Rotor & Wing International

Back to Basics — And a Farewell

Editor in Chief James T. McKenna shares insight into helicopter safety efforts amid the oil and gas industry downturn.

CHC’s top guy got right to the point when he opened the company’s 12th annual Safety & Quality Summit last month in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Nine months earlier, when organizers set the summit’s theme of “Back to Basics,” the offshore support segment of our industry was struggling to cope with the impact of $60-a-barrel oil.

Since then, nearly every player in this industry has been coming to grips with oil below $40 — and even $30 — a barrel. We struggle to comprehend what that means for our businesses, our families, our economy and our security.

With survival in question, is now the time to discuss how to improve helicopter safety?

Leaders look beyond the business challenges of today.

CHC President and CEO Karl Fessenden took that question head on. “The issue is not whether to retreat from our goal of constant safety improvement,” he said April 4. “The issue is how we and the industry continue to elevate safety. Continuing investment in, and a keen focus on, safety must always be the top priority, in good times or bad.”

This was my first trip to the renowned event, though it has been running since I first became associated with R&WI. It matched all of my expectations, and then some.

I’d been curious to experience the tenor of the event, given the state of the offshore industry and global economies. As was the case at Heli-Expo, there was much talk by major manufacturers (and by operators) about improving service for their customers. That is a no-brainer. Few outfits are buying or hiring helicopters, so one must boost service offerings to keep revenue flowing and customers happy until the next acquisition round starts.

I was impressed, however, by the focus at the event on the business benefits of safety. There were sessions on quantifying safety’s return on investment, talking safety to the C-suite and tapping in-service data to identify precursors to events that might disrupt operations.

What impressed me most was the sense that leaders in the rooms there in Vancouver were looking to tomorrow. Like everyone, they were tackling severe business challenges of the day. But leaders look beyond the business challenges of today to position their operations for the future.

That focus on the business of tomorrow is driving our organization of the Rotorcraft Technology Summit, which R&WI will host Sep 19 to 20 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Leaders are looking for new business opportunities and new advantages in the operations they run now. Some of those opportunities and advantages will be borne of technological advances, particularly one that boosts operational efficiency and agility.

Many will fixate on keeping their heads above water. Leaders will work now to identify those advances with the potential to help them benefit when things rebound — and even to speed the rebound.

The Rotorcraft Technology Summit will enable them to do that by briefing them on the technological and operational gains with the greatest promise for them. Its topics will include single-engine IFR flight, low-level infrastructure improvements, data mining and the bottom line, and drones as a business opportunity.

If you have thoughts about the Rotorcraft Technology Summit and its discussions or questions about our plans for it, contact me at or (301) 354-1832.

Unique in the Rotorcraft World

Randy Jones hired me as editor-in-chief back in 2003. He invited me to rejoin the magazine a year ago. Now, he is leaving the magazine. I have said many times in recent weeks that I believe there are not more than a dozen or so people like Randy in the rotorcraft world. In 27 years with R&WI, he gained a breadth, depth and variety of knowledge of this industry that I’ve rarely seen exceeded. His passion for rotorcraft is unsurpassed and his appreciation of journalism is solid.

He will be missed by me and many. R&WI