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Congressman Don H. Clausen Aviation Biography

One of America’s Leading “Champions” of Aerospace – Aviation


  • Naval Aviator – Carrier Pilot WWII


  • Established Fixed Base/Airport Operation, Flight School, Charter and Ambulance Service at Del Norte County Airport


  • Founder of Del Norte High School Aviation Education and Flight Training Program
  • Airport Manager – Del Norte County Airport
  • Chairman, Aviation Unit Redwood Empire Association of Northern California
  • Vice-Chairman, Aviation Committee County Supervisors Association of California
  • Charter Member of California Association of Airport Executives (CAAE)


  • Elected to United States House of Representatives. Served for 20 years on the House, Public Works and Transportation Committee having jurisdiction over all of the Transportation (Highways, Transit, and Aviation) Legislation
  • Elected President of Congressional Flying Club with Ground School, Link and Flight Training made available to Members of Congress and their Key Staff members (designed to acquaint and education Members of Congress on all aviation issues).
  • As a sitting member of Congress, convinced then “Governor” Ronald Reagan to establish the first, in the nation, “Governor’s Task Force on Aerospace-Aviation Education” for California schools.
  • Gained the support of three (3) Superintendents of Public Instruction for California and the California Division of Aeronautics to establish a partnership in Aviation Education for implementation in California schools.  Served as Chairman of the Task Force.
  • A member of AOPA and worked closely with President John Baker of AOPA to champion general aviation issues in the United States Congress.
  • As a Congressman, Don Clausen teamed up with Dr. Mervyn Strickler of FAA, Jack Sorenson of the Civil Air Patrol, NASA, and a number of Aerospace-Aviation stalwarts, including Chuck Yeager and Scott Crossfield, to promote the National Congress on Aviation and Space Education, where he served as a Speaker and Representative to President Ronald Reagan.
  • He was presented with two of the Nation’s highest awards for contributions to Aerospace and Aviation Education:
    • The Brewer Trophy by NAA
    • The Crown Circle award of the National Congress on Aviation and Space Education (presented by Chuck Yeager)
  • Clausen worked with Jack Anderson and President Reagan to establish the Young Astronauts Program.
  • In 1979, Congressman Clausen was asked to serve as a Keynote Speaker to the First World Aerospace Education Congress and to present a message by President Jimmy Carter to President Anwar Sadat at this Cairo, Egypt Congress.
  • The two other Keynote Speakers were General Jacques Mitterand, President of Aerospatiale and John Steiner of Boeing Aircraft.
  • Clausen’s speech was placed in the Congressional Record by the then Speaker of the House Jim Wright of Texas.
  • Congressman Clausen was the author of an amendment to establish a “Civil Aviation Information Distribution Program” working through each of the Regional Offices and their personnel of the FAA.
  • This CAID provided the Legislative authority for the FAA’s Aviation Education Program.
  • In 1969-1970, Congressman Clausen convinced Chairman Wilbur Mills of the House Ways and Means Committee to hold hearings for the purpose of establishing a “funding mechanism” for aviation programs – which resulted in establishing the Airport-Airways Trust Fund in 1970.  Those hearing afforded an opportunity for all aviation alphabet groups to present their views.
  • Worked with the House Committee leadership to re-align committee jurisdictions resulting in Aviation and Transit being assigned to the House Public Works and Transportation Committee – so as to better coordinate and integrate surface and air transportation modes in one House Committee.
  • This re-alignment resulted in the Aviation Program authorizing jurisdiction being transferred to Clausen’s House Public Works and Transportation Committee.
  • From 1970 to 1982, all aviation legislation that originated in the House was strongly coordinated and supported by Don Clausen, his House colleagues, and coordinated with Senators Mike Monroney of Oklahoma and Jennings Randolph of West Virginia, resulting in the passage of the Airport Development Assistance Program (ADAP).
  • In 1982, working with President Reagan, Secretary Drew Lewis, and FAA Administrator Lynn Helms, Don Clausen, as the Senior Ranking Member of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee, played a strong role in coordinating the strategy for passage of the Airport Improvement and Airways Modernization Act of 1982, along with the Aviation Committee chairman Norm Mineta of California and Gene Snyder of Kentucky.
  • This legislation contained a policy directive to the FAA to establish a “National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.”  As the author and architect of this amendment to establish (NPIAS), Don Clausen established himself as the “Father of the NPIAS” and a national leader in aviation.
  • In January of 1983, upon leaving Congress, after twenty years of dedicated service, President Ronald Reagan asked Don Clausen to join and serve his administration in the United States Department of Transportation.
  • With Don Clausen’s strong interest and wide experience in Aviation Operations and Management, Don gave priority consideration to developing implementation strategies for Aviation Education and Airport Improvement Programs, including the drafting of policy statement for some of the administrators.
  • Working with the FAA administrators, their division managers, the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO), AOPA, CAP, NASA, NAA, NBAA, and all of the Aviation Alphabet Groups, Congressman Clausen helped establish “Partnerships in Aviation Education,” “Aviation Education Councils,” and “Aviation and Space Forums” in all 50 states of the United States.
  • In addition, he served as a co-chairman, with Arthur Godfrey (famous radio and TV personality) of the International Exposition of Flight held in Las Vegas – intended to serve as the United States counterpart to the Paris Air Show.
  • As part of the FAA’s National Aviation Education Strategy, Clausen prevailed on his friend and constituent Charles Schulz (famous cartoonist of Peanuts and his Charlie Brown Gang) to assist in designed a special brochure for a nationwide “Aviation Awareness” contest designed to “infuse aviation topics into the basic curriculum of our Nation’s schools.”  These aviation education brochures were sent to 110,000 schools throughout the United States – with State, Regional, and National winners being selected and awarded.
  • So, from the Flight Deck of a carrier in the middle of the Pacific, where Ensign Don Clausen presented his Dream of Aviation Education to an audience of one, Fellow Flyer Smokey Smoley of Wisconsin (later killed in action).  When Clausen said, “Smokey, did you ever stop to think what the Naval Aviation Education and Training Program has done for you and me – a couple of average guys?” He continued, “I think this type of program should be established in the schools of America.”
  • After leaving the Navy, Don returned to Crescent City, California, and found an airport had been built during the war, thus permitting him to establish the Del Norte County Airport, his fixed base operation, and the opportunity to initiate the fulfillment of his dreams – an Aviation and Flight Training Program in the High School of his community.  One of his first students was the High School Principal, Charles Thunen – followed by members of the School’s Board of Trustees – dedicated to convincing them of “How exposure to the excitement of Aviation” – could significantly enhance the learning process, especially in the subject of English (communications), Math (navigation), and the theory and chemistry of engines.
  • From that meager beginning, Congressman Clausen has had the satisfaction of seeing much of this Aviation Education Dream fulfilled – with Aviation and Space Education Program initiatives established in all 50 states of the United States.
  • However, Congressman Clausen wants to make it abundantly clear – that he is only one of many aviation education “champions” throughout the United States that he has identified with – to promote a cause that we all deeply believe in – Aviation and Space Education in the Schools of America.
  • “The year 1996 marks the 50th anniversary of my commitment to the fulfillment of that dream.”  “I hope other champions will continue to commit themselves to this cause.”
  • Since retiring to his native California, Don has continued his interest and activities in Aviation as a member of the California Transportation Commission’s (CTC) “Technical Advisor Committee on Aeronautics” (TACA), and the Aviation Representative on the California Transportation Foundation.
  • The TACA committee is helping the CTC define the state’s role in aviation with a very comprehensive California Aviation System Plan.

Source of this document: Don H. Clausen, written in 1996