Edward Stimpson, aviation advocate, dies at 75
November 27, 2009
JOHN MILLER Associated Press Writer BOISE, Idaho
Edward Stimpson, an aviation advocate who pushed to rejuvenate struggling small aircraft manufacturers in the 1990s by limiting lawsuits against them, has died after an extended illness. He was 75. His death Wednesday was confirmed by s tate Rep. Wendy Jaquet , D-Ketchum. A cause of death was not immediately known. Jaquet said doctors discovered cancerous lesions in his lungs this year. Stimpson, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association for 25 years, was a major proponent of legislation signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 to prevent general aviation companies from being named as defendants in lawsuits in crashes of small planes 18 years old or older. By 1994, a wave of lawsuits in crashes was being blamed for a downturn at small aircraft manufacturers such as Beech Aircraft Co. And Cessna Aircraft Corp., costing 100,000 industry jobs over the previous decade. Annual sales of singleengine planes averaged 13,000 From 1965 to 1982, but had dropped to only about 500 by 1993. Stimpson also advocated against record attempts like 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff's 1996 bid to become the youngest person to fly across the country. Dubroff, her father and her flight instructor died when their plane crashed in Cheyenne, Wyo., prompting Stimpson to call for measures to "stop the circus-like, media-driven events." In the late 1990s, Stimpson was chairman of "Be A Pilot," an industrywide education and research program aimed at increasing the number of people learning to fly. "He was really interested in rejuvenating the spirit of flying," said Jaquet, a family friend. Stimpson, who grew up in Bellingham, Wash., worked as an executive at Boise-based engineering firm Morrison Knudsen Corp. He graduated from Harvard College and received a graduate degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. He and his wife, Dorothy, met as employees at the Seattle World's Fair in 1962. She was one of Idaho's representatives to the Democratic National Committee until 2000. In 1998, Stimpson received the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy for public service in aviation, an honor he shared with aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, World War II pilot Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle and Apollo 11 astronaut Neil A. Armstrong. In 1999, then-President Bill Clinton appointed Stimpson to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a Montreal-based group that promotes safe aviation around the world. He served until 2004. "There are a lot of things happening in the growth of aviation, and I see it as a great challenge," he said in 1999 after Clinton named him to the group. For two decades, he was a board member at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, where a residence hall and laboratory have been named after him. Stimpson remained a force in aviation. In April 2008, Stimpson was named to a Federal Aviation Administration panel to recommend improvements to airline safety measures after concerns arose that the FAA allowed Southwest Airlines to fly dozens of Boeing 737s without inspecting them for fuselage cracks as required and that Southwest's system for complying with FAA safety directives hadn't been inspected since 1999. A call to the Stimpson home in Boise, Idaho, wasn't immediately returned Thursday.