Recently, I was part of a conversation in which my mother commented that her college civics professor once said that only about 10% of the population participates in organizations outside of their paid responsibilities. The statistic stuck with her and has stuck with me as well.

Granted, that class was quite a number of years ago, the number may not have been exactly 10%, and it applied to society in general, but it’s close, and an important and interesting point remains. Why are seemingly so few willing to do more than what is required?

The discussion sparking the comment surrounded the increasing difficulty in attracting participants to professional organizations. Perhaps the statistic for professional involvement is higher. I honestly do not know, but when I briefly searched for a statistic, I quickly became overwhelmed and ran out of patience. The number itself isn’t the critical point anyway. My entire life, I have been taught, by example, that volunteering and participating in industry organizations or initiatives is a professional responsibility. In other words, it’s your “civic,”  or in this case, professional duty. So, the idea that it is difficult to find professionals willing to voluntarily participate in industry organizations is surprising to me. However, it is not as surprising as it would have been 20+ years ago when I was graduating college.

As I became involved in various organizations (I admit I learned the volunteer lesson too well), the more I started to understand first-hand how difficult and frustrating it can be to engage others. For example, several years ago I was excited to share an opportunity to participate in the evaluation of a new generation of an existing aviation weather product with a group of veteran pilots I deeply respect and know very well. These experienced pilots repeatedly identified the particular issue this product is designed to address as a major challenge to their daily operations. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I immediately identified them as a fantastic group to evaluate this product. They were perfectly qualified, and I was completely confident they were exactly the group needed in this role. Perfect match, right? I flew their flag, spoke up on their behalf, and did what I could to present the opportunity. An unexpected and tough lesson came next. To my complete surprise, despite expressing their interest, only a few actually did it. I genuinely thought they would be eager to participate

and help shape the very product they indicated they needed. The degree of difficulty and complexity was minimal—click a link, look at the product, and provide basic feedback. What did I miss here? I still don’t know.

If you have been in aviation, or are just interested in aviation, for any amount of time, odds are you have ideas that can improve the system and make the industry better, more efficient, or safer. Your perspective and experience matter, and your participation and input is needed and valuable. In all fairness, life is busy. It can be difficult to carve out time for “voluntary” responsibilities, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. The USHST is a great starting point. There are SO many diverse opportunities to impact the helicopter industry, and there is certainly one that will interest you and fit your specific talents and availability. Inevitably, new professional opportunities will arise, you will make new contacts, you will definitely learn something, and your perspective and practices may even evolve.

As we close the first quarter of 2024, I encourage you to be a leader in your industry by choosing to be involved and join the 10%.

Rachel Tester


Infrastructure Working Group (IWG)