Good morning, HAI Members! Thank you, Matt Zucarro, Max Lyons, and the entire HAI Board, for inviting me to my very first Heli Expo. It is an honor to have the chance to speak with you today along with Governor Bevin and Mayor Fischer here in beautiful Louisville in the great state of Kentucky.
I love helicopters. But who doesn’t? Helicopters are amazing machines that also are vital to the economy of this nation and the world. I don’t get the chance to fly in helicopters all the time like most of the people on this stage but I have always known about the importance of helicopters. As a child growing up in Galveston, Texas, I knew helicopters were important to both the livelihood and the safety of the men and women working offshore. But on a more personal note, I wouldn’t be here today without helicopters because a helicopter saves the lives of my parents and my 3 brothers before I was born. I have had the privilege to meet some of you who have served as pilots in Vietnam and I am grateful to you, more than I can say.
I am also grateful because one of you may have trained the young South Vietnamese helicopter pilot who rescued my family during the Tet Offensive. That pilot flew a Choctaw CH34 in to rescue my parents and my 3 brothers from a small town near the Battle of Hue. If they had stayed, my Dad would have been executed or, at best, sent to a re-education camp because of his close ties to Americans and his work as a South Vietnamese doctor. But thankfully, a brave and skilled pilot who was trained in the U.S. flew in to save my family. Although it was before I was born, I will never forget that it was a helicopter that saved my family and I never forget that this country that gave my family and me a chance, and I feel very privileged to now serve on the NTSB.
Many of you are very familiar with the NTSB. You may have seen us arrive at the scene of transportation accidents to conduct our thorough investigations. You probably are familiar with our safety recommendations – over 200 over the years related to helicopter safety. At the NTSB, our sole reason for existence is to investigate transportation accidents and make recommendations to prevent them from happening again. We know it isn’t always easy to implement our safety recommendations. And often it is very hard – hard and expensive. But I am grateful that, thanks to the leadership of HAI, safety is an accepted part of doing business. That, as we heard at the safety symposium yesterday, saving lives also saves money. That, working together, we can save lives, prevent injuries, and prevent helicopter crashes. I am proud to work with the good men and women of the NTSB some of whom are here at Heli Expo today on this mission. And I hope I will have the chance to speak with you to learn about your concerns and your priorities.
Perhaps it is fitting that my first Heli Expo is here in Kentucky where the state motto is “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” I am grateful to the helicopter community for your united efforts on behalf of safety. Thank you to each of you for your dedication to helicopter safety and I look forward to meeting you, to learning from you, and to working with you to advance helicopter safety.