Don Engen, 75, director of the National Air and Space Museum, former FAA administrator, NTSB board member, and former president of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, was killed July 13 in an apparent glider break-up at 11,000 feet east of the Sierra Nevada near Minden-Tahoe Airport, Nevada. Also killed was soaring legend Bill Ivans, 79, former president of the Soaring Society of America and AOPA 251344.
Speaking for the AOPA Board of Trustees, the association, and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, AOPA President Phil Boyer said, “Don Engen was the Air Safety Foundation’s most recognizable and visible leader to that time. He expanded financial support for the foundation among leading donors and charitable foundations, laying the groundwork for ASF’s expanded programs today.”
“On a personal note, we flew together often. I felt he was happiest when flying. He was really a pilot’s pilot.”
Engen ( AOPA 471740) was FAA administrator from 1984 to 1987, then became president of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. Serving until 1991, he established ASF’s accident database and annual Nall Report on previous-year general aviation accidents. He was chairman of the ASF Board of Visitors from 1991 to 1993.
Engen took the top job at the nation’s foremost aviation museum in 1996 with a mandate to move on from the fiasco over the Enola Gay exhibit marking the fiftieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan. In addition to restoring museum morale, Engen dedicated himself to raising $130 million needed to open the much-needed NASM annex at Washington Dulles International Airport by 2003.
A World War II naval aviation hero and winner of the DSM and Navy Cross, the “sailor’s admiral” was renowned for his dedication to the needs of the average sailor. He retired a vice admiral in 1978. Thereafter general manager of Piper’s Lakeland, Florida, plant, then member of the NTSB, he was FAA administrator for nearly four years in the Reagan administration.
Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg, who succeeded Engen, said today, “Don worked tirelessly to promote safety, both during his tenure as FAA administrator, at the NTSB, and as Air Safety Foundation president.”
Many who knew and worked with Engen remember him as one of the most humble and decent human beings in the aviation world.
July 14, 1999