Matthew S. Zuccaro, the immediate past president of the Helicopter Association International (HAI), has died. He was 70 and had retired from HAI in January after a tenure that began in 2005 and was marked by successful industry-wide efforts to dramatically improve helicopter safety and reduce the overall helicopter accident rate. Zuccaro’s signature effort in this regard was HAI’s “Land & Live” campaign in which he urged pilots to “land the damn helicopter” as opposed to continuing to fly in problematic and potentially unsafe conditions.
During his career, Zuccaro held several executive and operations management positions with commercial, corporate, air tour, scheduled airline, and public-service helicopter operations in the northeastern U.S. At the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, he served in operations management positions at John F. Kennedy International Airport and the Port Authority’s public and private heliports. Before assuming the helm at HAI, Zuccaro served as the organization’s chairman, vice chairman, treasurer, and assistant treasurer as well as a director for six years. He also served as a special advisor to HAI’s board. Zuccaro also was a past president of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council (ERHC).
He received his initial helicopter flight training as a U.S. Army aviator and served with the 7/17 Air Cavalry unit in Vietnam, for which he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Bronze Stars, and 19 Air Medals. He was subsequently assigned as a flight instructor at the Army Flight School at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He holds airline transport pilot and certified flight instructor-instrument certificates for both airplanes and helicopters. Zuccaro was a recipient of the HAI Pilot Safety Award for 10,000 hours of accident- and violation-free flight hours, the NBAA Pilot Safety award, and numerous other industry awards for his efforts and commitment to the helicopter industry.
“Matt was one of a kind in our industry,” says current HAI president and CEO James Viola. “Helicopters were part of his life, beginning with his US Army service in Vietnam. Throughout his career, he made safe helicopter operations his priority, and we are a better, stronger, and safer industry today because of his efforts on behalf of rotorcraft. Speaking on behalf of our industry, we have lost a good friend whom will be missed. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Doreen, and his family.”
In January, Zuccaro told AIN, “I've loved every minute of the last 15 years that I was president and CEO [of HAI]. Leading this association offered me the opportunity to pay back the industry that has provided me with a rewarding and fulfilling career.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.