The History Of The New Mexico Pilots Association

The history of NMPA actually has two beginnings. The first began in 1981 with the creation of the United States Pilots Association.   Arnold Zimmerman who was a St. Louis, MO, based CPA was a very active member of the Missouri Pilots Association when MPA began to help pilots in neighboring Illinois form their own state pilots group. Zimmerman realized that a national umbrella association which could help pilots in various states form their own state pilot organization would be beneficial. Based on the organizational make-up used by Missouri to become one of the largest state pilot groups, Zimmerman created the United States Pilots Association in May 1981 which held its first quarterly directors meeting in Branson, MO, in August 1981. First to join was the Missouri Pilots Association in June, followed by Ohio in August, then Arkansas and Illinois.

The foremost intention of USPA was to create a national group of general aviation pilots who would provide support, knowledge, and assistance to pilots at the local and state level. It would focus on developing and helping direct pilot groups devoted to maintaining a healthy and viable aviation climate in their state. Additionally USPA would work to promote and provide safety education and training to constantly improve the safety of aviation and pilots.

Some comments made by the aviation community pointed out that there was already a large national pilot group, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Zimmerman countered by explaining that AOPA is a top down organization with the directions set and carried out by the staff at AOPA headquarters and the president of AOPA. USPA, on the other hand, is administered by a board of directors This places the decision-making at the grass roots level.

The second beginning of NMPA arose out of USPA’s February 1984 directors meeting in Houston, TX. At that time USPA met with a group of Texas pilots to start a Texas pilots association. An aviation magazine, Flying Review, based in Albuquerque and run by Jim and Roz Kinlen, took note (in print) of USPA and praised their efforts on assisting in the creation of active, committed state aviation groups. Another aviation writer, one of the General Aviation News editors, Bob Worthington, also began praising USPA’s progress in his GAN columns. Worthington, a business professor at West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M) in Canyon was invited to become a founding, charter member of the Texas Pilots Association. This state organization was soon created and on April 29, 1984, became a member of USPA.

Observing the progress of the new TPA, in late 1984, Roz and Jim Kinlen decided to become the lead in creating a New Mexico Pilots Association. Knowing aviation writer Bob Worthington and his involvement in creating TPA, they asked him to assist in forming NMPA. In early 1985 the process of making a state association began. USPA held its quarterly directors meeting in Albuquerque in May 1985 and NMPA became reality. On June 25, 1985, NMPA became the sixth state pilots group to join USPA.

The first officers of NMPA were Charles Morris of Albuquerque as president, Mike Lewis of Albuquerque as first vice president, Pat Chowning of Corrales as second vice president, with Jim Kinlen being secretary, treasurer, and newsletter editor. The directors also included Larry Weisman, Hector Correa, Harry Mullins, Tom Benedict, Ted Price, and Gene Morgan. The next year Bob Worthington became NMPA’s first out-of-state director to represent NMPA members not living in the state. The glue that sustained NMPA throughout the 1980's and early 1990's were the Kinlens who provided the strength and motivation that enabled so many other members to work so hard keeping NMPA a viable and active association.

On November 20, 1997, Roz and Jim passed away in their home in Albuquerque. NMPA, USPA, AOPA, the 99s, and many other aviation groups lost two strong advocates.

At that time Pete Alexander was president of NMPA (also Director of Aviation for New Mexico) and was doing an admirable job of getting NMPA involved in a variety of general aviation activities. NMPA hosted fly-ins around the state with safety seminars, BFR’s provided free by the FAA, planes examined under the PACE Program (Pilot Aircraft Courtesy Evaluation), fun events such as flour bombing contests, and painting airport stripes on runways. During this period USPA also came to New Mexico four more times for its quarterly meetings - Santa Fe in 1987 and 1993, Las Cruces in 1989, and Albuquerque in 1997.

Unfortunately the Director of Aviation for New Mexico is a political appointment and Pete Alexander’s penchant for telling it like it is (or like he viewed it) got him in trouble and he was replaced with Mike Rice, a more politically astute aviation advocate.

Alexander resigned his position as president of NMPA and Steve Uslan of Hobbs became president. The sudden and tragic loss of the Kinlens and the sudden departure of Alexander really had an adverse impact on NMPA. In the past decade numerous original members of NMPA left, moved, passed on, or lost interest - and sustaining the high level of interest was difficult to do. The number of volunteers decreased and, like many volunteer organizations,  members were too busy with more demanding aspects of their lives.

Steve Uslan turned over the presidency to Jerry Smith of Gallup. Smith did not have the strong support group the Kinlens’ and Pete Alexander enjoyed, and Jerry Smith’s business requirements made running NMPA difficult. Smith had several good ideas now being pursued (such as the New Mexico Air Tour) but NMPA activities decreased. He was able to keep up the NMPA membership and a healthy bank account.

In November 2001 Bob Worthington of Las Cruces decided to rejuvenate NMPA. With the consent of some members, he assumed the position of acting president with a goal to revitalize NMPA including changes to the Bylaws to create a more easily managed NMPA, and to set-up the election of officers in June 2002.  Subsequent elected presidents have been Joyce Woods and Cathy Myers.

Since its rejuvenation in 2001 NMPA has grown in membership and the activities it offers.  Back Country activities and the annual Gila Wilderness Negrito Fire Base airstrip three day camping event, once a month fly in opportunities around New Mexico and the Mountain Flying Familiarization Clinic which includes ground school and hands on flying to mountain airports in northern NM and southern CO, held in Santa Fe in the fall. NMPA participates in the Aviation Day at the Legislature, the Land of Enchantment Fly In, EAA sponsored events and numerous safety seminars held around the state.