Pelton. Photo courtesy Cessna Aircraft Co.
It was 40
years ago this week that 10-year-old Jack J. Pelton first experienced
EAA’s annual conference and fly-in.
in the right seat of his father’s Cessna 140A from southern California
to Rockford, Illinois. While the Peltons—his mother also was a pilot—didn’t
attend the event every year, they made the pilgrimage from California to
Oshkosh as often as possible.
spent many weekends at air shows throughout the region and at Flabob
Airport, where his father was a member of EAA Chapter 1.
that exposure to aviation, I knew I was hooked," Jack said.
"It turned into model making while in elementary school, eventually
leading to learning to fly and now a wonderful career in aviation."
career is being recognized tonight with the 2008 Freedom of Flight
Award, EAA’s highest honor, bestowed annually to an individual whose
contributions to aviation closely mirror the integrity,
entrepreneurship, and innovativeness of EAA members.
EAA President Tom
Poberezny said Pelton is receiving EAA’s highest award for three
reasons. "We’re recognizing Jack for his leadership as chairman
of EAA’s Gathering of Eagles; for his vision for supporting the
light-sport aircraft initiative, as evidenced by the announcement of
Cessna building the SkyCatcher; and lastly, for his longtime involvement
in EAA that goes back to his days as a youth growing up in southern
California as part of Chapter 1."
contributions go beyond his position as chairman, president, and chief
executive officer of Cessna Aircraft Company—where he actively
influences national policy on general aviation and is highly involved
with industry organizations.
He is an
EAA Lifetime member, belonging to EAA Warbirds, Vintage, and
International Aerobatic Club, and he’s chairman of the Gathering of
Eagles, which supports Young Eagles and other EAA programs that inspire
youth involvement in aviation.
started his career at Douglas Aircraft, where he worked for 20 years
before leaving the company when it was bought by Boeing. He then served
as senior vice president of engineering and programs at Fairchild
Dornier in Germany, where he was responsible for the 728JET aircraft
Cessna in November 2000 as senior vice president of product engineering
and oversaw Cessna’s engineering and product development activities,
including new aircraft development, design, experimental and production
test flight, certifications, and product improvements for all Cessna
named president and chief executive officer in 2003 and added the title
of chairman in 2005. Since being named CEO, Jack has grown Cessna to new
heights with the launch of the SkyCatcher, Citation Columbus, and
addition of the Cessna 350/400. This along with seven new aircraft
certifications is ensuring Cessna’s strong future.
he’s attended the past eight AirVentures on business, he still views
attending any trade show not as an obligation but as an opportunity to
talk to customers, suppliers, peers, and climb around in an aircraft or
is my passion, and I just happen to work at a place where I can be
consumed with my passion," Jack said.
holds a commercial pilot certificate with instrument, multiengine, and
seaplane ratings. He also holds type ratings in several Cessna Citation
business jets, including the Citation X, the world’s fastest civil
single-engine aircraft, including a Ryan PT-22, Citabria, and Cessna 195
and 206. The 195, the last one produced, was recently acquired from
Velma Wallace, wife of Dwane Wallace, who helped his uncle Clyde Cessna
build the business and led Cessna as CEO for decades. Dwane displayed
the 195 at AirVenture in the 1980s. After Jack restored the plane, it
was on display again at AirVenture 2007, where it won a Bronze Lindy.
has always inspired me by making me aware that I could be involved in
aviation even if it was in my own garage building an airplane,"
said Jack, noting that his wife, Rose, also is an EAA Lifetime member.
"The combination of technical education in building assistance,
preservation, and education of youth has been very important to
ordered a Cessna SkyCatcher light-sport aircraft and plans to learn to
fly when she takes delivery in late 2009. Jack was behind the push for
Cessna to enter this new market, hoping to bring fun back into learning
to fly while reducing the price to own and operate an aircraft.
supports numerous grassroots activities to expose kids to aviation,
including the Build A Plane organization that gives young people the
opportunity to build real airplanes. He wants to do his part to grow and
strengthen general aviation, not just because it’s his business but
because it’s his hobby.
access and venues for youth are not like they were for me 40 years
ago," he said. "Security at airports and fewer local air shows
just don’t give kids the opportunity I had to go hang out at the
airport and bum rides.
"We have to work
much harder to ensure we share our story with kids so they can catch the
excitement that we all found."