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College of Aviation to induct four into Hall of Honor

by Jeanne Baron

May 20, 2011 | WMU News

BATTLE CREEK--Four aviation professionals who have made a lasting impact in their fields will be honored by Western Michigan University next month.

The four will be inducted into the WMU College of Aviation Hall of Honor for 2011. They are:

This second class of Hall of Honor inductees, as well as donors who have created scholarships in the aviation college, will be celebrated during an induction ceremony and dinner Friday, June 17. The event costs $17.50 and starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Aviation Education Center on the College of Aviation campus at the W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek. Advance registration is required by Wednesday, June 1. For a registration form, visit or call (269) 964-6375.

WMU's aviation college established its Hall of Honor in 2010 to recognize individuals and organizations that have "made a lasting impact on the world of aviation and WMU" and shown the "vision, determination and drive to leave a legacy felt by generations to come."

Photo of Capt. Jeffrey A. Haney.
Haney was killed in November when his F-22 Raptor went down in the Alaskan mountains during a training mission while he was flying for the 525th Fighter Squadron. He was a respected and inspiring role model who led by example and typified accomplishment, service and honor. Haney graduated from WMU in 2002, was a standout member and captain of the University's Sky Broncos Precision Flight Team and served as a flight instructor for WMU before the Air Force accepted him for pilot training in 2003. His superior skills earned him coveted selections to fly the F-15C Eagle and F-22 Raptor, two of the Air Force's top fighter aircraft. Haney earned many accolades during his shortened career, including two Distinguished Graduate awards and selection as both warrior and flight leader of the year for his squadron in 2009.

Photo of Larry C. Hoikka.
Hoikka earned an Airframe and Powerplant certificate in 1961 after completing WMU'sAircraft Maintenance Technology Program. He went on to repair and inspect airplanes for local fixed-base operators. then served in the U.S. Coast Guard. Hoikka began working for WMU as the aviation department's chief mechanic in 1965. During his 30 years with the University, he established and maintained an outstanding aircraft safety record as well as taught classes for budding pilots and mechanics. He was a member of the Sky Broncos Precision Flight Team while a student, and later coached the team, leading it to a National Championship in 1983. Hoikka has remained involved with the aviation college after retiring in 1995 and rebuilds aircraft as well as does annual inspections for members of the local aviation community.

Photo of Ronald L. Sackett.
Sackett graduated from WMU in 1959 with a Bachelor of Science in Air Transportation. He taught secondary education for three years and then worked as a technical writer for Lear Siegler in Grand Rapids, Mich. Sackett returned to WMU in 1966 as an instructor in the Department of Transportation Technology, where aviation programs were housed at the time. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1972 and named coordinator of flight instruction in 1973, a position he maintained until his retirement in 1999. Sackett was a superb mentor to his students throughout his 33-year WMU career. In addition, he was selected as the FAA Grand Rapids Accident Prevention Counselor of the Year in 1979, FAA District and Regional Flight Instructor of the Year in 1987 and conducted check rides as an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner well into his retirement.

Photo of Lester M. Zinser.
Zinser flew B-25s, B-24s and B-29s during World War II, then earned a Master of Education degree with an emphasis on human factors from the University of Illinois. He came to WMU in 1957 as the aviation unit's first chief flight instructor and was highly regarded by students as an effective and affable teacher. Zinser helped to lay the foundation for the Flight Science Program and under his guidance, the program grew significantly. He also coached the Sky Broncos Precision Flight Team from 1958 to 1966 and helped it bring home numerous awards. After leaving WMU in 1966, Zinser joined the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He retired in 1984 from the center, where he used his flying skills around the globe to assist weather researchers with projects studying phenomena such as air pollution, dust storms, monsoons, tornadoes, lake-effect snow storms, pre-hurricane conditions and small volcanic eruptions.

For more information about the College of Aviation Hall of Honor, contact Tom Thinnes with the aviation college, at or (269) 964-5768.