Dramatically reducing the helicopter accident rate, dealing with the looming pilot and technician shortage and building a geographical database of civil helicopters capable of assisting emergency responses to terrorism and national disasters were the top three goals articulated by HAI’s executive leadership at yesterday’s member breakfast and kick-off press conference.
Reducing the helicopter accident rate by 80 percent over the next 10 years was the top HAI goal, said the association’s new president, Matt Zuccaro, a 35-year industry veteran. Zuccaro noted the increase of the overall helicopter accident rate of 8.09 per 100,000 flight hours in 2004 to 8.52 last year and said that how the industry deals with safety and noise will directly affect its profitability and ability to secure needed improvements in airspace access and infrastructure. Zuccaro reiterated HAI’s commitment to working with the FAA and other stakeholders to improve safety through the International Helicopter Safety Team.
The approaching shortfall of qualified pilots and technicians, especially as Vietnam-era personnel retire, was another concern mentioned by Zuccaro and several other HAI board members during the breakfast. Zuccaro noted that HAI is working with leading aviation universities to inform students and graduates about career opportunities in the helicopter industry.
Zuccaro lauded the industry’s response to Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters in 2005 but noted that it could have been more effective if government agencies had taken full advantage of all the civilian helicopters that were available. For some years, recently retired HAI president Roy Resavage had attempted to develop a framework with government agencies for coordinating such a response. This initiative failed, according to Zuccaro, because no one agency cared to take on the task of creating, maintaining and vetting the database.
HAI will now create such a database within six to eight months and make it available to “any government agency that wants it,” said Zuccaro. The database will be searchable by zip code and will contain specific equipment details including size, range, weather, and installed SAR accessories including search- lights and hoists. After the database is up and running, Zuccaro acknowledged that the next big challenge was to get agencies “to call us and use us,” he said.
Zuccaro, who became HAI president in November, praised Resavage’s tenure, noting the organization’s operational efficiencies, financial health, growing membership, convention attendance and number of exhibitors.
Several awards were given out at the breakfast, and will be followed by more awards at a banquet tonight.