Long-time industry veteran Gary Dempsey has been selected by the National Air Transportation Association’s (NATA) board of directors to succeed Marty Hiller, who announced that he will step down as president. Hiller was a board member of the trade group since 2010, and in 2016, he agreed to take on the role of president pro bono, after the departure of Thomas Hendricks, initially on a temporary basis. The announcement came on September 14 and Dempsey began his duties immediately after.
“Marty stepped in to lead at a critical point for the association and did an outstanding job,” noted Greg Schmidt, president and CEO of Pentastar Aviation and a former NATA board chairman. “He has helped put the association in a solid financial position for years to come and led the battle on many of the threats facing the industry, including ATC privatization, workforce shortages, and illegal charter. Marty has consistently demonstrated the value of NATA to our members through the development of innovative products and services.”
Hiller will now focus on his family’s interests at Hiller Carbon, a carbon supplier to steel, foundry, and graphite customers, while remaining in touch with the aviation industry through his ownership at Florida Keys-based Marathon Aviation Associates. He will retain the non-operational title of director emeritus at NATA. In a note to the organization’s members, he thanked them for their support and willingness to assist both him and the organization over the past several years, adding NATA will continue to focus on helping its members as the leading voice for aviation business. “General aviation is a beautiful industry, filled with integrity and great people,” he stated. “I am very confident in the future of the NATA, and the vital role a leading aviation trade association provides the general aviation industry.”
Dempsey, who recently retired from his position as Jet Aviation’s senior vice president of sales for the Americas, was a current NATA board member and former chairman before being tapped as the ninth president in the 78-year history of the organization. The transition follows a succession plan set up by the association to continue leveraging the experience of its members in driving its policy and effecting meaningful change in the industry.
“The board and executive team recognize the incomparable benefits that decades of industry experience and years of NATA board leadership afford in ensuring how to best direct the association and serve the unique needs of its membership,” explained current NATA chairman and Ross Aviation head Jeff Ross. “We welcome Gary and congratulate Marty on all his success as serving as NATA president. The board is confident that Gary, along with the support of NATA’s executive v-p Tim Obitts, CFO Jason Miller, and dedicated staff will continue to advance safety and prosperity throughout our membership and the entire aviation business community.”
Dempsey’s aviation career reaches back half a century, as he started out working a night job for an airline while still in high school. He soon earned his pilot’s license along with an A&P certificate, began serving as a mechanic, and established his own FBO. Later positions included field service manager with Cessna, head of Beechcraft’s maintenance operation, and vice president of operations for General Dynamics Aviation Services. Dempsey joined Jet Aviation in 2003 as senior vice president for aircraft maintenance and OEM development.
“I grew up in the industry, so certainly it was a compliment to me to be selected by the board,” Dempsey told AIN. “I think when a board asks you to take the role, you feel obligated to serve. I still feel like I have something to contribute to the industry, to give back.”
Dempsey, whose tenure as head of the organization began immediately, believes that ATC privatization remains the top threat to the industry and cautions that attempts to insert it into the FAA reauthorization bill might yet still occur.
Looking ahead, he sees opportunities for the organization to swell its ranks from all the new technologies that are developing, such as providers of new charter-booking software platforms. “We also have a number of smaller air carrier start-ups coming in and NATA would be a great source of information in best practices,” he said, adding that he envisions the organization taking an even larger role in helping increase industry safety through further enhancements to its popular training programs.
Another area of concern for Dempsey is the predicted shortages in skilled labor. “Aviation has been a great career for me, I know it is for thousands of other people and I think NATA can help lead that path,” he said. “NATA is the business of aviation, and we have an obligation to make sure the business is a growth area. NATA has all the resources now, and we just need to expand on them to educate and communicate the needs of aviation, so that we can add more workforce in the future to this wonderful career.”