Aviation is a unique industry. On a macro level, the industry has united a world in ways never conceived. Through the magic of flight, the world has shrunk: cultures, countries, and customs brought together, separated only by the time required in flight. However, every so often, aviation can be viewed on the micro level when the fantasy world of flight brings together two individuals. Their passion for aviation is only rivaled by their passion for each other.
Although they both grew up in different states, Megan Linnen and Adam Turner were energized by aviation in childhood. As a resident of Granger, Ind., Megan was inspired particularly by her aunt. Both her aunt and uncle were involved in aviation and would often fly into a small air strip when coming to visit Megan and her family.
Occasionally, Megan would take to the skies with her pilot aunt, experiencing the wonder of flight firsthand. According to Megan, “in a predominately male-dominated industry, having my aunt as a role model and pilot was incredibly important. Her influence and inspiration was very important in developing my interest in aviation all through my younger years.”
In addition to Megan, her aunt was also instrumental in infecting the “aviation flu” in other young girls. “My aunt regularly worked with various Girl Scout troops, bringing simulators for the girls to fly. She exposed a lot of them to the thrill of aviation.”
Adam grew up in Southwest Michigan and attended St. Joseph High School. Similar to Megan, Adam was also introduced to the wonderment of flight at a relatively early age. A friend of the family was a pilot and offered to take Adam for a ride. The two loaded into a Cessna 172 and took off for a ride that would change young Adam’s life. Over the course of their journey, the pilot and his young prodigy flew over Michael Jordan’s house. As Adam stated, “That was the coolest thing ever. I was hooked.” The sight of Air Jordan’s home elevated Adam to a new level of consciousness. Being a pilot was the key to unlock the door – it provided an opportunity to go and see whatever you wanted. The freedom of flight meant no boundaries, no limits and the ability to see the world.
The two young aviation enthusiasts were still far apart. Adam graduated high school in 2007 and enrolled at Western Michigan University, choosing to major in Aviation Flight Science. Meanwhile, Megan was still a year from college. However, fate played a role when Megan also decided to enroll at WMU. Arriving on campus in the fall of 2008, she was eager and ready to begin her studies as an Aviation Science and Administration student. Little did the two scholars know, fate wasn’t done with them yet!
Megan and Adam met during one of the “usual aviation social gatherings” at Western Michigan University. Luckily for them, they crossed paths in a college environment. Had they met in high school, both admit their relationship would have never worked. As Adam admits, “It was love at first site. I saw Megan and said, ‘That’s the one!’” With a little conning, Adam eventually convinced Megan to go on a date. And the rest they say “is history.” Their passion for aviation brought them to WMU; in return, WMU brought them together!
Graduating in 2010 with a degree in Aviation Flight Science, Adam has been on a whirlwind path. Finishing his degree in three and half years, Adam experienced a passion for Megan that paralleled his drive to succeed in the aviation world. As a student, Adam completed all of his flight training in 13 months – normally completed in two years – and soon began work on his career. Understanding the importance of networking and making connections, he sought and obtained work at WMU’s College of Aviation while working on his degree.
Not unlike many of his fellow graduates, Adam found the outlook for flight jobs challenging during the spring of 2010. As he looked for opportunities, he worked as a substitute teacher. Knowing this was only a temporary situation, Adam continued moving forward with his career ambitions. Within a short time, an opportunity opened up at Paragon Flight Training as a Certified Flight Instructor. With Megan still in school, this move could add a complicated layer to their relationship. With a firm understanding of the aviation world and lifestyle, Megan and Adam pushed forward and Adam took off for the Sunshine State.
With Adam “soaking up the rays” in Florida, Megan focused on her studies. Graduating in 2011 with a degree in Aviation Science and Administration, she too finished her program in three and a half years. As a student, Megan also understood the importance of career development and networking by participating in multiple student organizations. She was a member of Women in Aviation, Alpha Eta Rho, and the Aviation Student Council, where she served as the Public Relations Officer. More importantly, Megan had the foresight to understand the importance of an internship. Over the course of her last year at WMU, Megan was chosen for an internship with Northern Jet Management in Grand Rapids, Mich. Not only did the internship provide her with a wealth of experience and contacts, it also led to her first job in the industry. Upon graduating, Northern Jet Management hired Megan full time as a scheduler and concierge representative.
With their careers in motion, it was only a matter of time before the two reconnected both in matrimony and residence. With enough flight hours under his belt, Adam was ready to enter the next phase of his life. In 2012, he took a job with Air Services Inc. in Traverse City, Mich., as a charter pilot. It was also during this year that he and Megan chose to make the biggest move of their lives: the two got married! Megan also took a job with Air Services as a Flight Coordinator – a job that would literally allow her to tell Adam where to go!
However, much like many in aviation, the ground under their landing gear changes often. Megan has recently taken a job with L-3 Communications in Grand Rapids serving as a Customer Support Administrator and Adam has accepted a job at Northern Jet Management.
Both have worked incredibly hard, both personally and professionally. As Megan said, “As humble as (Adam) is of his accomplishments, I have no shame in telling everyone that I am so proud of all he has done! He has flown his butt off the last few years, he is always going above and beyond for his passengers and co-workers, and I am so excited for him to receive this opportunity!”
The legacy left at Western Michigan University by the Turners’ is one of connection, networking, and hard work. Both have been involved with the West Michigan Business Aviation Association (WMBAA) and have embraced the close relationship between WMU and the WMBAA. Since graduating, Megan has volunteered as a coordinator of the WMBAA scholarships and works closely with WMU to help promote the scholarships to current College of Aviation students. As a recipient of the Second in Command Scholarship from WMBAA, Adam benefited as exemplified by his promotion through the ranks to captain of a Lear Jet 31 at Air Services.
Additionally, Megan and Adam love the ability to share their passion for corporate aviation. There are many options in aviation, with many going unexplored. Adam believes “It is incredibly important to gain exposure to the various career paths that exist in aviation. Find your path by finding where your passions lie.” Commercial aviation is not the only route that exists for aviation students. Adam was able to find his passion for corporate aviation by taking advantage of a jump-seat program with Steelcase while he was a student. Experiences like this, and their subsequent work with WMBAA, helped establish Adam and Megan as corporate aviation ambassadors.
Attending Western Michigan University for Megan and Adam was a life-changing event. Their time was filled with great memories, and great friends. Not only did they have an opportunity to learn about aviation and pursue a dream, they were also able to establish life-long friends, none of whom can forget the squadron of aviation students living at Copper Beach, an apartment complex near the WMU campus. But most importantly, the two were able to unite themselves in two passions: aviation and each other.
Aviation gets into people’s blood. Talk to most aviation enthusiasts and they can pinpoint the time in their life when this happened: a gift of an airplane at an early age; the sight of a strange looking craft streaking across the sky; a first flight. Whatever the reason, these experiences change the individual forever. For some of these people, this enthusiasm for aviation turns to passion and begins a journey that has a lasting impact. Tom Deckard is one of these people.
As a young high school student, his infatuation with aviation was sparked after meeting a group of pilots at the local airport in Elkhart, Indiana. This triggered something in him, and it wasn’t long before Deckard clicked with a former U.S. Air Force pilot in the group. Their conversations intrigued the formative young man and after talking with the experienced pilot about aviation and flying, Deckard was hooked - he knew he wanted to fly for the Air Force.
By age 19, Deckard had already earned his private pilot license. The eager young pilot continued working toward his goal of flying for the U.S. Air Force when he enrolled at Indiana University in 1964. After completing his freshmen year at Indiana, Deckard decided to transfer to Western Michigan University, where, by 1967, he earned a Bachelor of Science in math, with a minor in physics. With his degree complete from WMU, Deckard set his sights on his original goal – becoming a pilot for the U.S. Air Force. In 1967, he was on his way.
As a newly anointed Air Force pilot, the recent flight training graduate was selected to become a T-38 instructor pilot in Florida. He would later fill the same role at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. While in Arizona, he found himself training a unique group of individuals. Deckard had no idea the U.S. Air Force would train foreign pilots. But there he was, training five South Vietnamese pilots during the time of the Vietnam War. One student in particular had a tremendous impact on the young pilot trainer. Deckard struck up a friendship with the young South Vietnamese student. Not only did the friendship grow, it prospered. Transcending the war, Deckard helped sponsor his friend as an immigrant into the United States, which changed his friend’s life forever. Reflecting on the time, Deckard remembers the elation he felt watching his friend not only become a mechanical engineer, but most importantly a U.S. citizen.
After six fun and exciting years with the U.S. Air Force, Deckard’s military tenure came to an end. Leaving the U.S. Air Force in 1973, he rejoined his alma mater as a graduate student and received his Master of Science in industrial supervision from Western Michigan University. With his master’s firmly in hand, he began a quest to join the WMU faculty team. By 1975, Deckard had held multiple roles at WMU, including Assistant Professor, Assistant Chief Flight Instructor, and Academic Advisor. During his time as a faculty member, Deckard specifically enjoyed teaching aerodynamics and fondly remembers the first classes he taught--Introduction to Aviation. As a pilot, Deckard was incredibly competent managing aircraft, systems and flight plans. How hard could it be to manage a classroom? Enter in his first class with over 300 students. To say his learning curve was steep is an understatement. However, with his typical dedication and perseverance, Deckard jumped in head first and quickly learned how to manage such a large group of eager young minds.
His contributions to aviation at this time went beyond his academic duties at Western Michigan University. In addition to his classroom responsibilities, Deckard was also a Designated Federal Aviation Administration Pilot Examiner for a few years. Conducting a multitude of check-rides for aspiring pilots provided an insight many in the aviation world don’t get to see. According to Deckard, the time spent as a pilot examiner provided him with some “unique experiences conducting check-rides.”
When someone is fortunate enough to combine their avocation with a vocation, the thought of retirement is a hard pill to swallow. In 1999, Tom Deckard retired from WMU. Looking back, Deckard remembers a life full of exciting and interesting memories during his over 20-year experience as a faculty and staff member. However, much like Al Pacino’s character in the finale of the “Godfather” trilogy, “just when he thought he was out, he ‘gots’ pulled back in.” Deckard was soon asked to re-join the WMU team as Director of Flight Operations and would eventually serve as Faculty Chair until 2005, when he would officially “hang up his hat.”
Deckard’s WMU years are filled with great memories and experiences. Looking back fondly, he remembers the personal satisfaction he received watching students develop. Watching them grow from eager-eyed freshmen to knowledgeable seniors, and then mature into professionals, was of great enjoyment to Deckard. When it comes to his colleagues, both at the Kalamazoo (AZO) facility and the current Battle Creek facilities, he has nothing but admiration. He mentions how the staff and faculty became like a family, they knew a lot about each other both professionally and personally. When the program moved to Battle Creek, this was “his cherry on the sundae.”
Deckard didn’t take long to find a new enjoyment during retirement. He admits it’s nothing like his previous jobs at WMU, but the new occupation provides him solace and a sense of relaxation. For the past seven and a half years, Deckard has been spending his time delivering RV’s to dealerships and customers using his own large pickup truck, which has faithfully driven him over 640,000 miles.
Deckard and his successes went beyond the cockpit. In his professional life, he logged over 50 years of employment, and over 10,000 hours of flying. In the logbook that matters, he has a more profound entry. His life would be forever changed when he met the co-pilot that would take the ultimate journey with him. Prior to entering pilot training, Deckard’s eyes caught sight of the woman he would soon marry. While on leave from the Air Force, the future aviator met Nancy. The whirlwind romance was soon followed by their engagement, which took place just two weeks after their first meeting. The two made the union official a month later and have been happily married for the past 45 years. Along with his love for Nancy, his two daughters and six grandchildren, three boys and three girls ages 8-14, have brought him happiness as he shares his passion for aviation with them as well.
Because of his prolific knowledge, Deckard was posed these questions: “What kind of advice would you give to the inexperienced pilots? What about the experienced ones?” With no hesitation, he expressed the need for the less-experienced pilots, specifically those in the 200-500 hour range, to avoid getting over confident. Their learning curve toward the 200-500 hour mark has been significantly steep. Deckard says, “(they are) feeling more comfortable with their skills, but it’s important to remember we are always a student and are always learning and growing.” For those that are more advanced in their career, Deckard throws out the buzz word “complacency.” He also mentions the fact, that while many pilots know the limitations of aircraft, many fail to take into consideration that each pilot has personal limitations that must be recognized to ensure they maintain safe operations as they advance into the later parts of their career.
Of all of his experiences in aviation, one memory bubbles to the top. “Formation flying is the best,” Deckard remarked excitedly. “Pushing past the sound barrier in a two-ship close formation is something nothing compares to.” On occasion, when conditions were right, Deckard said pilots were able to see the shockwave of the lead aircraft and fly through it, creating an amazing experience and one he will be able to recall forever. He does also put an emphasis on ensuring that those who enjoy or want to fly formation have the proper ground school and education to ensure safety during these maneuvers.
When it comes to WMU’s College of Aviation, he sincerely believes in supporting his alma mater. “It’s very important to come back to help your school,” Deckard says while talking about the value of helping develop new projects that cannot be funded by internal money. He also firmly believes in the increased value of a degree as a program continues to grow. As a program gains recognition, adding new programs and accolades, alumni benefit as their own degree gains more clout and identification.
Tom Deckard expressed his wish to tell his former co-workers that he is doing just fine and that he will never forget his WMU experiences. He hopes everyone is doing well, too. He also comments that he is extremely proud of the College of Aviation and all its achievements and accomplishments. He will continue to promote WMU aviation everywhere he can.
During Deckard’s long career he was the recipient of many awards. Some of these include:
- Outstanding Graduate – Officer Training School
- Outstanding Graduate – U.S. Air Force Pilot Training
- Master Instructor Award (U.S. Air Force)
- Grand Rapids FSDO District Instructor of the Year
- Western Michigan University – Teaching Excellence Award
- Western Michigan University, College of Aviation – Hall of Honor 2010
Growing up in Woodhaven, MI, Dan Homolek is “not quite sure” how his interest in aviation began. “If you ask my parents, they’ll tell you I loved airplanes from the age of 2.” Searching through the cloudy memories, Dan remembers knowing by 7th grade he wanted to fly as a career. Not that the career was always his first choice. He initially went through typical elementary career wishes: being a police officer was high on his list. However, in the back of his mind was always this fascination with aircraft. No worries he thought, “I can be a police officer who flies for a hobby.” Sometime during the middle of his foray into middle school, he had an epiphany: What if he was able to turn a hobby into a career? For Dan, the journey began at that point.
Much like many kids who passionately want something, Dan went after his dream with a vengeance. The cost to fly was expensive, and for most children in their early teens, out of reach. However, Dan’s passion was not going to be hindered by anything. As a 13 year old, Dan did what most kids wouldn’t – he went out and got a job! Busting suds part time at a local restaurant, Dan became a dish-washing animal. He worked enough each week to pay for his weekly flight lesson. The journey had taken off.
Arriving at the University in 2004 with his private pilot license in hand, Homolek quickly took advantage of a new curriculum change: freshmen could fly at WMU! Moving through the flight program at warp speed, Dan earned his certified flight instructor rating by 2006. Teaching other students to fly during his junior and senior years, he quickly began accumulating experience and hours. After graduating in 2008 and looking toward the horizon, Dan began plotting the next part of his journey.
As everyone knows in aviation, networking is instrumental in the pursuit of employment. Not only is it important to possess the skills necessary to operate and work within the aviation industry, a person must be fluent in networking and making connections. Understanding this, Dan reached way back into his networking bag and pulled out the ultimate trump card: a former neighbor from his younger days. After graduating WMU, Dan was ready to begin the next part of his journey. Not leaving any stone unturned, Homolek began the job search. With a job opportunity pending at the airlines, Dan’s gamble paid off. Contacting the former neighbor, Dan took a chance. Although he hadn’t seen this person for many years, the connection paid off. The neighbor, recently retired from what would become Dan’s current company, put a word in for Dan and an internship was offered. Jumping at the chance, Homolek turned down the opportunity with the airlines and began the next leg of his journey. Not only had he taken off, he was ascending rapidly!
Fast forward several years: Dan is currently a pilot for a major corporate flight department in southeast Michigan. When asked what he likes about his job, Dan easily responded, “What don’t I like! The quality of life is great and I can’t beat the schedule. However, one of the best parts of the job is working with the people.” The corporate flight department serves the company's employees by moving them to and from multiple locations within the mid-west and the lower 48. According to Homolek, “The locations provide enough variety to make (flying) exciting, but common enough to make it comfortable.” With two Phenom 300s, a Falcon 50EX, and a Falcon 2000, Dan is able to help his company efficiently and effectively conduct business. Due to the nature of the business, Homolek often sees repeat passengers. “Another nice attribute of my job is the fact I get to establish relationships with my co-workers. Not only are they passengers, we also work for the same company. So it’s nice to build those connections with fellow employees.” Dan’s journey reached cruising altitude.
The internship relationship between Dan’s current company and WMU has a long-standing tradition. As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding! One quarter of the company’s current pilots started their career as an intern. According to Homolek, “Roger Salo, Director of Aviation of our flight department, is the Chairman of the MBAA. To accomplish one of the association's goals, he tasked our department with developing a program in which we reach out to the next generation of aviation professionals in an effort to educate them about the benefits of a career in corporate aviation, and to provide an opportunity for students to begin the networking process.”
When asked about the importance of establishing and continuing an internship program, Homolek responded, “The internship helps to continuously promote corporate aviation as a viable career opportunity. It allows students to understand the vastness of careers that exist within the aviation umbrella. Most importantly, it helps to break down barriers, make connections, and may even lead to full time employment. Our company is a great example of that.” As a former intern who understands its power, Dan has assumed the responsibility of pushing the internship program further with WMU. Over the course of the years, interns from all three programs have been representing WMU. Moving forward, Dan’s goal is to once again have students from the three aviation programs at WMU participating in opportunities within his company.
The commitment to giving back to his alma mater is very important to Dan. Like most everyone in aviation, he is intimately familiar with the challenges the career requires. With over 50% of the pilots at his company being WMU alumni (with 25% being former SkyBroncos), there is an overwhelming desire to reach back to the place that helped their dreams soar. Giving back is not always a financial obligation. Dan and his crew continue to demonstrate how giving back can sometimes be as simple as “going back.” Their goal is to help inspire current WMU students and broaden their horizons regarding career opportunities and new perspectives. For Dan, the motivation to reengage WMU in regards to his company’s new ride-along program for current students is a perfect example of giving back. According to Homolek, “This program is incredibly important. It allows us the opportunity to reach back and get involved with younger students.”
Dan’s experience at WMU is filled with many warm memories. Looking back are recollections of Stinson and Zimmerman halls, a beautiful campus where lifelong friendships were established, and numerous activities. Coupled with his time on main campus are the experiences at the College of Aviation. As with most aviation students, he loved the flying – numerous cross countries and, the Extra 300! Although this time represented a pit stop on his journey to become a professional aviator, it is a time he looks back on fondly.
To say Dan’s journey has taken him full circle is an understatement. As a child growing up in Woodhaven, he made moves that helped direct him towards a career as a professional pilot. While his journey took him places, it eventually brought him back to his hometown. Loving life and his job, Dan feels incredibly fortunate that his current job has brought him back to where it all started. While some might say Dan’s journey is complete, most would agree it is taking off for the second time!
Scott knew from a young age he wanted to be in the aviation industry. He grew up in Lawrence, Michigan where across the road from his home was a small grass strip. He would watch the small airplane fly in and out of the airstrip and it solidified his future in aviation. Scott graduated from Lawrence High School in 1990 and enrolled at WMU in the College of Engineering into the professional pilot program. Scott was always mechanically inclined and made the move to the professional maintenance program soon after enrolling.
In 1993, Scott interned in the maintenance program at WMU for almost a year. The program’s 18 airplanes consisted of Cessna 150’s, 152’s, 172’s, and Piper Seminoles. Once the internship was complete Scott starting working part time for WMU, he was 1 of 2 floor mechanics for the school. After graduation, Scott did an internship with United Airlines in Indianapolis, Indiana to work with the fleet maintenance of 737’s HMV (heavy maintenance visit). This incredibly large maintenance facility had at least 30 bays for maintenance of 737 and 757 aircraft. Scott stayed with United for 4-5 months during the internship. Afterwards, he came back to a full time position with WMU.
Scott became a full time floor mechanic for WMU in 1996, again becoming 1 of 2 floor mechanics. As the program grew, and the school moved to Battle Creek in 1998 and eventually became a stand-alone College in 1999, the fleet also grew from 18 aircraft to over 50. Scott’s role moved from floor AMT to lead mechanic in 2000. Over the years, Scott has worked on Cessna, Seminole, Seneca, Mooney Ovation, Extra 300L, Piper SuperCub, Cirrus, and Arrow aircraft. In 2003, Scott became Chief Inspector/Manager of Logistics and Compliance for the program.
In 2009, Scott became the Director of Aircraft Maintenance for the program where he holds the position today. His day to day workload consists of managing the fleet of 38 airplanes, buying and selling airplanes, managing all maintenance staff, being the communication hub to manufacturers for service support, the liaison to the FAA for compliance and regulations, the accountable manager for the FAA certified repair station, a member of the CASRS safety review committee, and being a member of various College committees. Scott works with lead mechanics and other chief inspectors (all of whom have 4 year degrees) to ensure the safety and regulation compliance of the aircraft fleet designated for training of our flight science degree students.
Click here to learn about Scott's most recent accolade!
Scott’s degree from WMU was in Aviation Maintenance Engineering Technology. It was heavy into the engineering side of things which set him up for communicating and working with manufacturers and has helped tremendously in the chief inspector’s role. Scott’s degree from WMU has allowed him to move upward in his career, to take on additional responsibilities and manage a team of professional maintenance technicians.
Below are Ann Brill's comments regarding the induction of her father into the Western Michigan University College of Aviation Hall of Honor:
Herman William Linder. Husband of his beloved Phoebe, and father of Becky, Todd, Julie, and myself. He loved with a passion...people, all things mechanical, and life itself. My brother shared with me, ‘The most important thing Dad taught me about being a mechanic and fixing things was ‘Always look where the light is the brightest first.’ That was our Dad. He was personable and fun; he exuded positive energy and had a great sense of humor; he was truly a character...a one of a kind.
I have many fond memories of Dad as an aviation instructor during his years at Western. I was blessed to have attended Western when he was teaching classes at Kohrman Hall back in the late nineteen seventies. I was living in the dorms but I knew the days he was on campus and I would, on occasion, get a ride home for one of mom’s great dinners.
I remember meeting dad, one evening, in the parking lot. He had forgotten something in his office so I climbed into the car and sat. I noticed a box of welding projects on the seat of the car. I had seen boxes like this before....little welding projects, each labeled with a student’s name scribbled on a piece of masking tape. He would always sit in the living room, in his favorite rocker (which was almost too small for him) and he would analyze each project and place it in a column according to the A, B, C...grade it received. While sitting in the car and waiting for Dad, I decided I would start grading the projects...for the fun of it. I began to place them in columns of A, B, C...on the dashboard. When I saw him returning, I put the projects back into the box. When we were driving home, I told him I had been grading his projects...he asked me if I remembered any names of students and grades I had given them. I recounted a couple and then remembered a strange name and said...’Oh yea, I remember...there was a ‘Foo’.’ Dad asked what grade I had given ‘Foo’ and I told him a ‘C.’ Dad then sheepishly smiled. Come to find out, ‘Foo’ was my father’s prototype...the little project he had welded and he was going to base all grades upon. Slightly under his breath he told me, ‘Well....I do have some pretty good welders.....’
I would have to say, one of my fondest memories was watching Dad teach. I remember one day, arriving outside his classroom...standing at the door, watching and listening to him lecture about things I had no knowledge about. But I remember smiling...he had me hooked...his passion was infectious. I was engaged by his enthusiasm, his energy, the rise and fall of his voice when he wanted to make a point...his chuckle at his own humor woven into the fabric of his lecture...my father was in his element when he was teaching...he wanted his students to experience the same passion he felt for engines, aviation mechanics, electrical systems....all of it.
From his years in the late nineteen fifties as a shop teacher at Champaign High School, to his years at the Illini Institute of Aviation, and finally to his time as an instructor with Western’s Aviation Program, this was Dad’s legacy...leaving a lasting impression on the students he taught. He was well-respected for his knowledge and expertise as an airframe and powerplant mechanic instructor. About 18 years ago, I had coffee with one of Dad’s former students, Mark Olexa. His children attended the elementary school in Dexter, Michigan, where I still currently teach. He said, ‘Your dad was a professional in modeling safety and procedure with regards to aviation maintenance and FAA regulations. I took that to my professional aviation life and I have carried those induced principles of excellence to mechanicing my garden tractor, auto, anything mechanical.’
Back in 2002, my brother found a surprise letter to the editor in the July issue of Air and Space Magazine, from another student from Dad’s past. The writer (former student), Greg Parsons, was making reference to an article he had read in the May issue of the magazine entitled, Shop Class Was Never Like This. The article was about a high school aviation technology instructor in the Chicago suburbs named Jim Jackson who built with his students, ‘commercial build-your-own airplane kits.’ The article was highlighting how unique this kind of shop class was and most high school shop classes didn’t compare.
Greg Parsons in July of 2002, wrote this letter to the editor of the Air and Space Magazine and he said, I quote: ‘In response to the article, ‘Shop Class Was Never Like This’ (April/May 2002), mine actually was. In the 1950s, I attended Champaign High School in Champaign, Illinois, and we had a class taught by an airframe-and-powerplant mechanic named Mr. Herman Linder. We rebuilt an Aeronca and a 1929 Waco glider, and we built two gliders: an all-metal Schweizer 1-26 and an experimental design of Mr. Linder’s featured in Flying magazine.’
A good teacher is inspirational. A good teacher will leave a lasting impression on his students. My father was a great teacher. But he was also a loving husband and father. My siblings and I all have fond memories of Dad....A dad who daily hoisted the American flag up the flag pole in the center of our yard every day. A dad who stroked his ukelele and sang or whistled barbershop tunes. A dad who laughed at the antics of Foghorn Leghorn, often quoting the loony toon character..’That boy’s about as sharp as a pound of wet liver....’ A dad who would just start sharing his thoughts and opinions with any random person whether it be someone in a grocery store check-out line or at a McDonald’s drive-in window. A dad whose finger was never the same after wiping out on our sledding hill when he went airborne off the jump we had built at the bottom of the hill, unbeknownst to him! A dad who used to take us for rides in the Aerocoupe or T-Craft and fly low over the house in greeting...and then would come home and tell mom that after flying over the tv antennae, he noticed some dust and thought she better climb the tower and take care of that! A dad who loved watching red-tailed hawks fly...who would watch them ride a thermal up...and just glide....A dad who said, ‘When I die, I hope I come back as a red-tailed hawk...they just love to fly for the fun of it.’
Dad died too soon, at the age of 65. When he and our mother moved to North Carolina, they both fell in love with the mountains and Dad knew, that when he died, he wanted his ashes to be spread over those mountains. My family believes that it wasn’t a coincidence when my mother and sister, Julie, went up into the Smoky Mountains to spread Dad’s ashes...they came to a spot, on their way to the top of the mountain...got out of the car and looked at the view that stretched for miles..and there, next to the point where they stopped, was a plaque with a picture of red-tailed hawks, in flight. They knew...this was the place where Dad would want to be scattered into the winds...taking flight one last time.
I know my father is here with us tonight, in spirit. On behalf of the Linder Family, I wish to thank, you, Bob, for keeping the memory of our father alive by nominating him. Thank you to his former colleagues for being here in support, and thank you to the Aviation Department here at Western for honoring our father by inducting him into the Hall of Fame. This would have made him so proud because he was very dedicated to the students he worked with and the aviation program here at Western.
Wow! What a week. This year's Women in Aviation conference was the best Bronco attended event of the last fire years. Over 20 current students galloped down to Tennessee to network, interview, and gain valuable exposure. Students were able to attend presentations on the state of the aviation industry, meet members from organizations such as the Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance (AWAM), and network with other students from other collegiate aviation programs.
In addition, the College reconnected with a handful of alumni and friends. It was a great opportunity to catch up with some of old friends and find out where they are and what they have been doing. Specifically, we wanted to know what they are doing and if they could share a fond memory of Western Michigan University and the College of Aviation. Here is what they had to say:
- Anne Schroeder
- Anne is a member of the class of 2004 and earned her Bachelor of Science in Aviation Flight Science. She is currently a first officer for Delta Air Lines, and is flying the Airbus A320 and A319.
- Anne stated she wouldn't have a job if it wasn't for Western Michigan University and the College of Aviation. She still stays in contact with many of her instructors, who have continued to help guide her career even after she graduated from the aviation program.
- For more information on Anne, please read our previous story on her, located here.
- Candice Young
- Candice graduated in 2005 with a double major in Avaition Flight Science and Science and Administration. Currenly, she is a first officer of an Embraer 145 at ExpressJet.
- Some of her fondest memories of WMU revolved around her time as president of the WMU Women in Aviation chapter. She also had a great laugh remembering the time she got lost on her first solo to Benton Harbor, MI. Although all she needed to do was follow I-94, there was still some navigational errors in the first flight. Needless to say, her skills have greatly improved!
- Courtney Barnhorst (Hedlund)
- Courtney gradutated in the winter of 2004 with a degree in Aviation Flight Science. Since completing her tenure as a WMU Bronco, she has since earned her wings and is currently a captain at Pinnacle Airlines.
- Reflecting on her experiences at Western Michigan University, Courtney remembered fondly taking the Seneca and flying up and down the coast of Lake Michigan. However, this memory was quickly overshadowed by the time she took her boyfriend on a night flight. Not only did she impress her with her piloting abilities, she also dazzled him with the ability to remotely turn on the airport lights from the aircraft. As you would imagine, this boyfriend would eventually become her husband!
- Mike Grimes
- Mike is a member of the class of 2006, graduating with a degree in Aviation Flight Science. Currently, he works for Skywest Airlines and is a first officer type rated in the CRJ 200, 700, and 900.
- The overall experience at Western Michigan University helped Mike successfully navigate his career path. Opportunities such as: becoming a CFI at WMU, being around as the University transitioned to its Cirrus fleet, spending time as a standards instructor, earning his float plane rating, and taking the JET Course. Additionally, he enjoyed the diversity of training offered at WMU and the great networking experience while a student.
- Shannon Cunningham
- Shannon graduated in the year 2000, with a degree in Aviation Flight Science. Currently, Shannon is a first officer for Pinnacle Airlines and is flying a CRJ 900.
- A fond memory of Shannon's is the arrival of the Boeing 747, donated to the University by Northwest Airlines.
- Scott Johnson
- Graduating in 2001 with a degree in Aviation Maintenance Technology, Scott is currently a captain for PSA Airlines, flying CRJ 200 and 700.
- Scott's most interesting memory at WMU also centered around the donated 747. However, his is focused on the plane leaving the Battle Creek airport. It was a sad day watching this formerly magnificent plane being trucked away and slowly disappearing. At one time, he actually saw the plane getting axed.
- Christyna Assink
- Christyna is a member of the class of 2004, graduating with a bachelor of science in Aviation Science and Administration. She currently flies for ExpressJet as a first officer on an Embraer 145.
- For Christyna, the 747 was also an amazing, strong memory. Equally strong are her memories of being around people who shared similar interests and goals. This provided a memorable and great experience at Western Michigan University.
- Major Curt "Kid" Martin
- As a graduate of Western Michigan University's College of Aviation, Curt has propelled his passion for aviation becoming a pilot for the Indiana Air Guard, where he is an A10C instructor pilot. In addition, he also flies for NetJets Aviation piloting Gulfstream 450s and 550s.
- Andrew Csondor
- Andrew graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Aviation Maintenance Technology. Currently he is employed by Delta Air Lines as a Records Maintenance Coordinator II. Additionally, he serves on the board of directors for AWAM.
By: Beth M. Beaudin-Seiler, MPA
Research Associate, College of Aviation
Western Michigan University’s School of Aviation Sciences set its sights high to become a nationally and internationally recognized program delivering excellence in aviation education. In 1997, with the help of multiple grants from the WK Kellogg Foundation, Kellogg Company, U.S. federal dollars, and the City of Battle Creek taxing authority, the School of Aviation Sciences was moved from Kalamazoo, Michigan to the WK Kellogg Airfield in Battle Creek, Michigan. With that move came a new fleet of airplanes, new and refurbished buildings and new opportunity to expand the program.
The School of Aviation Sciences worked hard to secure international pilot training contracts with British Airways, Aer Lingus and Emirates Airlines, and in 1998 began the International Pilot Training Centre. For five years the now College of Aviation worked to produce competent and qualified pilots for these organizations in an ab initio format. The ab initio format meant that students were selected in their home countries through a battery of tests and interviews and then sent to the United States to learn to fly. These students had no prior flying experience and were taken from 0 hours to 250 hours in 18 months where they would return to their home countries and fly as a first officer with the company that hired them. The companies paid for their training, housing and living expenses and in return were given a competent and qualified pilot that would work for them for the next 30+ years.
In contrast, this was very different from the model that what was utilized in the United States to hire qualified pilots. The College of Aviation continued to maintain its excellent aviation education program for U.S. students however their curriculum included a Bachelors of Science degree. So while they too graduated with about 250 hours, it took them 4+ years to accomplish their flight training. When they were finished they were competent pilots but not yet competitive in the U.S. market. First Officers hiring in to regional airlines needed 1000+ hours to be competitive. This meant that U.S. students finishing their training and studies would need to log more hours before being hirable. In stark contrast, the U.S. student also bore the entire cost of his/her education/training and building hours before being hired.
Watching these two programs operate caused the College of Aviation to ask itself some questions. What was really so different about the International student compared to the U.S. student? Were the programs so significantly different that one came out the other end more proficient, competitive and qualified than the other, which allowed the International student to sit in the right seat of a Boeing 737 with 250 hours, but merely allowed the U.S. student to need to build 750 more hours of time before being hirable to a regional carrier flying a turbo prop airplane that carried 30 passengers. The College looked very closely at the programs and the students coming out of them and we could easily see there wasn’t much difference at all between the programs and the students. U.S. students were just as competent and proficient as the International students and we were convinced that with the right selection we could show that the international model of pilot training could be used in the United States.
Proving the Concept
The first step in showing this model could work in the U.S. for pilot hiring was a proof of concept class. While it was never our intention that U.S. airlines would begin paying for the primary education/training of their pilots, we wanted to show that with good selection and quality training they did not require 1000+ hours of flight time before being hirable. A quality trained student at 250 hours could competently sit as a first officer. While pulling together this proof of concept class, Delta Air Lines became very interested in this idea. They knew that pilot shortages were going to come, and they wanted to gather as much information and be as proactive as possible in dealing with a possible shortage. They were also very interested in proactively figuring out ways to increase the numbers of women and minorities in pilot careers at Delta.
Through scholarship dollars at the College of Aviation, the WK Kellogg Foundation sponsored the first proof of concept class for ab initio pilot training we called the group US 1. These students were interviewed, given a battery of tests and selected by representatives from the College of Aviation and the Organization of Black Airline Pilots. Five students were selected, all had already obtained a Bachelors degree, but none had pursued flying, meaning they were coming in at zero hours of flight time. In 2001, the five scholars came to Battle Creek, MI to prove that with quality training we could fast-track flight students in to new hires. Out of the five selected – three finished and today all three are pilots with various airlines.
Meet Donald Turner - US 1 Graduate
Delta Air Lines
In 2001 Delta Air Lines bought in to the concept and donated $1.6 million in scholarship dollars to 24 students, which focused on increasing women and minority pilots at Delta. The students were divided in to three groups, Delta 1, Delta 2 and Delta 3. All three groups consisted of students selected using interviews and a battery of cognitive tests given by Delta. However the first two groups were made up of students that had already obtained a bachelor’s degree and were looking to pursue their dream of flying. The last group was made up of students already enrolled at WMU seeking their bachelor’s degree but had not yet started their flight training. The scholarship covered flight training, tuition, and room and board expenses. Eight students were assigned to each Delta group, none of which had any flight training prior to starting the program.
Meet Wade Mosley - Delta 2 Graduate
Meet Kate Wilmhoff - Delta 2 Graduate
The 16 females and 8 males selected began their training in 2001 and 2002. Upon graduation they were eligible for immediate interview with the Delta Connection carriers, Comair and Atlantic Southeast Airlines.
The Delta 1 group started with 8 students, 6 of which finished the program. One student returned to the military after 9/11, while the other 5 pursued careers in aviation. Today, 2 of those students work directly for Delta and 3 of those fly for other organizations.
The Delta 2 group started with 8 students, 7 of which finished the program. One student gained employment with the federal government while the others pursued careers in aviation. Today, 5 of those students work directly for Delta and 1 continues to actively fly with other organizations.
The Delta 3 group was the youngest scholars selected. They were all currently enrolled students at the College of Aviation at WMU, but had not yet started their flight training. All eight students selected for the Delta Scholarship finished the program and all 8 have gone on to pursue careers in aviation/aviation related fields.
Meet Mandy MacMillan - Delta 3 Graduate
Meet Kelly Pagels - Delta 3 Graduate
Upon graduation of the program, the Delta 3 scholars had earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Flight Training from WMU as well as their flight ratings.
Whether the students pursued flying directly or ended up in an aviation related field, their degree and experiences at WMU have proved beneficial.
Of the 8 students that started in the Delta 3 group – 8 finished the program. Four are first officers with Delta Airlines, with the remaining four finding their careers in corporate aviation, United Airlines, the military and technology and flight instruction.
Meet Ann Schroeder - Delta 3 Graduate
Meet Michael Tate - Delta 3 Graduate
The College of Aviation and Delta Air Lines believed in the idea that with quality training and appropriate selection we could train competent and proficient pilots with the ability to function at a high level upon graduation. Delta invested in scholarships for 24 students with the overarching goal to increase the presence of women and minorities in the field of aviation and the specific goal of obtaining quality trained pilot professionals for themselves and their affiliated regional carriers.
86% (18 scholars) of those students that finished the program are involved in the aviation industry; 52% (11 scholars) of them are directly working for Delta Air Lines; and 43% (9 scholars) of them are first officers for Delta.
Delta Air Lines increased the presence of women and minorities in the field of aviation, increased their presence within their own organization and showed that with the right selection and training proficient and competent pilots can be obtained with lower hours. The College of Aviation showed that it can be a provider of high quality education that produces proficient and competent pilots at lower hours.
Donald was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and grew up in Houston, Texas. He knew he wanted to be in aviation since he was 6 years old. He graduated from Williwridge High School in Missouri City, Texas, a suburb of Houston. Donald attended Texas Southern University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management in 1999.
In 2000, Donald was selected to be a part of the first group of students to endure the tough 18 month flight program. He relocated to Michigan to pursue his dream, leaving his wife and children in Texas. His favorite memory flying at Western Michigan University was when his wife visited him in July, 2001 and she had the “ah ha” moment, seeing first-hand what he was learning and why.
Donald received his certificates right after 9/11, and was forced to teach math while working in a dispatch office- flying whenever he could. In 2004, he was hired as a First Officer with Continental Express and in 2006 was hired by Continental. Today, Donald flies as a First Officer with Continental/United on the Boeing 757 and 767.
Want to learn more about the Delta Scholars program? Click here.
Wade was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from North Mecklenburg High School in 1985 and attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina learning a bachelor’s degree in Accounting.
Wade knew he wanted to be in aviation when his dad took him to the airport in Charlotte to see Hank Aaron to hopefully get his autograph. Hank was a no show, but there was a Boeing 727 that absolutely captivated him.
In 2001 Wade was elected as a Delta Scholar and began his flight training. His favorite memories of flying at Western Michigan University are the life-long friends that he made and the solo cross-country through the Michigan snow. He still gets nostalgic flying over Battle Creek, Michigan.
After receiving his rating in 2003, he moved back to Charlotte, where he earned his flight instructor rating, fueled airplanes, and threw bags for US Airways while building his flight time. Wade did some charter dispatch and his first flying job was with MESH Airlines.
He currently lives in Charlotte flying as a First Officer for Delta on the Boeing 757 and 767 out of New York.
Want to learn more about the Delta Scholars program? Click here.
Kate was born and grew up in Kentucky, graduating from Covington Latin High School. She attended Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY majoring in Economics with a double minor in German and Mathematics with actuarial science emphasis.
Kate knew that she wanted to be in aviation in high school when she realized how much she loved to travel. Her favorite memory of flying at WMU was her first solo flight. Kate celebrated with friends after obtaining her certificates and ratings.
Today, Kate is a Fraud Technical Advisor for the Federal Government, Department of Treasury in Boulder, CO. She married her high school best friend in 2006 and they have two children.
Want to learn more about the Delta Scholars program? Click here.