2019 Summer Issue

The Magazine of Helicopter Association International

About the Cover
ROTOR Staff 2019 Summer

Photographer Sarah Jane Smith shot Jan Becker in front of a Bell 206B-3 in Marcoola, Queensland, Australia. The CEO of Becker Helicopters, Jan is also the chair of HAI for 2019–20. Read more about Jan’s multiple passions in her letter on p. 8 and in a profile beginning on p. 28. 

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Anonym 2019 Summer

In 1938, German medical student Hanna Reitsch became the first woman in the world to fly a helicopter, earning her status as Whirly Girl #1. She demonstrated the first functional helicopter design that could be flown precisely.

Igor Sikorsky took flight in 1939 in the first practical helicopter, which utilized a single main rotor and tail rotor, the most common helicopter design we see today.

In 1945, the Bell 47 first flew. I took my flight training in a Bell 47, and this iconic model—my all-time favorite—was the first aircraft I flew solo.

A handful of operators and Art Fornoff, a representative from Bell Helicopter, met in 1948 at the offices of AF Helicopters in Burbank, California, to form a helicopter association for the collective benefit of all operators in the new industry. This first meeting of helicopter operators was the birth of HAI.

On July 1 of this year, I became the first female chair of HAI from outside of the United States. (I’m not the first female chair to lead the association; Elynor Rudnick accomplished that milestone in 1955.) But just as in our industry, we are now seeing more and more women becoming active and taking leadership roles in our association. Helicopter pilot Stacy Sheard is the vice chair, meaning that half of the Executive Committee leading HAI this year is female.

This won’t make any difference in the way the HAI conducts itself, but it does represent another milestone in helicopter aviation, another way our industry is becoming more diverse and utilizing talent, best practices, and good ideas wherever they are found. This is what HAI represents, and this is what I am proud to be a part of.

Our industry is not done making firsts. The times, they are still a-changing. Today we are learning to work alongside the new emerging drone industry and trying to keep pace with the rapidly advancing technology that seems to be daily added to our machines.

On top of this is the change in community attitudes. Helicopters are no longer viewed as amazing devices that do good things for our communities. That torch seems to be passing to the drone industry. Instead, we are increasingly seen as noisy, dangerous things associated with disasters and destruction.

As we look to the future, HAI will continue its efforts to embrace helicopter operators and associations in other countries so that we are truly international. The problems of drone integration and concerns about noise and safety are not isolated to one country. Let’s work together to find collective solutions for these global issues.

Public attitudes have turned against us, so we have to look at ways to turn that around. Let’s get our communities back on board with our operations, so that when someone looks up and sees a helicopter, they again say, “Wow, I want to do that for a living.” Our industry needs to encourage more pilots and maintenance technicians into this addictive career.

We accomplish amazing things in our flying machines, and this needs to be championed. The world needs more people dominated by passion, enthusiasm, and the desire to be better, and I’ve got a very good idea of where they can be found—in helicopters.

Fly safe, 


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Utah Gets Moving on Workforce Development
Cade Clark 2019 Summer

Its Rotor Pathways Program could show other states the way.

Washington, D.C., is a town full of ideas and “solutions” to the many problems we face. However, finding a resolution for an issue as large as workforce development for the helicopter industry may require changing national policy on education and training. And perhaps you haven’t noticed, but things can move pretty slowly inside the Beltway.

However, let’s not forget the states and their power to create their own solutions. With their smaller scale, states can be more nimble, more experimental than the larger federal government. One example of this agility is the exciting Utah Rotor Pathways Program: a public-private partnership that brings together the Utah rotorcraft industry, educators, and government to increase rotorcraft educational opportunities for students in that state.

Utah is a state that values its industries, its workforce, and the heart of the matter, its people. A large segment of the helicopter industry in Utah consists of air medical, firefighting, and training operations. With its large rural stretches, mountainous terrain, and weather, helicopter companies in Utah are conducting highly skilled operations that require well-trained pilots and technicians.

According to a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Contribution of General Aviation to the US Economy in 2013, the total economic output of general aviation in Utah is $2.2 billion. The helicopter industry contributes to that figure, and its firefighting capabilities further provide value to this semi-arid western state.

HAI approached the Utah governor’s office last year to brief his staff on the helicopter industry in Utah and our workforce shortage. In our initial meeting with Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and staff representing Gov. Gary Herbert, I discussed the 2018 Helicopter Foundation International (HFI) study that documented the problem. I outlined our findings from the HFI-sponsored HeliFutures forums, where industry stakeholders met to discuss their efforts to attract and retain pilots and maintenance technicians.

I was glad that I could report that our industry recognized the seriousness of the issue and was already working on solutions. Folks are more likely to help when they see that you are investing your own resources to improve the situation.

Cox immediately understood the usefulness and impact of the helicopter industry and how supporting it could benefit his state. Before I was on my flight back to D.C., we had agreed to move forward with a plan to bring more pilot and maintenance technician students into the pipeline. In other words, we had the initial glimmers of a workforce development plan that would become the Utah Rotor Pathways Program.

Bringing more pilots and maintenance technicians into the industry is the program’s goal. Its workforce development strategy is to provide more Utah high school and post-secondary students with access to rotorcraft education. The idea is simple: if more students are exposed to rotorcraft aviation, more of them will choose careers in the helicopter industry.

It’s a straightforward concept that allows for great flexibility in delivery. The program teams industry, high schools, post-secondary schools such as colleges and technical schools, and other stakeholders. I’m sure there are some teaming variations yet to be discovered.

Universities can team up with a local high school to teach rotor-specific aviation flight training and technician classes, where high school students learn the basics and gain college credit in the process. High school students will also have opportunities to work with industry partners in a variety of roles, such as job shadowing, internships, and mentoring. Once students graduate from the university system, they have an opportunity to interview with industry partners.

An important role for industry is to work with education partners to ensure the skills they need are being taught. In today’s ­educational environment, where post­secondary schools are required to track and report their job placement metrics, this type of cooperation with industry is welcomed.

While the Utah Rotor Pathways Program is in the very initial stages of implementation, we already have some great success. First, we have more than 40 members representing 22 different program partners, ranging from local helicopter operators focusing on air medical and heavy lift, to universities, flight schools, tour operators, and local government agencies. It is exciting to see such enthusiasm by all stakeholders and a desire to work together to solve our workforce issue at a local level.

Second, we have teamed up with Cedar Valley High School, in Eagle Mountain, Utah, which will hold its grand opening this August. In addition to the traditional high school curriculum, the Aviators, as they are called, will offer students rotor-specific ­education in both pilot and maintenance tracks. 

This school’s students will be some of the first to benefit from the Utah Rotor Pathways Program. For aviation curriculum and other educational resources, the Aviators have teamed up with two of our program members, Southern Utah Uni­versity (SUU) and Utah Valley University. The grand opening ceremony will host a number of prominent Utah elected officials and dignitaries, and will include numerous flyovers by local Utah helicopter companies. From Day 1, ­rotary-wing aviation will be a central theme of this school!

Third, the Utah Rotor Pathways Program has applied for and won state government grants. It’s great to talk about teaming up and teaching that or doing this, but without resources, not much can be done. Program participants were eligible to apply for a grant for workforce development from the Utah Department of Workforce Services. 

SUU was awarded a grant for $103,000 to implement a program to provide hands-on aviation electronics training and online training. These resources will be used in local high schools to bring rotor training to a new generation of students who might otherwise never have been exposed to our industry.

Our next step as a program will be to apply to the Strategic Workforce Initiative, which is a funding source from the Utah legislature. The grants will provide ongoing money to implement and run high school rotor education programs, duplicating the Cedar Valley model in high schools throughout the state.

Why is this program working in Utah? We found leaders in industry, education, and government willing to think outside the box. University flight schools committed to teaching the next generation and were willing to partner with local high schools. Industry partners were willing to step up and get involved. Lastly, state officials were willing to fund educational opportunities that connect its citizens with technical careers in an industry that desperately needs them, while supporting Utah’s aviation industry.

Think this approach to workforce development could work in your state? Reach out to me (cade.clark@rotor.org), and let’s discuss. Let’s move forward to solve our industry’s workforce shortage.

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ROTOR Wins Design Award
ROTOR Staff 2019 Summer

ROTOR Magazine was recently recognized for design excellence by the Association of Media and Publishing (AM&P). At the June 24 Excel Awards gala, the ROTOR design team received a Bronze Excel Award for Magazine Redesign for magazines in the 20,001-50,000 copies circulation category.

The ROTOR design team was composed of editor Gina Kvitkovich, assistant editor Jenna Scafuri, and graphic designer Phyllis Utter from HAI, and a team of outside designers from BonoTom Studio. As part of the project, the team adopted a new nameplate (or logo) for ROTOR, new fonts and layout grids, as well new paper.

The team also reorganized the content of the magazine, placing less emphasis on HAI internal departments and more on the types of content requested by readers. A column on training (Keeping Up) was added. ROTOR now covers helicopter accidents and incidents. Several columns focus on the people and businesses that make up our industry, including Field Notes, Future Faces, Flight Path, and In the Spotlight.

Our Fly Safe and Work Safe columns are aimed at pilot safety and workplace safety, respectively, adopting the team-based approach to safety that reflects safety management system principles. And we instituted this section, ROTOR Wash, as a place for HAI news, short interviews, industry data, and helpful tips—all aimed at helping you to keep your rotors turning.

Stay tuned—the ROTOR media team has more changes coming your way.

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HAI Hires John Shea as Government Affairs Director
ROTOR Staff 2019 Summer

Strengthening its advocacy efforts and building on its track record of legislative wins for the helicopter industry, HAI has hired John Shea as its new director of government affairs.

Shea will track at the state and federal levels all legislative developments related to the helicopter industry. Reporting to Vice President of Government Affairs Cade Clark, Shea will meet with US congressional staff to advocate for HAI members on helicopter and general aviation issues.

Shea comes to HAI from the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO), where he served as director for government relations in 2019 and as interim president in 2018. For NASAO, he coordinated advocacy and legislative efforts with Congress and federal agencies, and established the association’s legislative positions, goals, and timelines.

“His background of Hill experience and working with state-level officials means that John has a solid grounding in aviation issues,” Clark says. “By bringing him on, HAI has expanded our advocacy bandwidth tremendously.” Clark expects that Shea’s familiarity with the FAA, knowledge and experience in government affairs, and deep experience in association management and operations will enable him to quickly become an effective member of the HAI advocacy team.

“HAI’s advocacy efforts have resulted in big wins for our industry, such as when we successfully advocated against the privatization of air traffic control. But we can’t rest on past accomplishments,” says HAI President and CEO Matt Zuccaro. “Hiring John Shea is one way to communicate to the world at large that we intend to fight for our members.”

Before joining NASAO, Shea was a congressional staffer for several years. His legislative portfolio included commerce, financial services, homeland security, trade, and transportation.

Shea will bolster HAI’s advocacy efforts in the following areas:

  • Strengthening federal and state initiatives to pursue workforce development for future helicopter pilots and maintenance technicians
  • Preserving access to airspace for helicopter operations throughout the National Airspace System (NAS)
  • Ensuring veterans keep their flight­training benefits
  • Aiding the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the NAS.


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Helicopter Air Medical Safety Conference Held May 8–9
ROTOR Staff 2019 Summer

HAI, the Association of Air Medical Services, and the Air Medical Operators Association recently hosted a Helicopter Air Medical Safety Conference in Arlington, Virginia. The three associations invited executives, managers, pilots, and maintenance technicians from helicopter air ambulance operations (HAA) to meet and discuss their issues and challenges.

On Day 1, several panel discussions reviewed regulatory items stemming from the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, preemption threats to air medical operators, and the FAA’s legal perspective of these issues.

After lunch provided by the host associations, the conference resumed with a panel discussion on the impact of the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, or drones) into the National Airspace System. As HAA operations often fly at the same low altitudes where drones are commonly found, this discussion focused on containing the dangers posed by UAS to air medical transport providers.

Brendan Schulman, vice president for policy and legal affairs at DJI, the world’s leading civilian drone manufacturer, told attendees what his company is doing to protect the skies in the drone era. The company recently announced that it will install ADS-B receivers in all DJI drones weighing more than 0.55 lb, enabling them to be located, tracked, and in some cases, diverted. 

The day’s presentations concluded with one on managing the high-risk environment of helicopter air ambulance operations. A networking reception followed.
Day 2 of the conference began with opening remarks from the host association presidents and breakfast. Next, the FAA started a conversation around air medical accident statistics, giving audience members the data necessary to understand where the accidents are happening and perhaps a vision of where to look for solutions.

Next up was a presentation on recent air medical accidents by Bruce Landsberg, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, who also provided his perspective on safety and accident prevention gained from years of investigating aircraft accidents. HAI President and CEO Matt Zuccaro then spoke on corporate safety culture and how the business end of operations can influence decision-making at the user level, leading to unintended consequences and accidents.

After lunch and on the home stretch of Day 2, attendees heard about HAA legislative initiatives. Next, Chris Hill, HAI director of safety, introduced the HAI Aviation Reporting Program (HARP). This app provides one-stop reporting for all things hazardous to helicopter aviation, including bird and laser strikes and drone events. Visit rotor.org/harp to learn more.

The final presentation of the conference was by representatives of the Helicopter Occupant Protection Working Group, an FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee that recently concluded its work. Attendees learned about fuel cell development, drop testing, fuel breakaway fittings, energy-absorbing seats, and the engineering involved in making our equipment safer for us.

Each panel and presentation created spirited discussion, often spurred on by the expertise that existed in the audience. The ability to meet others engaged in HAA operations and to discuss issues collaboratively is a valuable tool in reaching our industry’s goal of zero accidents. HAI is already planning to make the Helicopter Air Medical Safety Conference an annual event.

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HAI Launches Aviation Job Page with Help from JSirm.com
ROTOR Staff 2019 Summer

HAI announced the launch of its newest Partner Service membership benefit with JSfirm.com: a searchable, interactive database of aviation job postings from domestic and international companies. This partnership stems from both organizations’ shared goal of solving the shortage of qualified aviation professionals and offers HAI members a new, dynamic tool to promote their employment opportunities.

Visit rotor.org/resources/aviation-jobs to access the database and its list of thousands of aviation job from companies around the world. Job-seekers can post resumes, and companies can post job opportunities. The database is searchable by keyword, company, location, or job type.

“We’ve talked about the helicopter pilot and maintenance technician shortage quite a lot,” says HAI President and CEO Matt Zuccaro. “This partnership is a valuable workforce development tool that will assist our members in matching qualified candidates for their open positions. An HAI Member icon identifies jobs posted by our members, giving job-seekers the knowledge that the position is with a company that is committed to the highest standards of our industry. In addition, a helicopter icon marks those positions that are helicopter-specific.”

“Our new partnership with HAI will provide HAI members with added value. Through HAI’s network, we will enhance our ability to make jobs readily accessible to current and future helicopter professionals,” says Abbey Hutter, manager of marketing and partnerships, JSfirm.com.

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Focus on Flight
ROTOR Staff 2019 Summer

Don’t let commitments at your destination overrule your commitment to fly safely.

“In my 37 years of aviation, I have never made a hotel reservation—and so I’ve never pressed on to make that reservation when I shouldn’t have. Think twice before making commitments that create pressure for you to finish a flight. Once you establish an expectation of making it to that party, that dinner, that meeting, that hotel, you may cut corners on safety … and may only make it to your funeral instead.”

Bruce Webb, director of aviation education and community outreach, Airbus

What do you do to ensure a safe, professional flight? Send your safety tip to safety@rotor.org.

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