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AOPA mourns former FAA administrator David Hinson

David Hinson, a champion of aviation safety with a passion for general aviation, died December 3 at age 90.

Photo by Chris Rose.

Hinson’s long and influential career in the aviation industry began in the 1950s as a carrier-based fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy. Afterward, he worked as a pilot and flight instructor for several airlines and served as executive vice president for McDonnell Douglas Corporation. In the 1970s he jointly founded Chicago-based Midway Airlines, where he served as chairman and CEO until the small carrier went out of business in 1991.

In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton nominated Hinson to serve as FAA administrator. Hinson entered the office while the agency was facing several technological and regulatory issues and illustrated steadfast leadership over his three-year term.

“David Hinson was a great leader and aviator who, during his tenure as FAA administrator, set an enduring standard for excellence,” said National Business Aviation Association President Ed Bolen. “He will be greatly missed by all of us who were fortunate to have worked with and been inspired by him.” 

Hinson was at the helm when Congress passed the General Aviation Revitalization Act in 1994, which protected GA manufacturers from the effects of prolonged product liability. Additionally, he is credited with modernizing the air traffic control system and enacting a program dedicated to increasing safety standards on commuter airlines called “One Level of Safety.”

“We are forever thankful for the service of former FAA Administrator Hinson. He was a champion for aviation safety and security, and he did a steadfast job overseeing the FAA during trying times,” said General Aviation Manufacturers Association President Pete Bunce.

After his term as administrator, Hinson served on the boards of a variety of organizations with business, aviation, and philanthropic missions, including the Providence Hospital, St. Luke's Hospital, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. He also served on the advisory boards of the graduate schools of business at the University of Chicago and the University of Washington, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and was also a trustee of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation.

As an avid pilot with a passion for aviation, Hinson was a Life Associate Member of the Air Safety Foundation, also serving as chair of the board of visitors for the foundation from 1997 to 2008. Hinson also gave back through his membership in the AOPA Foundation’s Hat in the Ring Society. His commitment to safety and lifelong career in aviation earned him spots in the aviation halls of fame in both Ohio and Idaho. Over his career, he logged more than 8,000 flight hours in more than 70 types of aircraft.

“My deepest condolences go out to David Hinson’s family and friends,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “His commitment to safety and his passion for philanthropy are endlessly inspiring. I thank him for his service to our country and our community.”

Hinson is survived by his wife, Ursula, and his three children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Lillian Geil

Communications Specialist
Communications Specialist Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.
Topics: People

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