Priorities For The Helicopter Industry Are Safety, Career Awareness
By Maxine Scheer
AirVenture 2012 is the second year that the HAI Heli-Center has been center-stage along the flightline. Daily forums on Helicopter Safety, Careers and Innovations are being presented to bring awareness to the general aviation community of the opportunities for employment in the helicopter industry and to collaborate with the fixed wing side of aviation on common issues and concerns.
ANN had the opportunity to meet with HAI's new Chairman, Christopher Erickson (pictured), who has served on the HAI board for six years and was elected Chairman earlier this year. Chris is Director of Safety and Compliance for Erickson Air-Crane, Inc. (no relation to the Founder) and has an extensive background in aviation maintenance, operations and management.
In talking about priority initiatives for the HAI, "Safety is the number one issue in the helicopter industry today," said Chris. "Our second priority is the future workforce. "The roles and usage of helicopters is increasing throughout the world," said Chris, "and in comparison to other aviation sectors, our members report that sales are either steady or increasing."
Chris leads the safety initiatives at Erickson and noted that with advancements in manufacturing, helicopters have made significant progress in safety systems and abilities. The HAI Heli-Center at AirVenture also features representatives leading a government/industry safety initiative, the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST). "We are trying to tailor the programs to be effective and doable for all sizes of operators." HAI estimates that 75% of its members operate one to five helicopters. According to data featured at the IHST display, the majority of safety issues occur in similar areas to general aviation, personal flying and training.
The future helicopter workforce is also a high priority. "Our industry is aging, and the supply of pilots and mechanics, that used to come primarily from the military has changed since the end of the Vietnam era. "One helicopter operator told me he could increase his business 30% today if he had the opportunity to find qualified pilots and maintenance personnel." Chris talked about the presence of helicopter training programs at the Heli-Expo to bring awareness to fixed wing pilots, mechanics and others of the benefits of dual certifications. He also described how Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) mechanics are being lured by employers such as Disney because of their broad technical knowledge.
Chris outlined some of the initiatives that HAI is doing to attract the future workforce. "Our members regularly provide internship opportunities, have partnerships with Community Colleges that have A&P programs, and make presentations at schools. "He also described the HAI videos which feature helicopter activities, "A Day in the Life", and "Spotlight on Women in Helicopter Aviation." Both videos are available, for free, at the Heli-Center. Chris noted that HAI also has a scholarship program through the Helicopter Foundation. "The Board spent spent half a day brainstorming about career awareness recently, so I am open to any new ideas."
HAI recognizes that their members bring children to AirVenture, and host a "Kids Zone" in the Heli-Center. Attendees at AirVenture who might consider a career in the Helicopter industry are encouraged to visit the Heli-Center where HAI is providing information on helicopter careers and related events at AirVenture.