WASHINGTON, D.C. — Henry Ogrodzinski, widely known general aviation advocate who for the past 18 years was president and CEO of the National Association of State Aviation Officials, died at his home here on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Jan. 22. He was 65 and had battled cancer for two years.
He graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin with a BA in journalism-mass communication. He began his career at General Motors Delco Electronics Division, which manufactured navigation and flight management systems for commercial, military and space applications. At the division’s Milwaukee division, he was responsible for all communications and training programs.
He left Delco to become director of policy and planning for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. At EAA he began his contacts with government as he testified frequently before Congress on many aviation matters. He also managed all public and media communications for EAA and was on the editorial board of EAA’s five magazines. Throughout the 1980s he played an integral part in the growth of EAA and managed all public and media relations for the world’s largest aviation event.
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association recruited him in 1988 to head its communications programs.
A GAMA member company, Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. asked him to move to its offices and consolidate its worldwide public affairs, exhibitions, and advertising efforts. He was Gulfstream’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications and a corporate officer.
He left Gulfstream to become the first President and CEO of the then-20-year-old United States Air and Trade Show in Dayton, Ohio. There he is credited with rescuing that financially troubled organization by producing successful events.
In 1996 he assumed the leadership of the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) and the association’s non-profit Center for Aviation Research and Education. NASAO represents the state government aviation agencies in all 50 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico. NASAO is one of the oldest aviation organizations and Henry was the first person in its 83 year history to hold the title of President and Chief Executive Officer.
A veteran of the U.S. Army, he served on the board of the Alliance for Aviation Across America since its inception in 2007. He held membership in many organizations and served on government and industry panels. Among his many awards were a Lifetime Achievement Award for the New York Aviation Management Association and Statesman of Aviation Management Association.
He is survived by his wife of 21 years, a brother in Florida, and a sister in Wisconsin.
Almost immediately after word was released of his passing, aviation leaders began issuing comments about his and their sorrow for his passing. One of the first was Pete Bunce, president and CEO of GAMA: “The general aviation industry,” he said, “has lost one of its best advocates and beloved gentlemen-statesmen.”