Matt Zuccaro, president and CEO of Helicopter Association International for the past 15 years, sent out a farewell message on January 15, a day before his official retirement. At the start of this year, HAI announced James Viola will become its new president and CEO on January 16.
Below is Zuccaro’s farewell message as CEO to HAI’s members; and the helicopter industry at large:
As many of you know, after 50-plus years in the helicopter industry, including 15 years as HAI president and CEO, I’m retiring. I’ve been given more opportunities and experiences than I could’ve imagined when I started my career in aviation.
My tenure as president and CEO of HAI has been the highlight of my working life. Leading this association offered me the opportunity to pay back the industry that has provided me with a rewarding and fulfilling career.
I appreciated the chance to serve the international helicopter community and enhance safety by serving as the chairman of the International Helicopter Safety Foundation and through such programs as Land & LIVE and, as I like to call it, “Land the Damn Helicopter!” Once, I received an email from a young air ambulance pilot informing me that he had landed the damn helicopter, saving the lives of his passengers and himself. It doesn’t get any better than that.
It’s been my privilege and honor to have worked with the staff of HAI. These dedicated professionals are passionate about serving the members of HAI every day, mindful of the association’s mission to “keep the rotors turning.” HAI members should take comfort in knowing this team is working on their behalf.
In conjunction with HAI’s international outreach, I had the joy of meeting the wonderful people who make up the international helicopter community. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me. It’s apparent that we face the same issues and concerns, and through collaboration we can share solutions to our common challenges.
A source of motivation for me as HAI president and CEO was interacting with the next generation of aviation professionals, such as student pilots, maintenance technicians, and flight instructors. To hear the enthusiasm and passion in their voices, see the sparkle in their eyes, and witness their quest for knowledge is an experience to cherish.
If I learned anything during my time at HAI, it was that those in the helicopter industry are survivors. The diversity of the aircraft and the people bodes well for our ability to sustain a high level of safety, operational efficiency, and economic viability.
I take great pride in the fact that most missions we perform save lives and serve the greater good of society. What other industry can acknowledge such activities that benefit the worldwide community? As I look into the future of vertical flight, I see exciting opportunities, expanded capabilities, and increased value to society.
Some have asked me about my industry activities going forward. I plan to return to something I truly enjoyed prior to my HAI tenure: I’ll be offering consulting services in my continuing effort to pay back the industry that has been so good to me. My contact info won’t change; I can still be reached at email@example.com or on my cell, 914-645-2039.
In closing, I want to sincerely thank each one of you for your support, assistance, and friendship. It has meant more to me than you can know. Retirement will allow me to return home to New York, spend quality time with my family, and slow down so I can smell the roses.
I’m looking forward to continuing this fantastic ride, just at a slower speed.
Fly safe, fly neighborly. See you at HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 in Anaheim.