HAC convention evolution

Commitment to safety and engaging the international community
Fred Jones
October 04, 2018
By Fred Jones
Sure, HAC’s convention has been growing, but it has also been changing in other ways. This year’s convention in Vancouver is the largest-ever trade show hosted by the Helicopter Association of Canada, featuring a growing number of international exhibitors and international delegates who are discovering that Canada has the world’s second largest fleet of commercial helicopters; that Canada holds a vibrant helicopter industry where more and more of our domestic operators are looking to expand their businesses outside Canada. But we still have work to do here at home.

With a growing focus on helicopter safety, and a more international flavour, HAC is expanding its horizons. Our accident rate in Canada is declining – but not fast enough. What’s more, we need to stop repeating the same accident-types year over year. The 23rd annual HAC gathering, which accordingly runs under the full title of the HAC Convention & Safety Forum, features so many safety speakers (domestic and international) that we needed to expand our Safety Forum by an extra day to fit them all in. This includes Scott Shappell from Embry-Riddle University, Gretchen Haskins from Heli-Offshore, Daniel Mollicone of Pulsar Informatics, and Kathy Fox, chair of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, to name a few of the highlights. 

We have always looked back, but this year we are trying to focus more on the way forward. We need to manage our HR crisis and better understand looming changes that are occurring in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle community. We are focusing on ways to evolve the culture of our industry, from one that has been primarily focused on competition to one that is focused on moving forward cooperatively on issues relating to safety.

That’s a mouthful, when you consider that our operator members are located in some of the most far-flung areas of Canada and have been working in relative isolation for many years.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” they say, and culture only changes, slowly – sometimes, glacially. Our operator members are fiercely independent – and in many ways, that’s how they have come to survive, and even flourish in a very competitive Canadian market where there are many challenges. We can learn from our involvement with the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) and from our friends at the Helicopter Association International (HAI). Our members need to steal, shamelessly, from the IHST site (ihst.org), where there is a wealth of information to help them improve their safety experience. We need to engage more with our customers to see that they are in a position to work with us and to enhance our safety performance.

You will also notice that we are making a better effort to engage with our regulator, in Vancouver. In fact, we shifted the schedule of our conference to include more weekdays. We also added a government rate to facilitate their participation in our conference and in our committee deliberations. The regulations need to keep pace with our industry and we need to facilitate the dialogue with Transport Canada, the CTA, the Transportation Safety Board and others to ensure the regulations and our industry partners do not lose touch with the needs of our industry.  

We have a vested interest in safety, but we need to see a return on our investment in safety – that is, the regulations should reflect requirements that see a proportional response to safety issues in our industry. We should not be killing a fly with a proverbial sledgehammer. Finally, we need the unanimous support of operators in our industry. The involvement of operators at HAC is the touchstone of our success. We need to see your operation actively involved in our committee work. Please ensure that people inside your operation receive your support for their involvement in our committees and, please, speak your mind directly to HAC’s president and CEO.

HAC understands you cannot look forward without also taking care of business today. We need to capitalize on developments driven by participating on HAC committees and by leveraging innovation from around the world to improve the state of the Canadian industry. Together we are stronger.


Fred Jones is the president and CEO of the Helicopter Association of Canada and a regular contributor to Helicopters magazine.

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