WMU News

Detroit-area exec donates jet to College of Aviation

Nov. 17, 2004

BATTLE CREEK, Mich.--Aviation enthusiast and Detroit-area executive Robert Gustafson has donated his personal Sabreliner jet aircraft to Western Michigan University's College of Aviation.

WMU alumnus Gustafson, a Pontiac, Mich., businessman, traveled to the college's facilities at W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek today for a formal presentation of the aircraft to college officials. The ceremony was preceded by a flyover, as Gustafson and WMU's Capt. Steve Jones completed a fly-by and landed the aircraft at the college. Capt. Rick Maloney, dean of the College of Aviation, and Gustafson made brief remarks during the short ceremony.

The Sabre 60 Gustafson donated was previously owned by golfing legend Jack Nicklaus. It will be used by the college as a maintenance technology training device, allowing students a hands-on opportunity to become familiar with the maintenance needs of the type of jet widely used for executive travel in the United States. The aircraft is part of the Sabreliner family of aircraft, which has been known for dependable, fast and comfortable executive transportation since 1963, when the company offered the first twin-engine business jet.

"This will be a wonderful opportunity for our students and will enhance our training capacity immensely in this high-demand arena," Maloney says. "It means so much when someone with Mr. Gustafson's track record in and love for aviation makes the kind of gift that will pay dividends to aviation students for years to come. He's shown us his heart is really with young people who are headed for aviation careers."

Gustafson is CEO and chairman of Hubert Distributors Inc., the Anheuser-Busch Beer distributor for Oakland County. He also is on the Michigan Business Aviation Association's Board of Directors. An experienced aviator, he has amassed more than 20,000 hours in all types of single- and multi-engine aircraft, including the Sabre 60.

As a WMU student, Gustafson took flight classes in 1956-58 in the university's fledgling aviation program. The program was very small at that time and operated its flight school out of the airport at Plainwell, Mich. Gustafson attended ground school and flight training, eventually obtaining his flight instructor ratings. Subsequently, he became a ground and flight instructor and worked at Plainwell in that capacity for several years.

After leaving WMU, his contributions to the Michigan aviation arena continued when he purchased Brooks Field in Marshall, Mich. From that airfield, his company, Michigan Air Activities, was responsible for teaching hundreds of students to fly under the auspices of the G.I. flight program. His company also sold and repaired aircraft and operated a charter fleet that served such corporate customers as General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and Clark Equipment Co.

In 1972, Gustafson returned to Kalamazoo to found Kalamazoo Aviation, selling Piper aircraft around the country. He also served as president for two years of the Kalamazoo airport advisory group.

Robert Gustafson has a history of philanthropic giving in the Detroit area. He and his late wife, Alice Gustafson, established the Shotwell-Gustafson Pavilion at Oakland University. Their involvement extended to the Oakland University Meadowbrook Hall Preservation Council and President's Club. In 2004, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital was able to establish the Robert Gustafson Center after receiving substantial support for the project from Gustafson.

Western Michigan's nationally known College of Aviation offers aviation training and a bachelor's degree for aviation career opportunities. Students can choose from bachelor's degree programs in aviation flight science, aviation maintenance technology, and aviation science and administration. Some 800 students are enrolled in the college's programs.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
269 387-8400