The Helicopter Association International (HAI) has selected James Viola to succeed Matthew Zuccaro as president and CEO, bringing on board a long-time government and military professional with deep aviation safety and helicopter experience.
Viola will join HAI on January 16 after spending more than a decade with the U.S. FAA, most recently as director of General Aviation Safety Assurance. In that role, he oversaw 78 Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs) and 2,500 employees across the U.S., responsible for the application of safety oversight activities involving the GA community. He helped launch the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) as the initial government co-chair.
A former U.S. Army special operations MH-6 and MH-47 helicopter pilot, Viola also gained experience managing large operations during his military service. His final assignment was division chief, Army Aviation for Current Operations, steering the aviation unit station, including the prioritization and optimization of 4,200 army aircraft, 100 manned units, and the combat rotation plan to Iraq and Afghanistan.
HAI named Viola to the position following a search process that began last summer, when Zuccaro announced his plans to retire from the association he has led since November 2005. “When Matt announced his retirement, the board knew that replacing him would be no easy task. We had to find a dynamic, innovative CEO who has both vision and passion,” said HAI board chair Jan Becker. “We sought someone able to take up the challenge of leading HAI forward to meet the needs of a globally changing industry. With Jim, we found that leader, as well as one who understands and supports HAI’s safety values.”
Viola shares HAI’s vision for member service initiatives, including a further international outreach, and reflects the changes occurring through vertical-lift aviation such as increasing use of unmanned aircraft systems, the association said.
“I am grateful to the board of directors for selecting me to take up Matt’s role in promoting the international vertical lift industry,” Viola said. “Matt’s unwavering advocacy for safe flight of all kinds made him a pleasure to work with while I was with the FAA. I look forward to continuing his legacy of HAI advocacy for safety.”
Zuccaro called Viola the ideal person to lead the association. “You’ve got a Chinook driver who understands the safety and regulatory issues facing our industry, as well as the capacity to effect change where and when it is needed. I am proud to leave this organization in Jim’s hands.”
An airline transport pilot with ratings for helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, Viola has accumulated more than 6,000 flight hours, 1,100 of which with night-vision goggles. He holds three master’s degrees and is a member of the Army Aviation Association of America (Quad A), the Military Officers Association of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.