Cole and Alec Hoffman: Brothers in Arms and Aviation

WMU Aviation Flight Science Brothers Alec and Cole Hoffman
Posted by Tom Thinnes on

Mom, Jacque, Alec, and Cole at Alec's High School graduation from Grand Haven High School

Enrolled students and alumni judge the WMU College of Aviation to be "like family" because of its welcoming and caring environment.  For the Hoffman brothers, it actually is. 

Alec Hoffman is new on campus as a freshman majoring in aviation flight science.  Brother Cole, as a senior, has wrapped up that major's degree requirements.  Both plan to follow in the footsteps of their father, Bill Hoffman who is a Captain at Delta Air Lines

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While a career in aviation seemed to be in their genes, the spark was not quickly ignited, even though their father routinely went off into the wild blue yonder flying those winged metallic miracles to support his family.  A "discovery flight" did it for the older brother late in childhood while the light went on for Alec when the family flew to Utah for a skiing adventure. 

Bill, Jacque, and Cole Hoffman at a WMU social

"I knew Dad was a pilot," Alec recalls, "but until that flight I did not think much about it.  He was at work and life at home went on normally.  After flying to Utah, I looked at his career differently.  Every time we flew after that, my passion for flying and wanting to pursue a career in aviation grew.  Flying brings me joy.  I get excited and stay motivated every time I walk the ramp on the way to my lab classes or look up and see all the Broncos in the air." 

"Home normally" for the Hoffmans, who are both general-business minors, is the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg community that flanks the Grand River as it flows into Lake Michigan northwest of Grand Rapids.  Cole is a graduate of Spring Lake High School while Alec is a newly minted alumnus of nearby Grand Haven High School.  Both earned their private pilot's license before signing up for Western's aviation program.  Cole did his prep work at the airport serving Muskegon to the north.  Part of Alec's "not so normal" senior year included taking a ground-school course online. 

Cole Hoffman at his graduation ceremony at the WMU College of Aviation

Western was the logical choice for both the Hoffmans.  "It is a top-three flight school that happens to be close to home," says Cole.  "I was impressed with the quality of the program," added Alec, "as well as the impressive facility (the still-new Aviation Education Center on the college's campus at the Battle Creek airport), and the advanced training fleet (Cirrus SR20s)."  

In Alec's case, WMU had to overcome a strong contender to win the day.  "I considered Southern Illinois University in Carbondale because my Dad and Mom (Jacque) graduated from there.  On the table was an alumni discount and a scholarship.  But WMU was always my No. 1 choice because of the amazing campus, the fleet of  Cirrus, and the staff.  I looked forward to being a Bronco."  As opposed to being a Southern Illinois Saluki. 

Alec Hoffman shaking the hand of his designated pilot examiner after passing his check ride

Cole pledged the Lambda Chi Alpha chapter at Western, one of 195 units around the world affiliated with the social fraternity founded in 1909 at Boston University.  He did so to meet student peers, be involved in campus life, and grow professionally.  Alec hopes to follow in those "Greek Life" footsteps.  "I saw how much he grew in terms of leadership, community service, and social involvement," Alec says. 

Of all the aviation courses Cole sampled, his favorite was Ed Kudzia's line-oriented flight crew training.  While there will be many challengers in the next few years, new Bronco Alec picks Jacob Zoch's powerplant lab.  "Exploring aircraft engines has been really interesting and fun," he says.  "He (Zoch) is open to students asking questions, not only about the course but also about the college scene, life and careers.  That's beneficial for a first-year student." 

Outside the realm of aviation, Cole believes he has benefitted the most from an accounting class during his semesters at Western.  "It taught me a lot about how money works," he says.  "I learned things I can apply in my future."  An online class in psychology, Alec says, is improving his study habits and charting success in future courses delivered in that mode. 

Cole Hoffman and Grandma Joann after Cole's graduation from the WMU College of Aviation

"My favorite part about WMU," Cole reflects, "is getting to meet a ton of people in and around the aviation community, to hear their stories and experiences.  It was not only interesting to learn about the different aspects of aviation from them, but it also provided guidance in figuring out what I wanted to do with my career."  Alec, as a still-fresh freshman, "loves meeting people while walking around campus.  I have been good with names in the past," he says, "but I have met so many people that I need to link names with faces." 

Growing up on an inland lake and with "The Big Lake" just to the west, Cole spends just about every warm weekend boating.  When the snows come, he's on the slopes, just like Brother Alec.  The younger Hoffman also loves to mountain bike and surf.  He adds:  "Aviation is not just my career.  It's my hobby." 

The Hoffman Family moving Alec into his residency hall

Cole's next target is to accumulate 1,000 hours of flight time and then land a spot with an airline.  His "dream job" is piloting one of those "metallic miracles" on international flights.  That's also the destination Alec is mapping.  But in the interim, he's set his sights on becoming a flight instructor for the College of Aviation.  "I would love to help train the next generation of Bronco pilots," he says. 

Meanwhile, back on terra ferma, the Hoffman boys have also focused their attention on their grandmother, Joann  "She has always been supportive of everything we have ever tried to accomplish," Alec says.  "She was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  She is one of the strongest and bravest women we know.   She is always in our thoughts.  We love you, Grammy." 

Enough said. . .and well said.