Read More: NFL Star Helps Kids Pursue Aviation Careers
June 08, 2020

Jimmy Graham: Chicago Bears tight end and instrument-rated pilot.

NFL tight end Jimmy Graham—newly signed to a lucrative free-agent contract by the Chicago Bears—didn’t get much attention or encouragement at home, growing up in what can best be described as a highly dysfunctional military family. Things got so bad that his mother effectively abandoned him as an 11-year-old when she placed him in a group home in Goldsboro, North Carolina, where the older and bigger boys beat him regularly.

So it makes sense now that, after his improbable rise to stardom and wealth in the NFL, Graham is committed to encouraging youngsters—especially those from similarly tough and impoverished backgrounds—to aim for futures that seemingly are beyond their reach.

What’s surprising, though, is that the 6-foot 7-inch, 270-lb All Pro pass-catching machine isn’t using his athletic prowess and fame to help kids excel in athletics. Rather, Graham depends on his personal Bell UH-1 Huey helicopter—plus his Extra 330 LX aerobatic plane (it’s a really tight fit) and his 1957 de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver seaplane (with retractable skis)—to point kids toward potential careers in aviation.

Though he’d only been a licensed pilot for a little less than eight years at the time, Graham jumped at the chance in 2018 to follow in the footsteps of Gen. Chuck Yeager, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, and actors Harrison Ford and Cliff Robertson as chairman of the Young Eagles. The organization, founded in 1992 by the US Experimental Aircraft Association, gives children ages 8 to 17 opportunities to experience flight in a general aviation aircraft and to learn about aviation. 

Because he can take only one kid at a time up with him in his Extra 330, and only two or three in his Beaver, Graham’s Young Eagles ride of choice is his Huey. The aircraft, along with his charitable organization, The Jimmy Graham Foundation, is based at Miami Executive Airport (KTMB), outside of Miami, Florida. 

The iconic model is fully restored to the way it looked when it flew with the US Army’s 170th Assault Helicopter Co. during 21 months from 1968 through 1969. The helicopter operated in the Vietnamese Central Highlands, ferry­ing soldiers into and out of battle zones. It also flew into and out of Cambodia and Laos in support of the 5th Special Forces Group. These days, the Huey mostly carries children via the Young Eagles program, along with Vietnam veterans taking brief trips down memory lane.

ROTOR: Given your challenged childhood and the huge amount of time you’ve committed to becoming a top athlete, how did you get so involved in flying?
Graham: The first movie I remember watching was Top Gun. My dream was to be a fighter pilot, but then I grew to a freakish six-seven and there went that dream. We lived around military bases—my original parents were in the military. I randomly loitered around airports, talking a lot about aviation and asking a lot of questions. I met a guy named John. He said if I ever wanted to go up [in an aircraft], he’d give me a ride. So I flew with him and loved it.

When did you get your pilot’s license?
I played basketball at the University of Miami for four years, then played one year of football there before being drafted by the New Orleans Saints. I’d never had the time or money to learn to fly. But after my first NFL season, I had some money and, for the first time, some [spare] time in the offseason, so I started lessons. I took my checkride before the end of that year. Except in years when I had off-season surgeries, I’ve learned new ways of flying or gotten new licenses every off-season since.

What licenses do you have?
Beyond my private pilot’s license, I’ve got my airplane single-engine sea and land, airplane multi-engine land, tailwheel, rotorcraft, instrument (airplane and helicopter), and commercial helicopter licenses. I’ll probably add my sea and land commercial license, and after I retire from football I want to move into gliders. I’ve kept this under wraps until now, but I’m also a licensed skydiver.

During the season, I may only have time to fly two or three days. But the rest of the year, I fly on average five days a week. I just love it; I love everything about flying.

Where does that passion and commitment come from?
To be honest, I don’t just half-ass anything. Whether it’s football, or athletics, or flying, or investing my money, I want to do it to the very best of my ability and keep learning more and more about it. I’m kinda’ weird that way, I guess. But even if I’m doing a charity event, I guarantee you … it’s going to be excellent.

Have your coaches or teams ever raised concerns about your flying?
They don’t want to go there with me. One time when I was with the Saints, [Head Coach] Sean Payton and [General Manager] Mickey Loomis, before I signed my big deal, actually mentioned that they didn’t want me to be in a private plane if it wasn’t a jet with two engines and had a copilot. I told them I wouldn’t sign that contract and that there were 31 other teams that would give me the same contract AND let me fly. No organization has ever mentioned it again.

How did you get involved in the Young Eagles?
A good friend of mine, Sean D. Tucker, flies airshows. He’s been doing it about 30 years solo. And this last year, he wanted to go to a two-plane operation. So I got involved with him with my aerobatic plane. He also got me involved with the Young Eagles program, and I quickly saw the benefits of their mission. [Editor’s note: Tucker followed Sullenberger as the Young Eagles’ chairman in 2013 and continues to serve as co-chair alongside Graham.]

You could champion any cause you wanted, or just spend all your time flying. Why get deeply involved in the Young Eagles?
I’m a gutter kid. I came from the gutter. I always tell kids that, as a boy, I had my PhD—poor, hungry, and driven. And that’s a gift.

I’m thankful for every hardship I had. It made me grow up fast and [gave me drive]. The Young Eagles program gives me a chance to talk to kids—especially kids from tough backgrounds like mine who probably never dreamed they could do something like this—and get them thinking about aviation as a career. It gives me a chance to motivate them and encourage them not to be held back by whatever negative circumstances they’ve had to deal with

Read More: HAI on Social
June 08, 2020

An industry that’s safe together saves lives together! We shared our COVID-19 checklist on HAI’s social media platforms as a supplement to operators’ equipment manuals and company policies, and it received 2,127 engagements on Facebook. We’re ecstatic that our members and followers are prioritizing safety, whether for themselves, their colleagues, or their passengers during the pandemic. Continue to fly safe!

Read More: Helicopter Events
June 05, 2020


The following events have been canceled for 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic:
Originally scheduled for Jul. 20–25, 2020
Airborne Public Safety Association

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2020
Originally scheduled for Jul. 20–26, 2020
Experimental Aircraft Association

2020 White Plains (New York) Regional Forum
Originally scheduled for Jun. 10, 2020
National Business Aviation Association

The following events were on schedule as of mid-May:


JUN. 21
Father’s Day Fly-In Breakfast
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
Geneseo, Illinois, USA

SEP. 5–7
2020 Cleveland National Air Show
Cleveland, Ohio, USA

SEP. 8–11
46th European Rotorcraft Forum
Moscow, Russia

OCT. 5–8
(postponed from May 4–7)
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
Dallas, Texas, USA (originally scheduled for Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Visit HAI at Booth #1601

OCT. 6–8
2020 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition
National Business Aviation Association
Orlando, Florida, USA​-convention​-exhibition/
Visit HAI at Booth #4230

OCT. 27–29
2020 Rotorcraft Safety Conference
Federal Aviation Administration
Hurst, Texas, USA

NOV. 2–4
2020 Air Medical Transport Conference
The Association of Air Medical Services
Nashville, Tennessee, USA


MAR. 22–25 / EXHIBITS OPEN MAR. 23–25
Helicopter Association International
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Read More: Unplanned VFR Flight into IMC
June 05, 2020

1 DO get trained and stay proficient. Training, certification, and proficiency are the best weapons against inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC). Even if you’re not instrument rated or have lapsed in currency, you can still improve your recognition of and recovery from unplanned flight into degraded visual environments. You can conduct this training in an aircraft or Level D simulator, but you can also use low-cost aviation training devices or desktop simulation programs to develop and maintain your instrument skills and improve your confidence to deal with unplanned IMC. 

2 DON’T even think about attempting VFR flight into deteriorating weather conditions. The FAA offers a subtle warning in its Helicopter Flying Handbook: “If the pilot isn’t instrument rated, instrument current, or proficient, or is flying a non–IFR-equipped helicopter, remaining in VMC [visual meteorological conditions] is paramount” (, pages 11–24 through 11–26). 

We prefer to state it more boldly: In an unplanned VFR flight into IMC, if you’re not a highly proficient ­instrument-rated pilot operating a fully certificated IFR aircraft, your chances of surviving beyond two minutes are nearly ZERO. 

3 DO set, announce, and follow your personal limits. Clearly understand and consistently abide by the limitations of your aircraft, your skills, and regulations—without compromise! Always brief your takeoff minimums and en route decision points before you fly. Doing so manages the expectations of your crew and passengers and ensures that active risk management is integrated into all phases of flight planning and execution.

4 DON’T scud run! IFR does not stand for “I follow roads.” Focusing on what’s below you is a sure way to collide with what’s in front of you (terrain, wires, towers, etc.). Take note if you’re getting lower (for example, 500 feet agl) or slower (such as 50 KIAS [knots indicated airspeed]) just to maintain your visual references. You likely have already reached a decision point and need to return home, amend your flight to avoid IMC, or if a safe landing can be made, simply get the helicopter on the ground and Land & LIVE! 

5 DO respond immediately and decisively if you enter IMC. Despite warnings to avoid continued VFR flight into bad weather, it still happens. If you have an unexpected entry into IMC, what you do in the next few seconds will determine your fate. First and always, make helicopter control a priority above all other duties or distractions.

Here are the five basic steps all pilots should be trained to execute immediately if they ever encounter IIMC: 

  1. Wings: Level the bank angle using the attitude indicator 
  2. Attitude: Set a climb attitude that achieves a safe climb speed
  3. Airspeed: Verify that the attitude selected has achieved the desired airspeed 
  4. Power: Adjust to a climb power setting relative to the desired airspeed
  5. Heading and trim: Pick a heading known to be free of obstacles and maintain it.

Note: The guidance available on IIMC is much too extensive to limit to only five steps. We strongly encourage all pilots to refer to the 2019 release of the FAA’s Helicopter Flying Handbook, FAA-H-8083-21B. Pages 11–24 through 11–26 include several updates addressing how best to avoid and respond to VFR flight into IMC.

Read More: ROTOR Launches New Digital Format
June 05, 2020

With this issue of ROTOR, we debut a robust digital platform for the magazine, making it easier for you to take ROTOR with you wherever you go.

Just visit and click on the link for the latest issue—whether you’re on a laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Our responsive platform will detect your device and resize to fit it. 

With the platform’s mobile phone view, there’s no need to navigate a multicolumn layout on your cell phone: just toggle to the mobile phone view and the content will reflow to fit your screen.

The ROTOR digital platform also enables you to click through to advertisers or to links in articles. And we can now embed video for a richer environment. Simply click on a play button to launch a new window with video content. (There are four videos in this issue: did you find them all?)

The new platform makes moving around the magazine easy. You can navigate through an issue by flipping the “pages” or by clicking on links in the contents page or on thumbnails. There’s also a link to a pdf version of the magazine, so you can download the issue to read later or print some pages. You can easily share content, too, via email or social media.

We’ve upgraded the online tools available to you as well. A sophisticated search feature enables you to search the current issue of the magazine (and, in the future, archived issues) for a word, name, or phrase. Clicking on the search results takes you instantly to the exact location where that item appears.

But wait. “Where’s my print edition?” you might be asking. For this issue of ROTOR, the 2020 Quarter 2 edition (formerly called Spring 2020), we decided to forgo the print version because of the COVID-19 pandemic. By not printing this issue, we determined we wouldn’t flood empty offices with paper copies of the magazine while so many of our readers are working from home.

We hope you enjoy ROTOR’s new digital format and the added benefits it brings. We’d love to know what you think of the platform and the features you like best (and those you don’t care for). Of course, we always want to hear what you do and don’t enjoy about ROTOR, from cover to cover. Let us know at 

Read More: HAI Names Rob Volmer VP of Marketing Communications
June 05, 2020

Robert M. Volmer has joined HAI as the vice president of Marketing Communications. In this role, Rob will oversee branding, messaging, research, technology, and media for the association.

“When I joined HAI, I told the Board of Directors that I wanted to overcommunicate to our members about what their association was doing to serve them.

Hiring Rob was part of that strategy,” says James A. Viola, HAI president and CEO. “Rob’s experience in communicating to a variety of audiences, including government, business, and the consumer, will help HAI demonstrate the value of our industry to the global community while providing additional member benefits.”

Rob comes to HAI with more than 20 years of experience in consumer and business-to-business product and brand marketing, government, public affairs, and corporate public relations. He is a founding partner of Crosby~Volmer International Communi­cations, a firm providing strategic communications services to companies, nonprofits, and associations. His clients there include Fortune 500 companies, foreign governments, and associations. Prior to Crosby~Volmer, Rob was manager of corporate communications at the Air Transport Association.

“Vertical flight aviation provides unique, essential services to people around the world. I’m excited to join the HAI team and play a part in telling that story,” says Rob. “I couldn’t resist the combination of innovation and opportunity that vertical flight represents, especially in this moment of seismic change in aviation.”

A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Rob is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma (go Sooners!). He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, three children, and for some inexplicable reason, a new puppy.

Read More: How Do You Deal with IIMC?
June 05, 2020

Inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC) is one of the top three causes of fatal helicopter accidents. To determine how pilots are preparing themselves to survive—and avoid—IIMC encounters, we surveyed readers anonymously about their practices. ROTOR received nearly 750 responses over a two-week period, reflecting how important this issue is to HAI’s members. 

Seventy percent of respondents answered yes to the question of whether they’re an IFR-rated pilot. Fifty-five percent of those respondents maintain their IFR skills by regularly practicing IIMC recovery using a simulator or other training device, and 52% regularly file and fly IFR. 

Respondents who lack a rotorcraft instrument rating cited the fact that their company flies only VFR missions as the main reason they haven’t obtained a rating (49%). Only 13.5% said they haven’t obtained an instrument rating because they don’t anticipate encountering IIMC.

We also asked respondents to provide any additional comments they wished about IFR versus VFR operations. Here are some of their illuminating—and candid—responses. 

We should also be discussing night operations and their strong similarity to IMC. I’ve always treated night flying as IMC. … Being “surprised” is not acceptable.

Don’t fool yourself in thinking that having an instrument rating is the answer to handling IIMC. Being instrument rated and current is NOT the same as being prepared and trained to deal with IIMC. IIMC is all about surviving the first couple of minutes; your only goal is to not lose control and not hit anything. After those first couple of minutes, your regular instrument skills become relevant again.

IIMC deaths will continue as long as we’re allowed to fly clear of clouds at an airspeed that allows you to see and avoid objects while carrying passengers.

IIMC may present a greater risk to IFR-rated pilots flying VFR profiles than VFR-only–rated pilots. Being comfortable in IMC may sway the pilot’s judgment and increase their acceptance of deteriorating conditions to a point beyond which they run out of options for a positive outcome.

Technologies like [enhanced flight] vision systems can help, as well as increased focus on standard operating procedures and risk management via an effective safety management system and flight data monitoring. [Also] addressing topics like spatial disorientation through better training/technology advancements.

It’s disappointing that most Part 135 operators of charter aircraft don’t conduct IIMC training or checking during annual checkrides. Not only do operators fail to prepare pilots for IIMC, they actively pressure pilots into flying in weather conditions conducive to an IIMC event. … I call on HAI to prioritize pilots and safety ahead of operators’ business needs. Part of this can be achieved by pressuring operators to train and check pilots for IIMC, as well as pressuring the FAA to simplify both the certification of single-engine turbine helicopters for IFR flight and the process of obtaining an IFR Ops Spec.

Synthetic vision is a game changer and should be a required basic tool.

Read More: HAI Debuts Weekly Webinar Series
June 05, 2020

HAI is now offering a series of weekly webinars covering a wide range of topics to meet the rotorcraft community’s needs in this rapidly changing era.

The series, HAI@Work, began in April and covers both current and evergreen topics. While the first three webinars focused on subjects related to the COVID-19 pandemic, future sessions will address various matters of interest to industry businesses and individuals.

Each webinar features a panel of subject-matter experts, including HAI staff members and other industry representatives. In the hour-long format, panel members discuss the week’s topic before taking viewers’ questions.

HAI launched the initiative to provide members with up-to-the-minute resources and information during this period of economic and social disruption.

“The worldwide economic slowdown is impacting the rotorcraft community. Flight activity is down, and government agency personnel are working remotely,” says HAI president and CEO James A. Viola. “We know our members need current information on the financial resources and regulatory programs available to help individuals and businesses cope. Getting information straight from the experts, and taking questions in real time, is a resource HAI can provide our industry when it needs it most.

“We knew that information specific to the rotorcraft community was available, but it was spread out,” adds Viola. “Many of our members run small businesses, and some have operations in one country but work globally. Why not bring the information to them so that they don’t have to search for it?”

Webinar topics so far have included the HAI members-only resources available on, regulatory issues, government financial assistance programs, and employment. Future webinars will address other industry-relevant topics, and participants are encouraged to submit subjects or questions they’d like HAI to address.

HAI@Work webinars take place at 4 pm EDT (UTC-4) every Thursday, although some rescheduling may become necessary to accommodate the schedules of the speakers. Videos of the webinars are available shortly after broadcast on the HAI YouTube page.

Weekly announcements about upcoming topics, including the web address for that week’s webinar, are available on HAI’s Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter social media channels.

Read More: 5 Best Practices for Minimizing Your Helicopter’s Noise
January 20, 2020

  1.  During level flight, accelerations are quieter than decelerations, and straight flight is quieter than turning flight. These proven techniques for operating your aircraft enable pilots to fly more quietly and reduce annoyance from noise. The continued growth of helicopter aviation requires the acceptance and support of people who live and work in your communities and who are affected by helicopter noise.
  2. If turning, remember that turning away from the advancing blade (especially when decelerating) is quieter than turning into the advancing blade, and level turns are quieter than descending turns. Make a daily effort to lessen the noise impact of your aircraft on the neighborhoods below your flight path. The helicopter industry’s future financial prosperity depends on your ability to fly neighborly and minimize helicopter noise impacts. Helicopter noise, and the opposition to helicopter operations it often creates, is slowing the growth of the industry.
  3. During a descent, straight-in flight is quieter than turning flight, and steeper approaches are quieter than shallow approaches. Don’t give people living in noise-affected areas more reasons to oppose helicopter operations, and don’t provide the noise-affected population with justification to restrict your ability to provide important services to the communities you serve and to impact your livelihood as an aviation professional.
  4. If decelerating, remember that level-flight decelerations are quieter than descending or turning-flight decelerations. Fly neighborly every day, always mindful of how you can reduce the noise you are creating. The public is watching and will hold you accountable for the way you operate your aircraft. Because of social media, it’s easy for noise-affected groups to circulate audio and video of your activities—and reach millions.
  5. While maneuvering, smooth and gentle control inputs are quieter than rapid control inputs. Fly neighborly and represent your industry responsibly. One careless pilot makes us all look bad. To a noise-affected community, one unnecessarily low-flying helicopter can represent all of us. How you operate your aircraft reflects on all who fly helicopters.

The Fly Neighborly program was officially launched by HAI in February 1982 and has since gained US and international acceptance. Fly Neighborly training was developed by HAI’s Fly Neighborly / Environmental Committee (now Working Group) and provides helicopter operators with noise abatement procedures and situational awareness tools that can be used to significantly enhance operations. Fly Neighborly training is available on the FAA Safety Team website at

Read More: HeliOffshore Brings Safety Innovation to Offshore Operators
January 17, 2020

Competitors share data to target improved safety. 

Gretchen Haskins knows best safety practices when she sees them. The CEO of HeliOffshore Ltd. in London, UK, is an aviation industry leader in safety performance improvement and an internationally recognized expert in human factors. She has served on the board of the UK Civil Aviation Authority as group director of safety, guiding aviation safety in the United Kingdom, including airlines, aerodromes, air traffic, airworthiness, and personnel. Haskins’s aviation background includes having flown jet and piston aircraft in the US Air Force.

Haskins has led HeliOffshore since its founding in 2014 by five major helicopter operators. The organization now has 118 members that work collaboratively to improve offshore helicopter safety around the world.

ROTOR MAGAZINE: HeliOffshore is known for its ­dedication to global offshore helicopter safety. Your organization has become an example of companies—competitors—coming together to cooperate on safety issues. How hard has it been to create the necessary trust and cooperation around the idea of managing safety issues as an industrywide cooperative endeavor?

HASKINS: We were fortunate right from the start to get the CEOs of five major helicopter operators to come together and say, effectively, “We’re not going to compete on safety.” Thanks to that early, strong support for the concept, HeliOffshore has been able to create almost a safety management system for the entire industry, not just individual companies.

We started our work based on one primary question: “How would you form a collaboration to ensure that NO lives will be lost in helicopters, or certainly in offshore helicopter operations?”

It’s not a question of how this or that operator eliminates deaths in offshore operations but how the entire group does so.

ROTOR: But that sounds easier said than done.

HASKINS: Right. Well, we had to get our arms around what the broad threats facing the industry are, not just the threats individual operators see, because none of the individual operators are big enough, really, to have large enough data sets to allow them to see the full picture.

But we had a good example to follow from the fixed-wing world, which has several organizations, like the Flight Safety Foundation, ICAO, and the various airline trade groups, which all use broad data from across the industry to detect trends that may not be—and probably aren’t—visible at the single-operator level. So we borrowed from those established approaches. That had never really be done in the vertical flight world.

ROTOR: Any examples from the fixed-wing world that were especially helpful?

HASKINS: The FAA, with its CAST [Commercial Aviation Safety Team] program, set a goal years ago of reducing fatalities among US airlines by 80%, and they achieved that goal. They did it through collaboration, data sharing, and really getting the whole supply chain—from little parts suppliers to big component manufacturers to the aircraft makers, plus the FAA and other national and regional regulators—involved in sharing all their data. For the first time, we could do a good analysis of a data set large enough to detect trends that might not be noticeable by, or understandable to, one operator analyzing just their own data.