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: Pilot and Mechanic Shortage Looms
May 13, 2018

During the next 18 years, the US helicopter industry will experience a shortage of more than 7,600 pilots, according to a study conducted by the University of North Dakota (UND), in partnership with Helicopter Foundation International (HFI) and HAI. The study also projects a shortage of 40,600 aviation mechanics in the United States during the same period.

Presented at a news conference at HAI HELI-EXPO 2018 in Las Vegas, the UND-HFI Rotorcraft Pilot and Mechanic Supply Forecast confirmed industry suspicions regarding labor force trends and highlighted the need for drastic changes to ensure industry growth and viability into the future.

Compiled from a survey of 250 helicopter companies and operators and tying responses together with historical data and forecasts, including FAA records of current pilot and airframe and powerplant (A&P) licenses, the study is the most comprehensive to date focusing on the helicopter industry’s labor trends. (Visit rotor.org/UND-HFI to view or download the study results and the executive summary; more study results are on pp. 54–55.)

“We commissioned this study because we wanted to provide documented proof of the shortage, not just ‘heard on the street,’” says Matt Zuccaro, who is president and CEO of both HAI and HFI. “The numbers indicate we have the potential for a serious shortage. We as an industry must start addressing this issue and finding creative ways to attract and keep our workforce in the helicopter industry.”

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