Greg Principato to retire from NAA

President and CEO leaves a solid foundation and legacy of public service.  

WASHINGTON, DC- Following a long career of public service, the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) announced today that President and CEO, Greg Principato, will retire from the association effective on September 15, 2023. Principato has served the NAA since 2016.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors I want to thank Greg for all he has done for the NAA,” said Board Chair Jim Albaugh. “Greg not only successfully built a strong foundation for the NAA’s next chapter, he also provided impressive strategic leadership during COVID. We are grateful for the expertise and knowledge he provided over the last 7 years.”

With over 40 years’ experience in Washington, DC, Principato began his career on Capitol Hill. His introduction to aviation came in 1986 when his mentor, Virginia Governor Gerald Baliles recognized his executive abilities and assigned Principato important roles in Baliles’s historic transportation program, in the legislative effort that established the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, and in early work that led to the opening of the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum.
Principato built on that experience in 1993 with an appointment during the Clinton Administration to serve as Executive Director of the National Commission to Ensure a Strong Competitive Airline Industry, which completed its work early and under budget. The Commission’s report “Change, Challenge and Competition” is still referred to 30 years later. The Commission laid the essential groundwork for the passage of the General Aviation Revitalization Act and helped settle debates over the deregulation of airline routes and fares and the pursuit of open skies international air service agreements.
A passionate aviation advocate, Principato came to the NAA from the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO), for which he developed and implemented a new strategic vision and made the organization more inclusive of members and staff. Prior to that, he served as the President and CEO of Airport Council International- North America (ACI-NA), the trade association for airports. Under his leadership at ACI-NA, Principato not only united U.S. and Canadian Airports more fully into one organization, he also played a leading role in the successful effort to strengthen and reform the global airport organization which enabled the international group to better focus on strategic issues.
“The NAA has been an essential part of America’s aviation history since its founding in 1905,” Principato said. “Leading NAA was a dream come true for me personally, and a wonderful opportunity to add to NAA’s unique and historic legacy. I will be forever grateful to the Board and membership and can’t wait to see what is next for the entire association and the aviation industry.”
Albaugh said, “Greg leaves a remarkable legacy. He will be remembered at NAA as a person who expanded the reach of the organization and drew in all of the varied elements of aerospace.”
The National Aeronautic Association is a non-profit membership organization devoted to fostering opportunities to participate fully in aviation activities and to promoting public understanding of the importance of aviation and space flight to the United States. NAA is the caretaker of some of the most important aviation awards in the world and certifies all national aviation records set in the United States. For information, visit

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Keep Your Commitment to Expand the Reach of Aerobatics

By, Greg Principato, IAC 439996

For the past six and a half years it has been my honor to serve as President & CEO of the National Aeronautic Association (NAA).  NAA is the oldest national aviation organization in the United States and is also a founding member of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI).  Our mission is to promote the art, sport and science of aviation.  We certify aviation records and have custody of many of aviation’s highest awards.  We are also designated by FAI to oversee air sports in the United States, much of which we delegate to organizations such as the International Aerobatic Club (IAC).

As leader of the NAA, it has been my honor to serve on the IAC Board of Directors since 2016.  Though I cannot fly upside down, I have tremendous admiration for each and every one of you who fly aerobatics.  What you do not only defies the imagination, it has served to inspire generations of young people to become involved in aviation in all its aspects.  Over the years I have met airport directors, airline pilots, aircraft mechanics and manufacturers and so many others in our industry who were first inspired by an air show or an aerobatic competition they witnessed as youngsters.  (Photo above: Amy Spowart, Greg Principato and Patty Wagstaff.)

Aviation faces a tough challenge these days.  We need more people entering our industry at all levels.  All of us must work to inspire young people, of all backgrounds, to become interested in aviation.  In so many aspects of aviation, for example, women are woefully under-represented, in large part because of an unfriendly culture.  One of the great things about aerobatics is that there are so many highly accomplished pilots and judges who are women.  Names like Patty Wagstaff, Julie Clark, Debby Rihn-Harvey and Vicky Benzing inspire just as much as names like Bob Hoover and Sean D. Tucker and Rob Holland.  We need to keep that momentum going and show young people from all walks of life that aviation will welcome them and that they can thrive throughout an aviation career.                                                                                                                                                   

One thing that has characterized the IAC board since I joined, through three different IAC presidents, is that there has always been gender diversity.  Indeed, among the aviation-related boards of which I am aware, the IAC board is among the most diverse.  This brings differences of viewpoints and experiences that add richness to the conversation and debates.  I think this is something in which to take great pride.

There has also always been passionate discussion of important issues, discussions which have yielded good results for the membership.  Please don’t lose that.  And please keep your commitment to the twin goals of expanding the reach of aerobatics through all levels, as well as fielding the best possible teams on the global level at FAI competitions.  Both are necessary and important.

For me, the time has come to yield the CEO position. The NAA board has hired Amy Spowart, former President & CEO of the National Aviation Hall of Fame, as the new NAA President & CEO.  Amy will begin upon my retirement.  She shares the same passion for building and inspiring a new and even better future for aviation in all aspects.  At the Hall of Fame, she worked closely with aerobatic legends such as Bob Hoover, Patty Wagstaff and Sean Tucker.  She will be an amazing leader for NAA and will add so much to IAC board discussions in the years ahead. 

Once again, thank you all for allowing this non-pilot to share in your world.  I know our flight paths will cross again in the future, and I will look forward to that.