NBAA Marks Passing of Decorated Veteran and Former Team Member Paul Smith

Contact: Dan Hubbard, 202-431-5970,

Washington, DC, May 23, 2024 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) pays tribute to Paul Smith, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, who served in key leadership roles for the association. Smith passed away peacefully on May 10. 

“Paul’s lifelong mission was one of service, first and foremost to his country and then to the aviation industry that he loved,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “He was a highly effective advocate for NBAA and the business aviation community for nearly 20 years and remained a frequent and welcome guest at our events as he enjoyed his retirement years. We extend our condolences to Paul’s family and his many colleagues and friends across the aviation community.” 

In 1985, Smith retired from the U.S. military after having served in both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army with 27-1/2 years of distinguished service. Among the awards Smith received were The Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Army Commendation Medal and numerous other air medals and awards.

With one career behind him, Smith began another. In 1985, he accepted a position with the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA). In 1986, he was recruited to improve aviation safety and standardization practices at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, AZ. Then in 1987, he took a position with NBAA as the director of air space, air traffic and infrastructure.

At NBAA, Smith first served for more than 11 years as the association’s expert on airspace and air traffic matters. According to Jo Damato, CAM, NBAA senior vice president, education, training and workforce development, “Paul was our original advocate with Air Traffic Services,” NBAA’s staffing desk at the FAA Command Center in Herndon, VA. “His legacy is, in part, the successful effort to win a policy decision from FAA leaders to involve NBAA in the agency’s daily collaborative decision making process for coordinating all stakeholders in the aviation system. That development eventually led to the creation of NBAA’s GA Desk, and the resources it provides association members to inform their own mission planning.”

Smith subsequently took on the role of one of NBAA’s first regional representatives covering a large portion of the middle of the country, from Texas through the Dakotas, before retiring from the association in 2006.

Smith was a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and attended the Darden School at the University of Virginia. Throughout his civilian career and beyond, he was recognized with industry honors from the NBAA, AOPA, FAA and RTCA. In 2016, he received the prestigious FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for his more than 50 years of civil and military piloting experience.

Smith’s support and involvement in the industry continued beyond his retirement from NBAA. He formed his own aviation company and continued to fly as a contract pilot and flight instructor, and represented the Texas Aviation Association at the TXDot Aviation Advisory Committee, working to promote general aviation in his home state.   

Steve Hadley, NBAA senior director, regional programs and Southwestern central region expressed, “I am honored to continue the work of this fine gentleman and professional at NBAA and in the Southwest region. He was, and will always be, an inspiration to us all to do our work professionally, graciously and with style. Paul will be greatly missed.”

NBAA Northern Mountain Regional Director Kristi Ivey, CAM, noted that Smith mentored several individuals in the industry, including herself, and maintained incredibly close friendships with several former NBAA colleagues after retirement. “So many of us have the highest respect for this epitome of a gentleman, for his service to our country, for his passion and contributions to business aviation, and for showing us what a truly exceptional human being is. We will miss him dearly.”

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Founded in 1947 and based in Washington, DC, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is the leading organization for companies that rely on general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful. The association represents more than 10,000 company and professional members and provides more than 100 products and services to the business aviation community, including the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE), the world’s largest civil aviation trade show. Learn more about NBAA at

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