NBAA’s History of Serving the Business Aviation Community Since 1947

There might well be only a handful of aircraft flown by business today if it were not for the vision and determination of a group of men who met at the Wings Club in the Biltmore Hotel, New York, in the spring of 1946 to look at the air transportation environment from their point of view. What they saw in those post-World War II days was both encouraging and discouraging.

On the bright side was a resurgence of commercial, business and personal flying. The scheduled airlines were beginning a new period of expansion; independent non-scheduled freight and passenger operators sprang up on all sides; and business firms, remembering the utility of aircraft during the war, were turning to air transportation to meet the accelerating tempo of competition. On the darker side they saw that the regulatory agencies were proposing drastic and even unwise measures to cope with the traffic control problems.

NBAA’s Founding

The small group at the Wings Club was keenly aware that the interests of business flying would suffer in any scramble for air space and recognition because it was the only segment of the air operations industry not yet organized. The airlines had the Air Transport Association (ATA), the pilots had the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the independent freight lines formed their own group and the lightplane flyers were well served by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

An organization to promote and protect the interests of business aircraft operators was urgently needed and the first steps in that direction were taken by the group of 13 persons who met informally at the Wings Club on May 17, 1946. Chief spokesman on the need for organization was Palmer J. (Bud) Lathrop, then vice president of Bristol Meyers and later president of Cameron Machinery Company. He had gained his knowledge of air transportation operations in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

That meeting produced determination to move forward. Lathrop wrote to the presidents of a number of companies, inviting them to be represented at a meeting scheduled coincident with the Cleveland Air Races at which support for organization would be mustered. Sixteen companies were represented in person at that Nov. 21, 1946, meeting. Lathrop was asked to chair the meeting and led it to an impressive conclusion. The Corporation Aircraft Owners Association (CAOA), later to be renamed the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA), was provisionally launched. A temporary Board of Directors, to consist of nine persons was selected, temporary bylaws were adopted and plans were made to steer the fledging group toward permanent existence. Actually performing service on the temporary Board for all or part of the several months were representatives of ten companies: Republic Steel, Sinclair Oil, Champion Paper, Bristol-Meyers, Howes Brothers, American Rolling Mills, B.F. Goodrich, Burlington Mills, United Cigar-Whelan and Socony Vacuum. William B. Belden of Republic Steel functioned as chairman.

On Feb. 17, 1947, a meeting of incorporators and members was assembled in New York to establish the permanent organization as a not-for-profit corporation. Consent for the filing of the original certificate of incorporation had been obtained from the State of New York on Feb. 13 in preparation for the organizational meeting.

The first annual meeting of the organization was held in room 101 of the Biltmore Hotel on Sept. 24, 1947, with 18 voting and one associate company comprising its membership. Approved was all the preparatory work of establishing the association, the treasurer reported $1,239 on hand, and a vote was taken to elect nine members of a permanent Board of Directors.

The 19 companies that comprised the membership at the time of the annual meeting in the “Charter” year of 1947 merit mention. The voting members were American Rolling Mill Co., Bristol-Meyers Co., Al Buchanan Drilling Co., Burlington Mills, Corp., Champion Paper and Fiber Co., Corning Glass Works, General Electric Co., B.F. Goodrich Co., Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Hanes Hosiery Mills Co., Howes Brothers Co., National Dairy Products Corp., Republic Steel Corp., Reynolds Metals Co., Sinclair Refining Co., L.B. Smith Co., United Cigar-Whelan Stores and Wolfe Industries. In an Associate Member category was Atlantic Aviation Corporation.

NBAA’s Early Years

The association was based in New York during its first years of existence, initially sharing the quarters of Skyways magazine. In late 1948, an Executive Secretary was hired.

The Korean War soon brought new challenges to business aviation. In January 1951, the Administrator of the then Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) wrote to CAOA suggesting that it moves its offices to Washington, D.C., so as to work closely with CAA, particularly in the handling of wartime priorities for aircraft parts, supplies and equipment. In February of that year the organization moved from 444 Madison Avenue, New York, to 1025 Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C., initially occupying one small room sublet from the Aeronautical Training Society.

By 1953 it became clear that the group’s name should be changed to reflect its national scope and the growing diversity of its constituency. At a special meeting held June 26, 1953, at the Wings Club in New York City, it became the National Business Aircraft Association. 1988, the association was reincorporated in the District of Columbia. In 1997, at the time of its 50th anniversary, the association changed its name to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), to reflect its ongoing commitment to serve the needs of the entire business aviation community. Review the NBAA Bylaws.

Throughout its early years and its metamorphosis into a strong, internationally recognized force, NBAA adhered unfailingly to its purpose of representing and protecting the aviation interests of its members; presenting a united business aircraft front in all matters where organized action became necessary to improve aircraft, equipment, and service; and furthering the cause of safety and economy of business aircraft operations.

NBAA has adhered faithfully to those objectives in the succeeding years since they were laid down as its guiding philosophy, and the result has been steady growth in membership, prestige and influence.

NBAA has called on the strength and expertise of its members on frequent occasions. One of its early services was the appointment of a Technical Committee to handle challenges stemming from the airframe and systems design and from aircraft maintenance and inspection procedures. Several other standing committees were subsequently created to better manage problems of continuing interest or concern to business aircraft operators.

Over the years, NBAA has sought improvements in airways and airports, better weather reporting service, expansion in communications and air navigation facilities, higher standards of airport services, improved aircraft parts distribution, equitable tax ruling for business aircraft operations, fair allocation of available fuel, greater recognition of the airplane as a necessary tool in modern business and industry, better air traffic control procedures, professional status for qualified business pilots and aircraft designed to meet the special requirements of business flying.

NBAA Today

NBAA has been in the forefront of efforts aimed at fairly settling problems related to air space access, airports and aircraft noise. Today, NBAA is focused on issues such as aviation safety, operational efficiency, fair and equal access, FAA reform, noise and compatible land use, peak hour landing fees, reliever airports, air support, air traffic control modernization, product liability reform, research and development, business aviation advocacy and various tax issues.

As the world of aviation has become more global, NBAA is at the forefront of international issues such as an international aviation policy and improvement and standardization of global air traffic systems.

The association now provides assistance to 11,000 member companies which earn annual revenues of approximately $5 trillion – a number that exceeds 50 percent of the gross national product – and employ more that 19 million people worldwide.

NBAA collects, interprets and disseminates operational and managerial data related to the safe, efficient and cost-effective use of business aircraft. The association is the focal point for identifying and understanding advances in technology and procedures important to the business aviation community.