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.
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