Jim Viola, President and CEO, HAI, presented his ‘State of the Industry’ to kickoff HAI HEL-EXPO 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. Group Editor Marty Kauchak provides highlights of the association leader’s remarks.

There have been some signs sales of helicopters are poised for a great rebound. Paralleling the recent uptick in commercial fixed-wing aircraft orders, HAI’s Jim Viola observed the vertical aircraft industry “appears to be coming out of the pandemic period in good shape.” While the Alexandria, Virginia-based association leader said sales of new and used helicopters were “sluggish” in the first few months of 2022, he noted, considering that “as we come out of a global quarantine, a slow start to that year was not unreasonable.” Sales began slowly to increase in North America and Europe later in 2022. “Record numbers from the third quarter indicate that total helicopter sales were up just over 6% from the previous year. It appears that those numbers will continue to grow throughout 2023.”

Viola highlighted other trends and developments of interest to this aerospace industry segment. Towards the top of his priority list was workforce development and recruitment. In response to what “several analysts note will be a shortage of pilots and maintainers for at least a decade or more,” this association is proactively expanding its Workforce Development Working Group and similar efforts, with the intent to help align the supply of new accessions and sustain workforce retention, to better match burgeoning industry demand signals. 

HAI is also monitoring the quick pace of legislative activities surrounding the FAA reauthorization bill beginning to wind its way through the US Congress. Viola noted that, while he is confident “the resources will be there” for FAA to do its job, there will be many emergent issues to be resolved regarding the agency’s mission. In one instance, the association leader pointed out, while early US air mobility activities are focused on urban regions, many members of the US Congress present the challenge to expand these new capabilities to rural areas.