Helicopter Association International

2024 Salute to Excellence Awards:

Harold Summers Legacy Award: Zhilin Summers


Zhilin Summers

Harold and Zhilin Summers

Harold Summers was a part of vertical aviation for over 60 years, entering the industry after earning his airframe and powerplant (A&P) certificate in 1960, then flying helicopters on the Alaska Pipeline. He joined Petroleum Helicopters Inc. (PHI) in 1964 as a mechanic–pilot, eventually rising to the role of VP of maintenance and engineering, in which he oversaw a massive fleet of aircraft globally that included more than 400 helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico alone. One significant achievement during his tenure with PHI was the implementation of health usage monitoring systems (HUMSs) in the organization’s fleet.

After 40 years with PHI, in 2004, Summers became director of maintenance at HAI (now VAI). While at the association, he dedicated the final 17 years of his life to improving the industry, serving as an active, vocal participant in countless HAI working groups, industry working groups, and national and international regulatory committees or working groups. His work took him across the river to Washington, D.C., back to the Gulf of Mexico, and around the world.

“Throughout his career, subordinates, peers, and leaders all recognized Harold’s ‘by-the-book’ work ethic,” says VAI President and CEO James Viola. “Except when he would disagree with ‘the book.’ Then, he was by-the-book in his efforts to change ‘the book.’ Because of his passion for our industry and his willingness to share his knowledge, our industry is indeed better as the results of his efforts.”

Summers never stopped working until his death in October 2021 at the age of 83. Ten years earlier, he received the prestigious FAA Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award, recognizing his 50 years of working in aircraft maintenance.

“Our current Salute Awards recognize special achievement by individuals or groups throughout our industry,” says Viola. “This new award recognizes Harold’s passion for the industry, particularly his enduring efforts to make every part of our industry better.

“VAI received numerous suggestions of methods to honor Harold’s spirit and legacy,” adds Viola. “We considered renaming existing awards in his honor, but nothing felt right. I am grateful to the VAI Technical and Maintenance Working Group—in which Harold participated—which proposed creating this new award to recognize extraordinary efforts to aid and improve our industry.”

In recognition of her unwavering support for her late husband, the inaugural award recipient of the Harold Summers Legacy Award is Zhilin Summers.