Read More: HAI on Social
June 08, 2020

An industry that’s safe together saves lives together! We shared our COVID-19 checklist on HAI’s social media platforms as a supplement to operators’ equipment manuals and company policies, and it received 2,127 engagements on Facebook. We’re ecstatic that our members and followers are prioritizing safety, whether for themselves, their colleagues, or their passengers during the pandemic. Continue to fly safe!

Read More: Untangling the East River Crash
June 08, 2020

A failure to “mitigate foreseeable risks” proves lethal.

Aviation’s approach to risk management has evolved into a two-pronged strategy:

  • Try to identify every potential failure point and update your equipment, systems, and procedures to reduce or eliminate those hazards
  • Devise strategies, preferably multilayered, for coping with whatever emergencies arise from the hazards that remain.

The results are safety features that have become so common that they’re taken for granted, from the redundancy of essential equipment to guards protecting flight-­critical switches to company procedures limiting pilot discretion in marginal weather.

And the risk mitigation process is necessarily iterative: when previously overlooked hazards or rare combinations of circumstances result in accidents or emergencies, the industry responds with a fresh round of analysis, ideally leading to further improvements.

Human nature and the high cost of equipment retrofits have made progress on some fronts very slow, but the long-term trend of aviation safety should arc toward the reduction of all risks not intrinsic to the act of flight itself.

The March 11, 2018, ditching of a Liberty Helicopters AS350 B2 in New York’s East River drew widespread attention for several reasons, from the sequence of events that brought down the ship to the peculiarly awful manner in which all five passengers lost their lives. The accident triggered renewed scrutiny of the controversial practice of claiming exemption under 14 CFR 119.1(e)(4)(iii) to operate air tours under Part 91 without a letter of authorization through advertising them as photo flights, a practice that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for many years has urged the FAA to ban.The incomplete inflation of the AS350 B2’s emergency floats prompted a fresh look at the rigging and maintenance of those systems. Most fundamental, though—and most damning—was the failure the NTSB called out as the first contributing factor in its finding of probable cause: the two operators’ “deficient safety management, which did not adequately mitigate foreseeable risks.”

Read More: Recent Accidents & Incidents
June 07, 2020

The rotorcraft accidents and incidents listed below occurred between Jan. 1 and Mar. 31, 2020. The accident details shown below are preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. All information was obtained through the official websites listed below, where you can learn more details about each event.

Australia – Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB):

Britain – Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB):

Canada – Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSBC):

New Zealand – Transport Accident Investigation Commission of New Zealand (TAIC):

United States – National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):

January 2020

Sud Aviation SE 3130 Alouette II
Mokelumne Hill, CA, USA
Jan. 4, 2020 | NTSB WPR20CA059
Injuries unknown | Flight type unknown
No description available.

Hughes OH-6A
Preston, GA, USA
Jan. 8, 2020 | NTSB ERA20LA071
1 injury, 0 fatalities | Aerial observation flight
Helicopter impacted terrain after loss of power.

Garlick UH-1H
Boydtown, NSW, Australia
Jan. 9, 2020 | ATSB AO-2020-003
1 injury, 0 fatalities | Firefighting flight
Helicopter lost power for undetermined reasons and impacted water.

Robinson R66
Mechanicsburg, PA, USA
Jan. 9, 2020 | NTSB ERA20FA074
0 injuries, 2 fatalities | Personal flight
Helicopter impacted terrain during night flight for undetermined reasons.

Bell 407
Lautaro, Chile
Jan. 13, 2020 | NTSB ENG20WA014
0 injuries, 0 fatalities | Commercial flight
No description available.

Bell 206L-4
Lac Saint-Jean, QC, Canada
Jan. 22, 2020 | TSBC A20Q0015
1 injury, 0 fatalities | Search-and-rescue flight
Helicopter impacted frozen lake during search-and-rescue mission.

Bell 407
Minot, ND, USA
Jan. 22, 2020 | NTSB CEN20LA068
0 injuries, 0 fatalities | Air medical flight
Helicopter impacted helipad perimeter fence while landing.

Robinson R22
Charlotte, TX, USA
Jan. 24, 2020 | NTSB CEN20LA066
1 injury, 0 fatalities | Aerial mustering / personal flight
Helicopter hit power line during aerial mustering operation.

Sikorsky S-76
Calabasas, CA, USA
Jan. 26, 2020 | NTSB DCA20MA059
0 injuries, 9 fatalities | Air taxi flight
Helicopter impacted hilly terrain.

February 2020

Airbus AS350 B3
Bulga, NSW, Australia
Feb. 5, 2020 | ATSB AO-2020-013
0 injuries, 0 fatalities | Aerial work flight
Rescue hoist failed for undetermined reasons.

Bell 407
Laishevo, TA, Russia
Feb. 7, 2020 | NTSB ANC20WA019
2 injuries, 1 fatality | Flight type unknown
No description available.

Robinson R44
Marfa, TX, USA
Feb. 14, 2020 | NTSB CEN20CA085
0 injuries, 0 fatalities | Aerial mustering flight
Helicopter impacted ground after striking wire fence.

Schweizer 269C
Ormond Beach, FL, USA
Feb. 17, 2020 | NTSB ERA20CA104
0 injuries, 0 fatalities | General aviation flight
Helicopter’s right skid impacted ground, and the aircraft rolled onto its right side.

Aérospatiale AS350
Tampa, FL, USA
Feb. 18, 2020 | NTSB ERA20CA106
0 injuries, 0 fatalities | General aviation flight
Helicopter departed taxiway after landing and came to rest in drainage ditch.

Bell OH-58A
Calexico, CA, USA
Feb. 18, 2020 | NTSB WPR20CA092
0 injuries, 0 fatalities | Agricultural flight
Helicopter lost lift for undetermined reasons.

Robinson R44
Talkeetna, AK, USA
Feb. 20, 2020 | NTSB ANC20CA023
Injuries unknown | Air taxi flight
No description available.

Innovator Mosquito Air
North Manchester, IN, USA
Feb. 23, 2020 | NTSB CEN20FA098
0 injuries, 1 fatality | Personal flight
Helicopter impacted terrain for unknown reasons.

Robinson R44
Astrakhan, Russia
Feb. 28, 2020 | NTSB ANC20WA031
0 injuries, 1 fatality | Flight type unknown
No description available.

March 2020

Bell 206
Clark, MO, USA
Mar. 4, 2020 | NTSB CEN20LA113
0 injuries, 0 fatalities | Air ambulance flight
Helicopter impacted terrain during forced landing after in-flight loss of engine power.

Eurocopter EC130
Kalapana, HI, USA
Mar. 5, 2020 | NTSB ANC20LA028
2 injuries, 0 fatalities | Sightseeing flight
Helicopter lost control, impacted terrain, and rolled over during precautionary landing.

Bell 206
Konstantinovsky Cape, Russia
Mar. 23, 2020 | NTSB ANC20WA035
1 injury, 1 fatality | Flight type unknown
No description available.

Bell 206
Chicureo, Chile
Mar. 24, 2020 | NTSB ERA20WA137
0 injuries, 1 fatality | Flight type unknown
No description available.

Read More: IIMC Battle Plan
June 07, 2020

Prepare for IIMC

  • Get Rated. Take the first step to surviving IIMC: get a rotorcraft instrument rating and maintain IFR flight proficiency in your type of aircraft.
  • Practice IIMC Recovery. Whether you’re a VFR- or IFR-rated pilot, practice realistic transitions into simulated IMC as often as you can, even if it’s only for a few minutes. If you can swing some hours in a Level D simulator, great. But don’t be a simulator snob; aviation training devices or desktop programs are also effective—and less expensive—ways to accomplish this training.
  • Fly IFR-Rated Aircraft. Whenever possible, fly IFR-certified aircraft equipped with autopilot and stability augmentation systems. Know how to use these systems and how to transition to them in flight.

Before You Take Off

  • Understand the Weather. Complete a thorough weather assessment before every flight using every modern tool available. Make sure you understand the weather conditions throughout your route and their implications for safe flight.
  • Know Your Route. Before takeoff, obsessively plan your route of flight, and make every effort to avoid areas susceptible to changing environmental conditions.
  • Create and Follow a Response Plan. Always have a clear plan for when you WILL return, divert, or land if your flight-control inputs change in response to environmental conditions. These en route decision points must always be clearly announced, observed, and supported by management, air crews, and customers as NONNEGOTIABLE.
  • Learn to Say No. Delay or cancel flights when the weather is questionable or could deteriorate, or if you’re just unsure you can continue the flight safely. Often, that gut feeling is trying to tell you something. Listen and conquer your desire to complete the flight at any cost. Professional pilots know when to say no.

During the Flight

  • Stay in VMC. Follow the FAA’s guidelines on how to remain in visual meteorological conditions (VMC) during a flight (see, pages 11–24 through 11–26 for more information): 
    • If the weather ahead appears questionable, slowly turn around BEFORE you’re threatened by deteriorating visual cues. Proceed back to VMC or to the first safe landing area.
    • Don’t proceed further when the terrain ahead isn’t clearly discernible. It’s called VFR for a reason.
    • Always have in mind a safe landing space (such as a large open area or airport) for every segment of the flight.
  • Follow Expert Guidance. If you do find yourself in the clouds, follow FAA guidance on how to respond to VFR flight into IMC. (A brief summary of these steps is included in this issue’s “5 Dos and Don’ts,” on p. 19.)
  • Be Calm and Confident. If you experience IIMC, remain calm and trust your instruments and your IFR/IIMC training. It will pay off.

Further Resources

The guidance available on dealing with IIMC is much too extensive to cover completely in this article. I strongly encourage all pilots to refer to the 2019 release of the FAA’s Helicopter Flying Handbook, FAA‑H‑8083‑21B. Chapter 11, pages 24–26, includes several updates that address how best to avoid and respond to VFR flight into IMC.

Additionally, the US Helicopter Safety Team has identified several helicopter safety enhancements focused on addressing the primary causes of fatal helicopter accidents, including IIMC. Visit

Read More: Unplanned VFR Flight into IMC: Stop the Insanity
June 07, 2020

What’s your IIMC battle plan?

It’s a quiet Sunday morning on Jan. 26, 2020. The HAI HELI-EXPO® flight operations teams located at Fullerton Municipal Airport (KFUL) and the Anaheim Convention Center patiently wait for the morning fog to lift to allow the second of two fly-in days to resume.

Yesterday’s 24 aircraft and their flight crews arrived safely. Once today’s weather clears, the remaining 24 will do the same. A successful start to another HAI HELI-EXPO.

The HAI team breathes a sigh of relief, but celebrations are respectfully muted. Only 50 miles north of the convention center, a fellow helicopter pilot and his eight passengers are reported down. The news is grim—no survivors. 

Since that fatal flight, we’ve learned the helicopter was operating under a special VFR clearance, causing news outlets and industry representatives to suggest that unfriendly meteorological conditions (UMC) could have been a factor in the accident. (For more on UMC and the tools aviators can use to address it, see the March/April 2020 issue of FAA Safety Briefing.) As in all active investigations, HAI withholds speculation and instead looks forward to the NTSB’s final accident report and proposed recommendations to enhance helicopter safety. 

Regardless of what’s ultimately revealed about the Calabasas tragedy, however, there’s reason for many to scratch their heads about certain accidents. VFR flight into marginal weather conditions, in particular, remains one of the most common causes of fatal accidents in the commercial helicopter industry.

Many argue that, in response, bold changes must come on the regulatory side. Others see it quite differently. Almost all, however, agree that something must be done to solve the problem. 

That pilots die each year from inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC) isn’t news, and the tips listed on p. 68 for combating IIMC are routinely recommended. But we mustn’t stop fighting.

“If not now, then when? If not us, then who?” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said at HAI’s Annual Membership Breakfast on Jan. 27 as he asked HAI members to join him in improving helicopter safety. And for my pilot readers, that’s certainly true when it comes to protecting yourself from the dangers of IIMC. If you don’t take action to avoid or survive your unplanned entry into IMC, then who or what will save you?

On the next page, we’ve provided you with an IIMC battle plan and the steps to execute it. What would you add? (See p. 16 for a look at how your industry peers say they deal with IIMC.)

These tips are provided to get us all thinking more actively about how we can avoid or survive unplanned entry into IMC. Statistics show that if we fail to prepare for battle against IIMC before all VFR flights, our chances of survival are severely diminished. 

Read More: PPE in These Unprecedented Times
June 07, 2020

During a global pandemic, personal protective equipment is hard to find—and still critical.

What a difference a month makes. Not long ago, many of us in my neck of the woods were counting the days until spring break, ready to cast away winter in favor of the great outdoors and warming temperatures. But then, on March 11, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, signaling a global health crisis and putting a clamp on both the present and the immediate future.

With so many people remaining at home, the crisis has had some obvious effects on the aviation industry, including reduced operations. But there’s another, perhaps less-recognized concern.

Read More: Meet Eugene Reynolds
June 07, 2020

Eugene Reynolds

Coupeville, Washington, USA

Current job: Assistant chief pilot for Life Flight Network, a medical transport company in the Pacific Northwest

First aviation job: UH-60 Black Hawk pilot for the US Army

Favorite helicopter: MH-47G Chinook (military); AW139 (commercial) 

How did you decide helicopter aviation was the career for you?
I knew I wanted to fly since I was in high school. After graduation, I obtained my private pilot’s license (ASEL) by working at an airport and trading my paycheck for flight time and instruction. I applied for the US Army Warrant Officer Flight Training Program, where I was introduced to the wonderful world of helicopters. Mastering these magnificent flying machines and helping others master them has been my life’s passion.

How did you get to where you are now?
I’d like to think it’s been because of hard work, learning from my mistakes, building and maintaining positive relationships, and always trying to be better today than I was yesterday.

What are your career goals?
My career goals include continuing to have fun doing what I love, serving as a chief pilot and a mentor, and continuing to teach and promote crew resource management (CRM) and safety throughout the industry in all I say and do. 

What advice would you give someone pursuing your career path?
Study, practice, read, trust but verify, never stop learning, foster strong relationships and networks, keep your character and reputation clean, help others … and treat your mechanics, teammates, coworkers, customers, superiors, subordinates, and all others with respect.

Who inspires you?
One deserves special mention, Randy Mains. Randy is probably one of the premier voices for helicopter CRM and air medical resource management in the United States, and the impact he’s had on helicopter and air medical crews throughout the industry is immeasurable. 

What still excites you about helicopters?
Going to work every day and flying these amazing machines. Seeing others succeed and grow professionally. Performing complicated tasks and operating well in challenging environments. 

What do you think are the biggest threats to the helicopter industry?
One of the biggest threats is pressure from organizations or customers that tempt operators to compromise on safety, operating practices, or training … to keep profits high. Lack of strong CRM programs and policies, using one pilot and one engine in operations where there probably should be two of both, and using old methods to train and employ new technology and procedures are other threats. 

Complete this sentence: I know I picked the right career when … 
I wake up each day excited to go to work, my students become safe and effective pilots, my crew members are happy to fly with me, my customers ask for me by name … and I know I’m truly happy doing what I’m doing.  

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 Names Rob Volmer VP of Marketing Communications
June 05, 2020

Robert M. Volmer has joined HAI as the vice president of Marketing Communications. In this role, Rob will oversee branding, messaging, research, technology, and media for the association.

“When I joined HAI, I told the Board of Directors that I wanted to overcommunicate to our members about what their association was doing to serve them.

Hiring Rob was part of that strategy,” says James A. Viola, HAI president and CEO. “Rob’s experience in communicating to a variety of audiences, including government, business, and the consumer, will help HAI demonstrate the value of our industry to the global community while providing additional member benefits.”

Rob comes to HAI with more than 20 years of experience in consumer and business-to-business product and brand marketing, government, public affairs, and corporate public relations. He is a founding partner of Crosby~Volmer International Communi­cations, a firm providing strategic communications services to companies, nonprofits, and associations. His clients there include Fortune 500 companies, foreign governments, and associations. Prior to Crosby~Volmer, Rob was manager of corporate communications at the Air Transport Association.

“Vertical flight aviation provides unique, essential services to people around the world. I’m excited to join the HAI team and play a part in telling that story,” says Rob. “I couldn’t resist the combination of innovation and opportunity that vertical flight represents, especially in this moment of seismic change in aviation.”

A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Rob is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma (go Sooners!). He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, three children, and for some inexplicable reason, a new puppy.

Read More: HAI Keeps Moving
June 05, 2020

No pandemic paralysis here

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many daily activities to a halt while simultaneously forcing us to isolate and grounding our economies. There are many parts of the helicopter and UAS industry that are powering on regardless. Although the tourism and charter sectors are seeing big changes, helicopter air ambulance and utility operators are still carrying out their essential missions. It’s at times like these that we realize how much helicopters do for society.

There’ve been some significant changes in the HAI world since Jim Viola took the helm as your president and CEO on Jan. 16. What a first 90 days he’s had! Six months ago, could we have predicted the world we now live in, the way in which everything has shifted so quickly?

And there’s more change to come. Together, the HAI Board of Directors is focusing on new ways to support you, the HAI member. Although for some change is difficult, it’s also inevitable and so should be embraced.

The HAI Board of Directors has added another layer of oversight to the association’s financial strategy by forming the Finance and Risk Committee. This new committee will assist the board in making sound financial decisions and creating focused budgets. The Finance and Risk Committee will appoint an independent financial consultant to work with the HAI CFO to demystify financial statements. The goal is to ensure good governance and the application of internal controls, policies, and procedures that highlight, identify, and manage all of HAI’s financial risks, safeguarding the sustainability of your association.

We’ve also made some changes to the HAI working groups. They’re now charged with some key performance indicators and time-specific action items that will benefit the HAI membership as well as the industry in general. For example, the Training Working Group is working to lower the number of accidents stemming from inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC) by developing industry best practices for keeping pilots in visual meteorological conditions and, when that isn’t possible, for developing IFR transition plans as part of the preflight process.

The Training Working Group is also producing four free courses about IIMC prevention and recovery that members can use in their everyday operations. I can’t wait to see what comes out of their efforts. Other HAI working groups are adjusting their focus to pursue similar projects.

The process for voting in HAI elections is also on our agenda. It’s about time we use technology in our elections and cast votes electronically—no need to hold up your little paddle. (We were going to have members vote by drone but thought that might be a little too soon!)

April saw the HAI Board of Directors meet via, where we all dialed in to meet “face-to-face” and carry out your association’s business. It’s a new way of doing business, and I have to say I won’t miss the jet lag. Sometimes change is good.

Be safe out there, both in the air and on the ground.