Meyer Jr., Russell W.
Promoter/AdvocateEnshrined 2009 1932-Present
With a lifelong passion for aviation that included thousands of hours in high performance jet fighters and Cessna Citations, Russ Meyer relished the same thrill of flying as the Wright Brothers when he climbed aboard a two-seat 1911 Wright “B” Flyer replica on a crisp, fall day in Ohio and successfully logged one takeoff and one landing.
- Meyer led Cessna from 1975-2003 as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and was named Chairman Emeritus in 2005.
- He served as Chairman of the Board of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) in 1974, 1982, and 1994.
- Meyer led in the passage of the 1994 General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA) that limited aircraft liability that had crippled the general aviation industry.
- Meyer has been awarded the Collier Award twice, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy and the Meritorious Service Award from NBAA.
- Originator of the Citation Special Olympics Airlift, where hundreds of Citation owners transport athletes to the National Special Olympics games.
- Meyer played a key role in the development of the “Be A Pilot” program that resulted in tens of thousands of new pilots and contributed more than $200 million to the economy.
Russell W. Meyer, Jr. joined Cessna Aircraft Company, the world’s leading manufacturer of general aviation airplanes, as Executive Vice President in June of 1974. He was elected Chairman and Chief Executive Officer one year later. He was named Chairman Emeritus in January 2005.
A native of Davenport, Iowa, Russ was President and Chief Executive Officer of Grumman American Aviation Corporation, Cleveland, Ohio, from 1966-1974. From 1961-1966, he was an attorney with the firm of Arter & Hadden in Cleveland.
He graduated from Yale University with a B.A. degree in 1954 and earned his Doctor of Law degree from Harvard Law School in 1961. He was a jet pilot in the U.S. Air Force from 1955-58 and with the U.S. Marine Air Corps Reserves from 1958-1961. A commercial, instrument-rated pilot with more than 17,000 hours of flight time, he is type rated in all models of the Cessna Citation business jet and regularly flies as a pilot in command.
He served as Chairman of the Board of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) in 1974, 1982, and 1994. During the latter tenure, he led the industry’s successful effort to gain passage of the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, which established an 18-year statute of repose for product liability litigation, and which revived production of piston-powered aircraft.
During his 31 years as Chairman, Cessna delivered 67,000 aircraft, including almost 5000 Citations, far more than any other company.
In 1986 he conceived the Citation Special Olympics Airlift to provide transportation for 1000’s of Special Olympians to and from the International Summer Games, an event that has become the largest peacetime effort in aviation history.
In 1991, he received the George S. Dively Award for Corporate Public Initiative from Harvard University. The award was presented for creating Cessna’s 21st Street Training Program, a comprehensive academic, personal and on-site vocational skills training program for Wichita’s inner-city residents, with jobs guaranteed to those who complete the program.
With his guidance and commitment, this program became a nationally recognized model for the nation’s Welfare-to-Work initiative. In November, 1997, President Clinton helped dedicate a new campus for the program, which he described as the finest of its kind in the country.
Russ has been honored with the industry’s highest awards during his distinguished career. In 1986 he and Cessna were awarded the Robert J. Collier Trophy for the worldwide safety record of the Cessna Citation fleet of business jets. Ten years later in 1996, under his leadership, the Collier Trophy was again awarded to Cessna for developing the Citation X, the first commercial aircraft to achieve a cruising speed of Mach .92, making it the fastest business jet in the world.
In 1995, Russ received one of aviation’s most prestigious individual honor, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, awarded annually on the anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight. The citation accompanying the award reads: “For leadership in the revitalization of general aviation, effective public service, and active involvement in the creation and support of innovative aviation-related programs and opportunities for the disadvantaged and disabled.”
Also in 1995, he received the Meritorious Service to Aviation Award from the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) for his efforts to gain passage of the General Aviation Revitalization Act.
In 1996, he was inducted into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame, and in 1998, was named “Kansan of the Year.”
Russ has served on three Presidential commissions. In 1987, he was appointed by President Reagan to the seven-member Aviation Safety Commission. He was also a member of President Reagan’s Commission on Executive, Legislative and Judicial Salaries. In 1993, he was appointed by President Clinton to the National Commission to Ensure a Strong and Competitive Airline Industry.
In 2004 he was appointed by Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta to the FAA’s Management Advisory Council. He continues to serve as a member of this Council and was its chairman from 2005-08.
He served as a director for several NYSE companies, including General Dynamics, Bank of America, Westar, Fourth Financial and Coleman Corporation. He is a Life Trustee of Wake Forest University.
Russ and his wife, Helen, have five children and five grandchildren.
Biography provided by Cessna Aircraft Company