trying to achieve, we’ll do well. What we’re focused on here in our aircraft certification offices is really expediting, or putting to the top of the list, any of the projects that we have for certification or validation.

By not moving more quickly to approve IFR equipage in single-engine helicopters, have we missed an opportunity to improve safety?

Yes, it is a missed opportunity. We are working hard to figure out a way we can take advantage of that opportunity now and improve safety in those aircraft. As with anything, it’s not easy. Some of those opportunities require rule changing, which takes time. Other things we can do with policy and procedure changes. We’re looking to use those where we can.

What are your takeaways from the FAA reauthorization bill as it pertains to certification reform?

Congress, the FAA, and the industry are all on the same page. Congress is asking us not just to streamline our certification processes, but as much as possible, to allow the manufacturers enough latitude to certify their products faster. But at the same time, they’re telling the FAA we also must create a system of checks and balances, a system that is based on performance objectives and metrics.

What level of technology will the FAA require to allow UAS, or drones, to regularly operate beyond line of sight? 

There are beyond visual line-of-sight operations done every day in the United States already. But they are being done by professionals under a good set of procedures that we find acceptable in ensuring that there will not be a midair collision. Drone operators need the same level of training and rigor that other professional operators in the same airspace get.

When people in conventional aviation hear about the thousands of flying cars that will be operating “very soon,” they feel those reports underestimate the complexities involved. What will it take to make that happen? 

We’ve got to go back to the core issue: we don’t want to have midair collisions. So what are the things you can do to prevent that midair collision? For many missions you don’t need detect-and-avoid. At least we don’t need a box that does that. You do need detect-and-avoid in a broader system that will continue to include humans.

Aircraft certification is not looking around for some magical device because there is no magical device that solves it all. People are involved in this. And we have procedures and rules that that will always be part of it. It’s going to be a system. 

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