NBAA Marks the Passing of Industry Legend Otto Pobanz
June 16, 2015
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  • The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) announced today the passing of Otto C. Pobanz, a former NBAA director and leader of the Federated Department Stores flight department for three decades. Pobanz, who was 93, died in his sleep.

    “Otto Pobanz was a consummate professional and true champion for business aviation,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “Otto represented what makes business aviation great – he was professional, personable, energetic, thoughtful and totally engaged. He made a lasting impact on technology adoption, flight department management and practices, and the growth of NBAA. Otto was a joy to be around and will be greatly missed.”

    The highlights of Pobanz’s involvement with NBAA included serving on the Association’s Board of Directors from 1972 to 1983, as well as chairing the local committee that coordinated NBAA’s 1972 Annual Meeting & Convention in Cincinnati.

    The late John Winant, who was NBAA president when Pobanz served on the Association’s board of directors, said, “Pobanz’s long service on the board was distinguished by his inquisitive mind and by the constant flow of ideas and suggestions which it generated. He was a great, creative source of energy.”

    Pobanz was born on April 27, 1922, and raised on a farm in New Jersey. Inspired by Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic in 1927, he took his first flying lesson at age 16 and two years later was a flight instructor, having accrued more than 1,000 flight hours by the time he was 19.

    From 1942 to 1946, Pobanz served as a flight instructor with the U.S. Navy, where he taught instrument flying techniques and helped transition new aviators into multiengine and transport-category aircraft.

    Immediately following the war, Pobanz resumed his career as a civilian flight instructor and flew non-scheduled air cargo for a short time before entering business aviation in 1956, flying a Douglas DC-3 out of Teterboro, NJ for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). But within a year he began what would be his nearly 30-year tenure as the leader of Cincinnati-based flight department of Federated Department Stores.

    While at Federated, Pobanz presided over business aviation’s transition from using piston-powered military and airline transports, such as the company’s Douglas DC-3, to first-generation turbine-powered business aircraft, including the Gulfstream I, Lockheed JetStar, Hawker 125 and Learjet 25.

    During his career, Pobanz amassed more than 20,000 accident-free hours as a pilot and was involved in the development of numerous flight department management innovations, such as helping design one of the first computer programs for dispatch, maintenance and flight department recordkeeping.

    But first and foremost, Pobanz was a safety champion. He advocated for the use of cockpit resource management principles, the development of thrust reversers and the use of fire-resistant noise-reducing materials in aircraft cabins. Following his retirement from Federated Department Stores, Pobanz became a leading aircraft-cabin acoustics consultant.

    Pobanz was named Business Pilot of the Year in 1975 and was the 1992 recipient of the Flight Safety Foundation’s Business Aviation Meritorious Service Award. He also was designated an “honored veteran” in the Tri-State Warbird Museum in Batavia, OH.