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Editor's Letter - Optimistic, Persevering Rotorcraft Pros

Posted 229 days ago ago by Admin

The helicopter world is but a small niche industry in the worldwide economy, but in my short 30 years as a participant, I am always amazed at how it adapts to change and perseveres through challenging times.

On the subject of perseverance, renowned physicist Albert Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Looking back, the last six years have been a roller-coaster ride for our industry. From mid-2015 to early 2017, economic storms pounded our shores. Waves of crashing oil prices, military cutbacks, global economic slowdowns, VA funding cuts, political and policy shifts, and several other factors pummeled most of us including helicopter manufacturers, pilots, leasing companies, operators, and all the support sectors that connect us.

Before COVID, an economic recovery began and the industry was, for the most part, strong and expanding. Then of course, 2020 will forever be remembered as the year of the pandemic that spilled over into Q1 2021 and caused our industry’s largest trade show, Heli-Expo, to be canceled for the first time in its history. As a point of interest, the first annual meeting of the helicopter industry was held in 1949 by the California Helicopter Association (now HAI). The cost of helicopter services in 1949 was considerably less than today. Training was $55 an hour, oil exploration was $65 an hour, and passenger rides were about five bucks.

It seems as if our industry turned a corner in the second half of 2021 and is doing its best to put COVID in the rear-view mirror. Although several sectors including tours and flight training were severely impacted, we are beginning to see opportunities rise and operations ramping back up to pre-COVID levels. On the oil price front, we have seen a slow-but-steady increase from the 2016 lows of sub-$30 per barrel to the $70+ level as of this writing, which is good for helicopter leasing companies as well as offshore oil and gas support operators.

Looking ahead to 2022, there’s an optimistic buzz in the air. We at Rotorcraft Pro have our ear to the ground and our eyes open; many of the business leaders and indicators are pointing to calmer weather. Sure, there’s an underlying level of uncertainty relating to new variants of COVID. But we know more than we did in 2020, and we have adapted not only our lives but also our businesses to operate in those conditions. COVID made our operations stronger in many ways.

Inside this issue, we look both forwards and backwards. In our “Best of 2021 - People Remembered” section on page 56, we reflect on several of the people we lost this year who contributed to making our industry a better place. At the other end of the spectrum, this issue also explores some of the newest innovations that are not only challenging the status quo, but also improving helicopter ops by making them safer and more efficient.

So, as we look ahead to 2022, it’s my hope that the optimistic buzz in the air is actually the sound of rotors turning and revenue being earned by the hardworking people and businesses in our helicopter industry.

And last but not least, the Rotorcraft Pro team would like to wish our readers, writers, photographers, and advertisers a safe holiday season and a smooth takeoff into the new year.