2020 Quarter 4

The Magazine of Helicopter Association International

What changes have you made since experiencing—or narrowly avoiding— an aviation accident?
Christine DeJoy 2020 Q4

Experiencing an accident or near miss can be a wake-up call—time to go back to basics, dust off that procedures manual, or get additional training. To find out what changes our readers have made since experiencing an accident or close call, ROTOR anonymously surveyed them in September. After reading their suggestions, why not cut out the accident and go straight to improving your flight routine?

More Preflight Inspections, Better CRM. Overwhelmingly, performing a preflight inspection or walk-around is the top change our readers have made post-accident or -incident: 77% of our 31 respondents (24 people) say they now always conduct the safety procedure. Certainly, we hope the 23% of respondents who didn’t select this answer didn’t because they were already conducting walk-arounds, an essential aspect of safe flight.

Exercising better crew resource management (61%, or 19 individuals) and always completing a stabilized hover check before departure (also 61%) are the next most common changes. And 32% now always use a flight risk assessment tool (FRAT) since having had an accident or near miss.

Taking Initiative. Most of our respondents say they’ve taken the initiative to learn on their own since their accident/event. More than half say they’ve changed their personal-minimum criteria to a higher standard (58%, or 18 respondents), and a similar amount now make time for personal aviation study (55%, or 17 readers). Nearly a third of respondents (29%, or 9) have requested additional training with an instructor.

Already Doing That. The least-selected changes our readers have adopted in response to an accident or near-accident are to (1) always complete the required maintenance procedure card without any interruptions or distractions (13%, 4 respondents); (2) always complete a quality-assurance check after maintenance procedures that mandate one (26%, 8 people); and (3) adopt, or increase the frequency with which they practice, in-aircraft and/or simulator training (also 26%). Again, we hope the low number of respondents reporting these changes means they had always incorporated these practices into their flight routine.

ROTOR also asked readers to describe an especially memorable change they’ve made as a result of an accident or close call. Here are some of their responses (edited for space).

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Pandemic-Generated Innovation
Jim Viola 2020 Q4

Adapting to new conditions can lead to positive changes.

This November, Americans had the privilege of participating in our national elections. It can be a contentious time, but this is what makes a great democracy: the vibrancy and diversity of views, all coming together in an imperfectly perfect process. We watched the election closely and want to thank all of our members who fulfilled their civic duty by voting.

As we start to wrap up 2020, I hope this message finds you and your family healthy and safe. But just surviving isn’t enough. HAI wants to help you take flight as soon as the health experts say it’s safe to do so. So we’ve been seeding 2021 with as much positive rotor wash as we can.

Faced with the worst pandemic in 100 years, we realized that HAI members and the industry need up-to-date, comprehensive information on COVID-19 and its effect on vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) operations. The COVID-19 section on rotor.org provides a central location for information gathered from OEMs, government agencies, and international health organizations. In addition, we created the HAI COVID Clean Program to support members who run public-facing operations. Operators participating in the program pledge to adhere to guidelines from OEMs, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization to protect the health of their staff and customers and maintain sanitary aircraft and facilities. So far, 16 companies are participating in COVID Clean, including an OEM, a university aviation program, and air ambulance and tour operators. We also have a ”Global Regulations” section that contains COVID-19 information from 10 regulatory agencies around the world.

This year saw the introduction of our HAI@Work webinar series. We initially created the webinars, which take place every Thursday, to provide you with current information on COVID-19–related topics, such as stimulus efforts, employment, and maintaining flight readiness. Now, we’ve expanded the series to include general industry topics, such as advanced air mobility, safety management, and insurance. The great response we’ve received—our webinars have been viewed in more than 50 countries, with around 25 countries represented at each webinar—tells me our industry was eager for this source of information and news. If you have webinar suggestions for us—topics you’d like to share or an expert you’d like to hear from—please email me at president@rotor.org.

I expect our industry will continue to feel this pandemic’s effects until a vaccine is widely available, which I hope will be by early next year. This is an incredibly challenging time for businesses, which is why HAI has been so active in advocating for our members for legislative and regulatory relief. Tough times like these are exactly when you need the support and strength in numbers that an association provides.

Even as we wait out this pandemic, however, our industry has continued to evolve. Our OEMs are actively developing advanced air mobility and remotely piloted aircraft. Our pilots have decades of experience working in the low-altitude, confined-area airspace. The VTOL community—manufacturers, operators, pilots, and maintainers—is ideally positioned to build, operate, fly, and fix these aircraft.

All in all, I’m feeling optimistic for our industry because of our history of adaptation and versatility. While it may feel as though this pandemic will drag on, there is an end in sight. When that happens (and it will), I want our members to be primed for success and ready to go fly. 


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The Post-Election Landscape
By Cade Clark and John Shea 2020 Q4

HAI sets its legislative agenda for the new Congress.

Now that the US general election has concluded, Congress has returned to Washington. While candidates elected to the US Senate and House of Representatives won’t be sworn in until Jan. 3, 2021, the Congress that has been in place since January 2019 began a lame duck session that is expected to extend well into December. Passing appropriations bills, defense legislation, and a new COVID relief package before the end of the year will be among the top legislative priorities.

Historically, Congress has an easier time advancing must-pass legislation like appropriations packages in a lame duck session, due to the conclusion of election frenzy, but that may not be the case this year. With some state results in the presidential race being challenged by the Trump administration and two Senate races heading to a January 2021 runoff that will determine which political party controls the upper chamber, the same partisan gridlock that’s plagued the 116th Congress could continue for the remainder of the year.

The 117th Congress

When the 117th Congress convenes in the beginning of January, a new legislative year will begin. All unpassed legislation of the previous Congress will expire (with the exception of treaties). If any of those bills is to move forward, it must be reintroduced.

On opening day of the 117th Congress, the House will elect a speaker, announce party leaders, and establish rules for the legislative body as well as policies for certain floor practices. The House may also adopt resolutions assigning some or many of its members to committees. This process regularly continues over several more weeks.

The committee assignment process occurs primarily within the party groups—the Republican Conference and the Democratic Caucus. There are representatives and senators currently serving who represent other parties, but their numbers are so small (one in the House, who actually retires at the end of the 116th Congress, and two in the Senate) that they must work with the two main parties. In fact, both the House and Senate are primarily organized around our two-party system. Legislators and their staff—there’s a red team and a blue team, and everyone knows which one you play for.

The Senate will follow a similar protocol in January. After swearing in senators elected or reelected in the general election (approximately one-third of the Senate), the upper chamber will adopt administrative resolutions and standing orders. If there is a vacancy or a change in party control, the senators may elect a new president pro tempore (generally the longest-serving senator from the majority party; in the 116th Congress, Sen. Chuck Grassley [R-Iowa] served in this role) and one or more Senate officers.

Negotiations between parties over committee sizes and ratios, action on committee assignments, and decisions on party leadership changes and organization may begin during the early organization meetings for the new Senate, which will occur in November and December. The committee assignment process may continue after the beginning days of the 117th Congress. At some time, usually other than opening day, the Senate adopts committee assignment resolutions. Any changes in Senate party leadership take place in respective party conference meetings.

As a result of the November elections, Democrats will maintain their majority in the House but by fewer seats than they held in the 116th Congress. The majority in the Senate will be determined by the results of the runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5. If the 117th Congress ends up with the same parties in the majority as the previous 116th Congress, party and committee leadership aren’t expected to change too dramatically. Legislative priorities for the two chambers will be set by their respective leadership and could resemble those of the 116th Congress.

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HAI Introduces Membership Services Department
ROTOR Staff 2020 Q4

Exciting changes are underway at HAI, and the result means significant changes for our members.

HAI’s Operations and Business Development Departments have merged to create the Member Services Department. This group directly supports HAI members by providing services in regulatory assistance and advocacy, operations support, education, and membership and by producing HAI HELI-EXPO, conferences, and other events. This change was prompted by two events: the hiring of Michael Hertzendorf as VP of Operations and the retirement of Karen Gebhart, HAI’s longtime VP of Business Development.

“As we discussed the vacancy in Business Development, it became clear that we had an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to our members,” says James Viola, president and CEO of HAI. “The Operations staff was directly engaged in providing services to our members, often advocating for them before regulatory authorities. And we recognized that increasing our members’ satisfaction is the path to growth. It made sense to reorganize these two departments into an integrated unit focused on providing member value.

“HAI is grateful to Karen for her years of service to the association and her part in making HAI HELI-EXPO the success that it is today,” adds Viola. “The show is recognized as one of the fastest-growing trade events, and it remains the largest helicopter show in the world. Karen’s work, and that of her team, ensured that members of the global vertical lift community could find everything they need in this one event.”

In his expanded role as VP of Member Services, Hertzendorf will oversee HAI’s work for its members in flight operations, maintenance and technology, safety, education, events, and membership. He will also work closely with HAI’s Government Affairs Department to ensure HAI members across the VTOL industry are protected from overly burdensome regulations.

“We’re very pleased Mike accepted this new responsibility just as he was settling in. He understands that continuing to grow member value is a priority for HAI,” says Viola.

After a 29-year career in the US Army as a special operations aviator, Hertzendorf most recently served as CEO of NUAIR (Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research), where he was responsible for the integration, synchronization, and execution of all activities necessary to develop a national unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) traffic management system within New York state’s 50-mile UAS corridor.

His background in both manned aviation and UAS provides Hertzendorf with a unique perspective. “Mike’s history as an army aviator and leader, along with his work at NUAIR, means that he understands the issues and can represent the needs of both rotorcraft operators and those working to integrate new classes of aircraft into the airspace,” says Viola.

“I’m excited to join the HAI team in these unprecedented times for aviation,” says Hertzendorf. “I look forward to advancing HAI’s global presence as well as incorporating future VTOL platforms. With their experience in rotorcraft and low-altitude operations, HAI members are well positioned to take advantage of advancements in VTOL technology that I believe will ultimately improve the economic viability of our industry.”

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The Vertical Flight Family
Randy Rowles 2020 Q4

We share a goal: to provide safe, efficient aviation services.

In an industry that was once seeking a cure for the mass exodus of helicopter pilots to the airlines, times have changed. Instead of wasting time in a futile attempt to turn back the clock, the vertical flight industry is engaged in a flurry of innovation, developing a multitude of aircraft solutions and technologies that will change how we operate, as well as attract and retain the best talent in aviation.

Today, as the airline industry tightens its purse strings due to a pandemic, the remotely piloted and optionally piloted aviation sectors have joined manned helicopters to form the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) industry. We’re moving forward together with no looking back.

Aircraft that don’t require the pilot to be on board are here to stay, especially in those missions considered dull and dangerous. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and optionally piloted aircraft are being developed and tested at a rapid rate across the globe. Manufacturers, regulators, researchers, operators—all are working diligently to develop the aircraft, infrastructure, and regulations for these new, exciting aviation missions.

Helicopter operators may have been initially suspicious of these innovations. However, as they learn about the capabilities and limitations of these aircraft, I’m confident they’ll introduce these solutions within their fleets. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen, just as our industry has accepted turbine engines, GPS, fly-by-wire, and many other innovations. Why? Because keeping up with the latest technology is one way our industry keeps the rotors turning!

Surviving as an operator in the helicopter industry has never been easy. That’s why representatives from six companies met on Dec. 13, 1948, to organize the Helicopter Council in Burbank, California. The idea was simple: form an organization to represent the collective interests of the helicopter industry. Today, we know this long-standing group as HAI, which has embraced the technological revolution within the vertical lift industry.

Our industry has consistently demonstrated its ability to accept new types of aircraft and successfully integrate them into the shared airspace. This integration hasn’t been without tragedy, however. In 1931, popular University of Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne was killed in an airplane crash, eliciting public calls for greater federal oversight of aviation manufacturing, operations, and safety that led to the regulatory structure in US aviation today.

Modern aviation still reflects a delicate balance between operational ingenuity and regulatory governance. Vertical lift aircraft manufacturers and developers of the supporting infrastructure in the UAS and eVTOL markets are outpacing the regulators. Although the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 put in place directives to the FAA for UAS integration, the ability to safely accomplish that integration remains the FAA’s primary concern.

Questions remain about exactly what the future will look like. But ours is an industry in which problem-solving is just another day on the job, and we’ve demonstrated tremendous resilience to survive for generations. It’s time for the helicopter industry to embrace new-technology vertical flight aircraft as we share a common interest: a safe, effective, and robust industry.

As the economy recovers from COVID-19, vertical flight operators will begin working their way back to prosperity as they have for decades, identifying new ways to use their aircraft to improve the lives of the general public. Without recognition or fanfare, the job gets done, safely.

Whether you operate helicopters or drones or plan to engage in VTOL technology, you’re part of the vertical lift family. Our industry may look a little different from the past, but the people are the same—simply remarkable! 

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Vertical Readers Cite HAI for Pandemic Assistance to Industry
ROTOR Staff 2020 Q4

HAI’s efforts to support and inform the vertical flight industry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic received recognition in a recent survey by Vertical magazine, a leading publication in the rotorcraft community.

Conducted in September 2020 by independent research firm PMG Intelligence, the survey focused on the effects of COVID-19 on the industry. One question inquired whether “industry associations have been helpful in providing information about resources that are available to you during the pandemic.” 

Respondents were asked to name the associations that have been most helpful to their company.

“Of those associations, HAI was mentioned most often,” reports Elan Head, editorial director of the magazine.

“We’re grateful that our work has been helpful to those in the industry who’ve been affected by the pandemic,” says James Viola, president and CEO of HAI.

“Businesses have been so hurt by this pandemic and the economic disruption it’s caused—75% of the respondents to Vertical’s survey said their business has decreased, and 50% have had to lay off staff. I sincerely hope the work HAI has done has helped some of these companies or individuals find relief.”

Since the spring, HAI’s staff have dedicated much of their time to distributing information or working with governments to find ways to assist the rotorcraft community. The HAI Member Services Department has advocated for the rotorcraft industry before civil aviation authorities around the world, helping to create compliance solutions on behalf of individuals and companies.

HAI’s Government Affairs team has worked with US lawmakers to ensure that the vertical flight industry is included in financial assistance programs. Staff from many of the association’s departments have worked to collect and compile information from operators, rotorcraft trade groups, and government agencies worldwide to post on HAI’s website as a helpful resource.

HAI also this year developed a weekly webinar series, HAI@Work. The initial goal of the program was to provide the rotorcraft community with up-to-date information about the pandemic in a rapidly changing legislative and regulatory landscape, but the webinars now cover other topics of interest to the industry as well. More than 4,300 attendees from over 50 countries have viewed the webinars live, and videos of them have been viewed more than 4,500 times.

“Another statistic from Vertical’s survey that stands out to me is that 53% of their respondents indicated that COVID-19 has prompted changes to their business model,” adds Viola. “The VTOL industry is wonderfully adaptable, and these figures tell me that rotorcraft companies are doing their best to remain flexible and accommodating during the pandemic.”

Viola believes that the rotorcraft industry, with its ability to tackle a diverse set of missions for customers worldwide, is resilient.

“In the long run, it’s this versatility that will help the rotorcraft industry rebound. We know we’re headed into a seasonal slowdown in the Northern Hemisphere, but we experienced a mostly positive summer season in firefighting and agricultural work this year,” Viola told Vertical. 

“Many of those operators are ready to begin their off-season cycle of training and maintenance and are otherwise preparing for next year’s operations. Work is already starting to pick up in areas of the Southern Hemisphere, and a few firefighting operators are shifting aircraft to the other side of the equator,” Viola continued.

It is this ability to adapt, says Viola, that is key to the industry’s long-term future.

“Even as we wait out this pandemic, our industry has continued to evolve,” he added. “Our OEMs are actively developing advanced air mobility and remotely piloted aircraft, working their way through testing and proof-of-concept phases. Our pilots have decades of experience working in the low-altitude, confined-area airspace. The rotorcraft community—manufacturers, operators, pilots, and maintenance—is ideally positioned to build, operate, fix, and fly these aircraft.

“All in all, I’m feeling optimistic for our industry because of our history of adaptation and versatility,” Viola continued. 

“While it may feel that this pandemic will never end, there is, in fact, a light at the end of the tunnel. When that happens (and it will), I want our members to be primed for success and ready to go fly,” he noted.

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Mark Bennett 2020 Q4

Detroit, Michigan | Feb. 28, 2020
US Customs and Border Protection
Air and Marine Operations | Sikorsky UH-60A
 PIC: Air Interdiction Agent Dave Loyd 
SIC: Supervisory Air Interdiction Agent Dan Houting
Public Affairs Officer: Kris Grogan
Air Enforcement Agent: Max McFadden
US Border Patrol Supplemental Air crew: Aaron Quain

Photo by Mark Bennett

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Meet Ann Protheroe
ROTOR Staff 2020 Q4

Ann Protheroe
Air Evac Lifeteam
Maryville, Illinois

I’m a base mechanic for Air Evac Lifeteam, responsible for maintaining a medical-transport Bell 206 L4. I also travel to assist other base mechanics or cover for them when they’re off duty.

US Marine Corps intermediate-level jet engine mechanic for the T400 and T700 engines for the Bell UH-1N and AH-1W.

The UH-1 Huey. I just love the sound of the blades as they chop through the air.

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