July 22, 2009
By Sarah Brown
Russell M. Meyer Jr., chairman of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Board of Visitors and former Cessna chairman and CEO, was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame July 18.
Meyer led Cessna for close to three decades, and he has played an active role in promoting and defending general aviation over the course of his career. He took over as chair of the Air Safety Foundation’s Board of Visitors, a panel that helps grow and promote the foundation’s safety mission, in 2008.
Meyer served as a fighter pilot with both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves from 1955 through 1961. He joined the Cessna Aircraft Company as executive vice president in 1974 and was named chairman and CEO one year later. He retired from Cessna in 2003.
During his tenure at Cessna, he championed the battle against a stifling legal atmosphere that nearly devastated the American GA industry in the late 1970s and ’80s; his and similar efforts by AOPA and others led to the passage of the General Aviation Revitalization Act in 1994. With more than 17,000 hours of flight time in more than 50 aircraft types, Meyer has also worked to increase the ranks of pilots, leading the development of the “Be A Pilot” program in the 1990s to address a decrease in entry-level pilot programs.
Meyer and Eileen Collins, U.S. Air Force test pilot and the first female Shuttle commander, accepted their enshrinement in a ceremony in Dayton, Ohio. Award-winning actor and WWII bomber pilot James M. Stewart and Gemini and Apollo astronaut Edward H. White II were also inducted in the ceremony; Stewart’s daughter and White’s children accepted enshrinement on behalf of their late fathers.
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