John Douglass, who became only the seventh full-time chief executive of the Aerospace Industries Association in 1998, plans to retire as the group’s president and CEO on December 31. The AIA was founded in 1919 and counts Orville Wright and Glen Curtiss as early members.
Douglass, 66, is a nationally recognized expert in systems acquisition. He guided AIA through the up and down cycles of the aerospace industry for nearly a decade and dealt with the considerable challenges posed by 9/11 and the dramatic economic slowdown in the civil aviation sector.
Among his accomplishments, he counts the successful push for the creation of the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industries–on which he served–in late 2001. One year later the commission issued a report that resulted in the formation of the Joint Planning and Development Office, a multi-agency body working on the Next Generation Air Transportation system.
Douglass also established AIA’s popular Team America Rocketry Challenge for middle- and high-school students, an important part of efforts to attract more young people to careers in aerospace. On his watch, AIA doubled its regular membership from 52 to 103 while expanding the Supplier Management Council from 24 to 172 members.
Before he joined AIA, Douglass served as assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. He had served as foreign policy and science and technology advisor to Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) on the Senate Armed Services Committee and completed a 28-year career in the Air Force, retiring in 1992 as a brigadier general.
After joining AIA, he spurred interest in revitalizing R&D funding, modernizing the export control system and heightening awareness of an impending shortage of critical talent in the workforce. He will leave with industry-wide statistics at impressive levels, including record sales, increasing employment and–at $55 billion–the largest foreign trade surplus of any U.S. manufacturing sector.