Henry Ogrodzinski, lifetime aviation advocate, has died

January 23, 2014

The aviation community is mourning the loss of one of its most devoted advocates with the death of Henry M. Ogrodzinski, president and CEO of the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) on Jan.22. He was 65.

Ogrodzinski died at his Capitol Hill home after a two-year battle with cancer, said NASAO Chairman Christopher Willenborg in a message to NASAO members.

"Over the past 18 years, Henry led our organization with tremendous passion towards aviation and sincere concern for all NASAO Members, friends, and aviation industry stakeholders. His strong leadership qualities, extensive experience in the aviation industry, and ability to effectively communicate on Capitol Hill made him one of the most recognized and respected spokespersons regarding aviation related matters nationally," he said.

Ogrodzinski served on the boards of directors of the National Aeronautic Association, the Aero Club of Washington, the Airport Cooperative Research Program, the Board of Nominations for the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Selection Committee for the annual Collier Trophy, according to his official NASAO biography.

He was "an aviation advocate his entire professional life" in a career that began in the General Motors’ avionics division, and later in senior positions at the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and Gulfstream Aerospace. He was "a proud U.S. Army veteran," and a graduate, with honors, of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

"Henry O., as he was affectionately known, devoted his life and career to advancing general aviation," said AOPA President Mark Baker. "He was a dignified and statesmanlike advocate for the needs and value of GA, and the entire community has benefited from his decades of devotion. He will be missed."

The aviation industry "has lost one of its best advocates and beloved gentlemen-statesman," said GAMA President Pete Bunce. "Henry was a tireless champion of general aviation, and his industry expertise made him highly respected and sought after by the media."

Ogrodzinski was "a constant, strong and effective advocate for general aviation," said Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association.

Ogrodzinski was the first person in NASAO’s 83-year history to hold both president and CEO titles. NASAO represents government aviation agencies in all 50 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

Last year he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the New York Aviation Management Association. In 2012 he received NAA’s Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award, and was honored for his Career Contribution in Aviation by the Texas Department of Transportation.

In 2011, AOPA reported on the continuing budget challenges faced by state aviation agencies despite a nascent economic recovery. The article spotlighted Ogrodzinski’s tireless work under trying circumstances to make aviation’s case with policymakers.

"I tell them that we have the biggest and best aviation system in the world and we need to continue to maintain it at the same standard," Ogrodzinski told AOPA in the February 2011 interview.

Ogrodzinski is survived by his wife, Ellen Barrett.

A memorial service has been scheduled for Jan. 28, and a tribute to his life for family, friends, and colleagues to attend was to be held in February, with details to be announced, NASAO said.