November 7, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
From the cockpit to Congress, the private sector, and academia, a life’s work promoting aviation and safety of flight has earned National Air Transportation Association President James Coyne a Wesley L. McDonald Elder Statesman of Aviation award from the National Aeronautic Association.
Coyne accepted the prestigious industry honor at the NAA Fall Awards Banquet Nov. 7 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.
Under Coyne’s leadership, NATA has been a close ally of AOPA, working jointly on the major issues facing general aviation today, with the common goal, as he noted in November 2010 “to preserve this absolutely wonderful American privilege” of the right to fly.
Coyne, a 6,000-hour pilot, author, business leader, university lecturer, and member of Congress from 1980 to 1982 has led aviation safety organizations and associations to reform tort law and limit congressional terms. Selected president of NATA in 1994, he has worked in conjunction with AOPA and other industry associations on issues including supporting long-term FAA reauthorization, encouraging development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, and opposing aviation user fees.
General aviation pilots know Coyne as chairman of the advisory council of the General Aviation Serves America campaign, who has inspired NATA members to become involved in the effort to educate policymakers and the public about the local and national economic role GA plays.
NATA, as the organization representing aviation businesses such as fixed-base operations, flight schools, and repair stations, serves a customer base consisting of GA pilots and those who depend on GA, Coyne said in an AOPA Live interview with AOPA President Craig Fuller at AOPA Aviation Summit 2010 in Long Beach, Calif.
During that interview just after the 2010 mid-term elections, Coyne looked ahead--expressing his view that “you’d have to [go] back to the thirties to see an election this dramatic” and conceding a prescient concern about the potential effects of budget-cutting on aviation funding.
A year hence, his prediction in that interview that “there is a risk of more gridlock” in Washington seems none the worse for having been issued. However, Coyne also sounded an upbeat note in his conversation with Fuller. He noted that GA has succeeded with bold and imaginative outreach to get above the overall noise level faced by policymakers to get their attention on the issues, as exemplified by the strength of the Congressional GA Caucus.
He also expressed the hope that preserving the aviation infrastructure would transcend the partisan divide.
“While Jim has dedicated his professional career to NATA the last twenty years, he has been a lifelong advocate of the general aviation industry,” said Eric Byer, NATA vice president of government and industry affairs. “I can think of no one more deserving of this award than Jim, for his passion and commitment to this great industry.”
According to NAA, the Elder Statesman awards “were established in 1954 to honor outstanding Americans over age 60 who, by their efforts over a period of years, have made contributions of significant value to aeronautics, and have reflected credit upon America and themselves.” In 2007 the award was renamed in honor of former NAA Chairman Wesley L. McDonald.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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