The National Business Aviation Association was founded in order to represent the interest of business flying and aircraft operators in the United States. The Corporation Aircraft Owners Association (CAOA) was provisionally launched in November 1946, in Cleveland, Ohio, with Palmer J. Lathrop presiding. The temporary board with William B. Belden of Republic Steel as chairman instituted the organization as a not-for-profit corporation on February 17, 1947 in New York.

In February 1951, due to the Korean War, the CAOA moved its headquarters from New York to Washington, D.C., following a recommendation of the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA). In order to better represent the national scale of aircraft operators, the CAOA became the National Business Aircraft Association in the summer of 1953. The organization held the name until 1997, when, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the name was changed to National Business Aviation Association, Inc. (NBAA).

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