Feb. 10, 2004 - Jerome "Jerry" Lederer, an AOPA charter member and a legend in the field of aviation safety, has died at the age of 101. Lederer carried AOPA card #21. He was one of the very first to study human factors and their role in aviation safety, and later organized the Flight Safety Foundation.
"Jerry Lederer's lifelong devotion to aviation and flight safety was inspirational," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "He was there at the founding of AOPA and went on to create one of the world's preeminent organizations promoting commercial flight safety. Although never a pilot himself, he made the safety of those of us who are his life's work."
Lederer was born when powered flight was still just a dream and was fascinated by flight from a very early age. He received one of the earliest aeronautical engineering degrees and went to work for the Air Mail Service, the world's first successful scheduled air transportation system. There, Lederer was the only engineer and was responsible for writing specifications, modifications to aircraft, and reconstruction of aircraft involved in accidents. From that experience evolved a career specializing in flight safety.
Over his long career, Lederer met the likes of the Wright brothers, Charles Lindbergh, and AOPA founding members Abbie and Connie Wolfe. It was his friendship with Abbie Wolfe that led him to AOPA. Wolfe invited Lederer to participate in the meetings that created the association in 1939, and to join the association even though he was neither a pilot nor an aircraft owner.
Shortly after World War II, Lederer convened a meeting of aeronautical engineers to discuss the accident investigation into the crash of a Lockheed Constellation passenger aircraft. Out of that meeting grew what would become the Flight Safety Foundation, one of the world's most respected organizations advocating safe operations by charter and air carrier operators.
"Jerry set the bar very high for the rest of us involved in air safety," said AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "His lifelong devotion to air carrier safety helped make commercial passenger operations what they are today: the safest means of public transportation in the world." The AOPA Air Safety Foundation was formed at about the same time as Lederer's Flight Safety Foundation and has just as aggressively pursued safety issues for general aviation pilots.
The Flight Safety Foundation said of Lederer, "Everyone who boards a commercial airline flight travels more safely because of his lifelong dedication to preventing accidents. From improving the crashworthiness of U.S. Air Mail Service airplanes in the 1920s to requiring flight data recorders on airliners, 'Mr. Aviation Safety' turned many concepts into universal practices."
Lederer received more than 100 aviation awards but once said the citation for his Distinguished Service Award from the Flight Safety Foundation best defines his career: "For pioneering the flight safety discipline at a time when it was all but unknown, and for pursuing the objective of safer flight with a singular dedication, wisdom and courage."
Jerry Lederer died of congestive heart failure on Feb. 6 in California. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Sarah Boharsky Lederer, two daughters, and two granddaughters.