After searching for several months to find a new leader for NBAA, the association’s board of directors reached into the ranks of the general aviation industry early last month to select Ed Bolen to lead business aviation into the second century of flight.
Bolen, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association since November 1996, has been heavily involved in GA activities since back in the days when he was legislative director for Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.).
This time, unlike the last time it chose a president, NBAA got someone who is proven and knowledgeable about the intricacies of lobbying Capitol Hill as well as the general aviation industry as a whole. When he was an aide to the now-retired Kassebaum, Bolen was a key player in helping to get the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 signed into law. That led to resurgence in the demand for GA products.
“I am looking forward to working with NBAA’s members and its professional staff to ensure business aviation has access to the nation’s airports and airways,” said Bolen following his new appointment. “The challenges we are facing in this area are coming from a lot of fronts, but by working in a thoughtful and coordinated manner, we can meet any challenges.”
Bolen joined GAMA in 1995 as senior vice president and general counsel and was elected president and CEO when long-time president Ed Stimpson stepped down in 1996. In addition to guiding GAMA and pushing its agenda in Congress, Bolen has also found time to serve federal appointments to the FAA Management Advisory Council and the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry.
“Ed has long been recognized as an authority on issues important to the aviation community,” said NBAA board chairman, interim president and CEO Donald Baldwin. “Now Ed’s grasp of policy and his dynamic, widely respected leadership style will enable us to better serve the interests of our members and give NBAA an even more powerful voice on the important issues affecting our constituency.”
Bolen’s appointment, which officially takes effect September 7, thus ends a period of turmoil that began two years ago when the board of directors declined to extend the contract of former president Jack Olcott. NBAA hired an executive search firm to find a successor, and after going through a list of 100 candidates, finally selected Shelley Longmuir, an executive lobbyist for United Airlines.
Within nine months, however, amid staff dissent and resignations, the board and Longmuir parted ways. NBAA accepted her resignation on April 1 following a three-day board meeting, and both sides claimed that her departure was a mutual decision. Baldwin took over as interim president and CEO and the search for a new president was resumed.
Bolen is expected to make the transition from GAMA to NBAA with ease, since the two organizations have a long history of working together on issues affecting general and business aviation.
“Ed is held in high regard by leaders across the political spectrum for the many valuable contributions he has made to the aviation industry,” said NBAA board vice chairman Kenneth Emerick, who was head of the search committee this time around. “His selection from more than 50 outstanding candidates underscores the board’s belief that he is the right person to build on NBAA’s proud history, and lead it into the future.”
Bolen is widely praised for his important contributions as president and CEO of GAMA, and NBAA said his policy expertise and dynamic leadership style will give NBAA an even more powerful voice on the issues important to the organization.
GAMA was at the forefront of the passage of the accelerated depreciation tax bonus in 2003, which has proved to be a major sales incentive for manufacturers. Some GAMA directors called it the most helpful legislation for GA sales since the GA revitalization act itself.
In 2001, President Bush nominated Bolen to serve as a member of the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry. Established by Congress, the commission’s objectives were to study and make recommendations on ways to ensure American leadership in aerospace in the 21st century. Bolen used his position on the commission to advocate for increased capacity in the national air transportation system and to draw attention to emerging international issues, including the Europeans’ intention to implement the Galileo satellite system and the possible effect of that decision upon airlines and business aviation in the U.S.
In 2000, the U.S. Senate confirmed Bolen to serve as a member of the Management Advisory Council of the FAA, and he was subsequently elected chairman. The council provides advice and counsel to the FAA Administrator on issues that affect the agency and functions as an oversight resource for management, policy, spending and regulatory matters under the FAA’s jurisdiction.
Bolen is a member of the aviation advisory board of Mitre and the policy board of RTCA. He also serves as chair of the General Aviation Coalition, is on the aeronautics and space engineering board of the National Academies and serves as a board member of the National Aeronautic Association and the Aero Club of Washington.
Bolen received his bachelor of arts in economics from the University of Kansas. He is a graduate of the Tulane University School of Law and holds a master of laws degree from Georgetown University Law Center. Before joining GAMA, he was majority counsel to the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.
A recreational pilot, Bolen resides with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two sons in Bethesda, Md., which is about six miles from NBAA headquarters in downtown Washington. The hiring of Longmuir was questioned within and outside NBAA because she had absolutely no general aviation experience and because she kept her primary residence in Chicago.
GAMA, meanwhile, has begun looking for a new president and CEO. Ron Swanda, GAMA’s senior v-p of operations, is managing the association’s day-to-day affairs until the board of directors chooses a permanent replacement for Bolen.
“Ed has been a tremendously effective leader,” said GAMA chairman Clay Jones, who is chairman, president and CEO of Rockwell Collins. “While GAMA will miss Ed’s leadership, we are pleased that he will continue to serve the general aviation community in his new role.”