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HAI names next president and CEO
Following the resignation of Matthew Zuccaro, US army veteran and GA advocate James A Viola takes the helm at the HAI as president and CEO.
US military special ops veteran James Viola has been appointed president and CEO of HAI.

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has welcomed James A Viola as the new president and CEO of Helicopter Association International (HAI), effective 16 January. He replaces Matthew S Zuccaro, who announced his retirement last year.

“A general aviation pilot at his core, Jim understands the unique challenges facing many segments of the general aviation (GA) community, and has worked side-by-side with industry stakeholders, including NBAA,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “His efforts as director of General Aviation Safety Assurance at the FAA have helped improve the agency's processes and GA safety. We look forward to working with Jim and building upon our strong relationship with HAI.”

In his most recent role with the FAA, Viola oversaw 78 Flight Standards District Offices and 2,500 employees across the United States, and was responsible for maintaining consistency and standardisation in the application of safety oversight activities for the GA community. Additionally, he ensured stakeholder and public needs were met quickly and efficiently, and was responsible for starting the US Helicopter Safety Team, serving as the initial government co-chair.

Viola's aviation career began with the US Army, with the majority of his flying as a special operations MH-6 and MH-47 helicopter pilot. He rose through a series of posts of increasing responsibility, achieving the rank of colonel. His final military assignment was as division chief, Army aviation for current operations.

A strong advocate for GA, Viola flies his American General AG-5B Tiger as often as he can. He holds airline transport pilot ratings for helicopters and aircraft, and is a dual-rated certificated flight instructor who holds an endorsement for Special Federal Aviation Regulation 73 for Robinson R22 and R44 helicopters. He has accumulated more than 6,000 flight hours, which include 1,100 with night vision goggles.

Viola holds three master's degrees and is a member of the Army Aviation Association of America (Quad A), the Military Officers Association of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Zuccaro retired from HAI after serving as president and CEO since 2005. In a statement issued following his retirement announcement last year, Bolen noted: “Matt was a strong and effective leader within the general aviation community, with unmatched operational experience and a total commitment to the helicopter industry. We were fortunate to have been able to work closely Matt, and wish him all the best in the future.”

“When Matt announced his retirement, the board knew that replacing him would be no easy task. We had to find a dynamic, innovative CEO who has both vision and passion,” says HAI board chair Jan Becker. “We sought someone able to take up the challenge of leading HAI forward to meet the needs of a globally changing industry. With Jim, we found that leader, as well as one who understands and supports HAI’s safety values."

Viola’s three to five year vision for HAI encompasses a strategic plan for member service initiatives. It also acknowledges the ongoing dynamic changes throughout vertical lift aviation, including unmanned aircraft systems, and the contributions of industry manufacturers and suppliers.

“Under Jim’s stewardship, HAI will see growth in international outreach to our membership, along with efforts to support the vertical lift industry around the world,” added Becker. “The HAI board of directors is tremendously excited that Jim is joining us to work on behalf of our members.”

“I am grateful to the board of directors for selecting me to take up Matt’s role in promoting the international vertical lift industry,” says Viola. “Matt’s unwavering advocacy for safe flight of all kinds made him a pleasure to work with while I was with the FAA. I look forward to continuing his legacy of HAI advocacy for safety.”

“I think HAI’s membership and the helicopter industry will find Jim is the ideal person to lead HAI,” concluded Zuccaro. “You’ve got a Chinook driver who understands the safety and regulatory issues facing our industry, as well as the capacity to effect change where and when it is needed. I am proud to leave this organisation in Jim’s hands.”

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