The history of jets and trainers flown by civilian owners and pilots began in the United States in the late 1950s. The first military jets operated in the United States were surplus British Vampires and Glouster Meteors. In the 1970s a few Canadian T-33s and F-86s began flying in the U.S. These aircraft were placed into the Experimental category and were used mainly for air shows and air racing.
With the Canadian T-Birds leading the way, the aircraft types flown and the numbers slowly increased. Jim Robinson, of Houston, TX, the moving force behind the CJAA, made calls to aircraft owners and pilots to gauge interest in establishing a jet organization. This resulted in the first organized meeting, held in Denver in 1989 with 60 people in attendance.
During this first gathering of jet operators, Robinson was elected the first president of the CLASSIC JET AIRCRAFT ASSOCIATION. Through Jim's outstanding work, the CJAA was made a legal entity, by-laws were adopted, and the association's logo was created.
CJAA's next president was Chuck Parnall. During his tenure, he accepted a full time position at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and lead the way toward CJAA and EAA cooperation. Also, during this period, conventions were held at Tucson, AZ, NAS Pensacola, San Antonio, TX, and Seattle, WA.
Then came the July 1993 moratorium on jet warbirds. This action on the part of the FAA united and strengthen the CJAA membership. After parting from EAA, a major reorganizing effort occurred at the Nellis AFB convention in 1995. Kay Eckardt was voted in as president, and a new board of directors was elected. This rebirth of the rejuvenated CJAA culminated with the Dallas, TX convention in 1996, where legal charters were incorporated to ensure the long-term survival of the association.
Don Kirlin succeeded Eckardt as president in 1997 at Tyndall AFB, and in turn was succeeded by Bill Geipel in 1999 at Nellis AFB. Mark Sherman assumed presidency in 2001 and served until Warren Wood took over in 2003. Karl Kunze's presidency from 2005 to 2007 was highlighted by the FAA agreement to overturn the 600nm proficiency limitation. At the 2007 Kirtland AFB CJAA convention, "Doc" Blevins was elected president and became instrumental in reestablishing relations with the FAA and in restarting a Classic Jet Safety program. Subsequently, members voted Rob Williams president at the 2009 March ARB convention.
After two years of leadership, Rob turned the reigns over to Darryl Christen during the 2011 Luke AFB convention. Challenges related to securing military bases for conventions led CJAA to pursue alternate venues and in 2013 decided to align with the NWOC convention. At that convnetion, Doug Matthews was elected president.
The Classic Jet Aircraft Association now has membership in the hundreds who restore, own, and operate classic jets and seek to do so for all to enjoy; and our numbers are growing. Currently, members are flying over 30 different types of classic jets, virtually all being ex-military SMTPA (Surplus Military Turbine Powered Aircraft).
Surplus military jets are also flying in a number of other countries, with England dominating the scene. However, they can also be found in Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, France, and Italy, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Many of these overseas owners and operators are CJAA members.
The CJAA works with the federal government, specifically the FAA in Washington, providing valuable input to law and regulation makers. Additionally, emphasis is placed on the Annual Convention and regional Fly-ins for training, recurrency, and renewing friendships. Technical and safety information is also disseminated through its Classic Jet Journal.