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