The National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) announced last week the passing of Henry M. Ogrodzinski, the Association’s long time President and CEO. For 18 years, Henry O, as he was known to friends and associates, was a strong and consistent advocate for state aviation and was respected throughout the industry. Henry’s two year battle with cancer came to an end at his home on Capitol Hill. He was 65.
NASAO’s Chairman Christopher Willenborg, Massachusetts state aviation director, told the NASAO membership that it was with deep sadness that he had to inform them that their dear friend Henry passed away the night before. “Over the past 18 years, Henry led our organization with tremendous passion towards aviation and sincere concern for all NASAO Members and aviation industry stakeholders,” said Willenborg. “His strong leadership qualities, extensive experience in the aviation industry and ability to effectively communicate on Capitol Hill made him one of the most recognized and respected spokespersons regarding aviation related matters nationally.”
Pete Bunce, President and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), said “The aviation industry has lost one of its best advocates and beloved gentlemen-statesmen with the death of Henry Ogrodzinski. Henry was a tireless champion of general aviation, and his industry expertise made him highly respected and sought after by the media.”
Henry Michael Ogrodzinski assumed the leadership of the National Association of State Aviation Officials and the non-profit NASAO Center for Aviation Research and Education in 1996. NASAO represents the state government aviation agencies, serving the public interest, in all 50 states, Guam and Puerto Rico. He was the first person in the 83 year old association to hold the title “President and Chief Executive Officer.” Before undertaking his responsibilities at NASAO, which is headquartered in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, he held a number of other senior management positions in different sectors of the aviation community.
He began his career at the Delco Electronics Division of General Motors, which manufactured navigation and flight-management systems for commercial, military and space applications. He was responsible for all communications and training programs at the division’s Milwaukee facilities.
He left Delco to become the Director of Policy and Planning for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. In this role, he was often asked to provide expert testimony before Congress on a wide variety of aviation issues. He also served as EAA Director of Corporate Communications (in this role he managed all public and media relations for the world’s largest aviation event) and on the editorial board of EAA’s five magazines. Henry played an integral part in the growth of EAA, its museum and its annual convention throughout the 1980’s.
Based upon his aviation and government affairs experience, he was recruited by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) in Washington, DC, to lead its communications programs. While with GAMA, he produced several publications and multi-media presentations demonstrating the importance of General Aviation. He also managed the activities of the industry-wide GAMA Public Affairs Committee. He became well known as a leading aviation advocate and spokesman for his work in focusing the media spotlight on the product liability crisis, which was devastating the industry.
The Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, a GAMA member, then asked him to move to its Savannah, Georgia headquarters to consolidate its worldwide public affairs, exhibitions, and advertising efforts. Henry bore the ultimate responsibility for planning and executing the highly successful domestic and international introductions of the G-IVSP and G-V business aircraft. He was Gulfstream’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications and a Corporate Officer.
He left Gulfstream to become the first President and CEO of the then 20 year old United States Air and Trade Show in Dayton, Ohio. There, he rescued the troubled and financially beleaguered organization by producing the largest and most successful events in its history.
Henry is a veteran of the US Army and an honors graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, with a BA in Journalism – Mass Communication. He is a member of many aviation organizations and the recipient of numerous military and civilian awards. Henry is often quoted by the news media as a perceptive observer of the aviation industry. He has also served on a number of government and industry panels, such as the US Aviation Security Advisory Committee Working Group on General Aviation (Co-Chairman), the Board of Nominations of the National Aviation Hall of Fame, a member of the Collier and Brewer trophy Selection Committees, a member of the National Aeronautic Association’s Board of Directors and was the 2004 President of the Aero Club of Washington.
He had also served on the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Aviation Across America since its inception in 2007. In 2012 he received NAA’s Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award and the Career Contribution in Aviation by the Texas Department of Transportation. In 2013 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for the New York Aviation Management Association.
Last year he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the New York Aviation Management Association. In 2012 he received NAA’s Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award, and was honored for his Career Contribution in Aviation by the Texas Department of Transportation.
Henry is survived by his wife of 21 years Ellen Barrett (Washington, DC) and his brother Zenith of Apollo Beach, Florida and his sister Gloria Jenders of Oak Creek, Wisconsin. He has 6 nieces and 3 nephews.
A memorial service is planned for Tuesday in Washington, DC and a Tribute of his life will be held in February for all of his family, friends and aviation colleagues to attend.