2012 General Aviation Award Winners

July 17, 2012
Recipients of this year's national awards are: Marvin Hornbostel, Eric Christopher "Rick" Ochs, Hobart Caleb "Hobie" Tomlinson, and Jeanné Carole Willerth.

For the past 49 years, the General Aviation Awards program and the FAA have recognized a small group of aviation professionals in the fields of flight instruction, aviation maintenance, avionics, and safety for their contributions to aviation, education, and flight safety.

This awards program is a cooperative effort between the FAA and more than a dozen industry sponsors (www.GeneralAviationAwards.org). The selection process begins with local FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) managers at Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs), and then moves on to the eight regional FAA offices.

Previous national awards winners from each of those four fields then select national winners from the pool of regional winners.

Recipients of this year’s national awards are: Marvin Hornbostel of Junction City, KS, Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) of the Year; Eric Christopher “Rick” Ochs of Gahanna, OH, Avionics Technician of the Year; MCFI Hobart Caleb “Hobie” Tomlinson of Huntington, VT, Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) of the Year; and Jeanné Carole Willerth of Lee’s Summit, MO, FAASTeam Representative of the Year.

The FAA administrator will present the national awards on Wednesday, July 25 during a “Theater in the Woods” program at EAA AirVenture 2012 in Oshkosh, WI. Included in the prize package for all four national winners is an all-expense paid trip to Oshkosh for the recipient and a guest to attend the awards presentation and other activities.

“These awards highlight the important role played by these individuals in promoting aviation education and flight safety,” says JoAnn Hill, General Aviation Awards chair. “The awards program sponsors are pleased that these outstanding aviation professionals will receive the recognition they so richly deserve before their peers in Oshkosh.”

2012 National AMT of the Year

Marvin Hornbostel of Junction City, KS, is a recipient of the FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award who has been working more than 50 years as an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) technician. He has held inspection authorization (IA) for 40 of those years.

He began his career in aviation with the U.S. Army at Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he received basic aviation maintenance training followed by two years of service in Germany. After discharge, he worked with a maintenance contractor at Fort Riley, KS, performing maintenance on Army aircraft. Thirty-two years later, he retired as the shop supervisor.

During his years at Fort Riley, Hornbostel spent his spare time working on GA aircraft while learning all he could about fabric covering. His first complete restoration, in 1968, was a 1941 Taylorcraft. Two of his restored aircraft have been award winners at airshows in Oshkosh and Blakesburg, IA.

After retiring in 1990, he continued restoring fabric aircraft at his home in rural Junction City. Within a short time, his ability to work with fabric covering became widely known and turned into a business. Hornbostel, along with his son Jon, own and operate Raven Aero Service, which was formed in 1992. Raven specializes in antique and classic aircraft restoration. The business quickly outgrew the facility and was relocated to Junction City’s Freeman Field

(K3JC). Raven currently has four full-time employees. Hornbostel provides summer jobs for students from Kansas State University’s Aviation School who are interested in aircraft restoration. He also works with the Junction City High School Guided Study Program to provide hands-on training to students interested in aviation maintenance. Additionally, he provides work experience and mentorship to Army aviation maintenance technicians to help them transition into civilian careers.

Hornbostel serves on the Junction City Airport Aviation Advisory Board and is president of EAA Chapter 1364, the “Wing Nuts.” With a grant from The Greater Manhattan Community Foundation, he was instrumental in starting a Youth Aviation Education Program in the local chapter. The group participates in EAA’s Young Eagles Program, has built a flight simulator, and is presently constructing a Bowers Fly-Baby.

Hornbostel has been married to his high school sweetheart, Janice, for 55 years. Together they have four children and five grandchildren.

2012 National Avionics Technician of the Year

Eric Christopher “Rick” Ochs of Gahanna, OH, has been named the 2012 National Avionics Technician of the Year. He owns and manages Spirit Avionics Limited, an FAA certified Part 145 repair station at Port Columbus Airport (KCMH) in Columbus, OH.

Ochs grew up in Columbus as an avid hot-rodder and attended a vocational education program entitled “Communications Electronics” in high school. It was there that he developed an interest in electronics and nurtured his mechanical aptitude.

He obtained his formal avionics training in the U.S. Navy and began his career on the flight deck of the carrier USS Forrestal (CV-59) as an avionics troubleshooter. After his discharge from service, he received additional avionics education in the industry via a succession of positions at large and small companies.

In March 2000, he founded his own company, Spirit Avionics, which began as a one-man operation. Spirit Avionics now employs 10 people and services military, federal, corporate, and private aircraft.

With more than 25 years of avionics experience, Ochs is a well-known leader within the avionics community. He currently works on initiatives to elevate the professional credentials of aircraft technicians through his involvement with the National Center for Aerospace and Transportation Technologies (NCATT). And he serves on the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) board of directors.

A soon-to-be-instrument-rated private pilot, Ochs also holds Radio 1, 2, and 3 Repairman certificates and an Airframe mechanic certificate as well as an FCC General Radio Operator license. He regularly flies the company’s Cessna 182 with the latest avionics technologies installed by the Spirit Avionics team.

A member of the EAA who regularly participates in FAASTeam outreach initiatives, Ochs is married and has four children.

2012 National CFI of the Year

Master CFI Hobart Caleb “Hobie” Tomlinson of Huntington, VT, has been named the 2012 National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year. He is employed by Heritage Aviation at Burlington International Airport (KBTV) and is an independent flight instructor as well as a designated pilot examiner (DPE). Not only is he a current five-time Master CFI, but in 2010 he earned the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.

Tomlinson inherited his love of aviation from his father, who was a WWII U.S. Army instructor pilot in Burlington. After his dad taught him to fly, he went on to earn commercial, instrument, multiengine, and airline transport pilot certifications as well as flight instructor ratings and several type ratings. He has amassed more than 35,000 total flight hours.

In 1964, Tomlinson graduated from Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston with a major in Aircraft Maintenance Technology and an A&P certificate. After graduating from Vermont Military Academy, he served a six-year tour in the Vermont National Guard. Meanwhile, he worked as a flight instructor, aircraft mechanic, and charter pilot for Northern Airways.

Tomlinson earned his initial flight instructor certification in 1965 and has been an active CFI ever since.

A FAASTeam lead representative for his local FSDO, he presents safety seminars and writes a monthly safety newsletter for more than 300 subscribers. He was also responsible for presenting and advising on the eight-part CFI workshops and routinely participates in the Northeast Safety Expo. Additionally, he has earned and maintains the FAA Master-level WINGS.

Married with two grown daughters, Tomlinson is an EAA Flight Advisor as well as a member of AOPA, SAFE, NAFI, WBA, VAA, IAC, and SPA.

2012 National FAASTeam Representative of the Year

Jeanné Carole Willerth of Lee’s Summit, MO, is the 2012 National FAASTeam Representative of the Year. Her personal mantra is “aspire to inspire before you expire!” She believes true leadership requires giving back. Whether it is lobbying for GA, recruiting new members for the 99s, or fulfilling a Vietnam veteran’s last wish for a flight over Kansas City, Willerth is a leader.

Growing up in Omaha, NE, Willerth was exposed early on to GA. Both of her parents were avid aviators. Her mother, a “Powder Puff Derby” cross-country air racer, taught Willerth to fly at the Cessna Pilot Center (CPC) in Omaha where she instructed. Catching the air race bug, Willerth went along as her mom’s copilot in two All Women’s International Air Races.

In 1991, after 14 years of concentrating on family and a computer-marketing career, Jeanné started flying again. In 1998, she entered the 2,400-mile Air Race Classic with her mother and her then 17-year-old daughter, a student pilot. She received a scholarship from the 99s in 1999 and earned her instrument rating, followed by single engine and multiengine commercial ratings.

After managing computer training centers and teaching computer science at a college, she shifted gears. Her next career change involved flying and adding a CFI, CFII, AGI, IGI, and MEI along with presenting at aviation safety seminars nationwide. She also became a volunteer FAA Aviation Safety Counselor.

Willerth instructs at Air Associates, a CPC at Johnson County Executive Airport (KOJC) in Kansas City and at Lee’s Summit Airport (KLXT) where she chairs the airport board. She has more than 2,000 hours and teaches primary, instrument, multiengine, and Garmin G1000 transition training. She’s also a mentor for “late in life” learners and specializes in getting dormant pilots back in the air.

Willerth is married to Lee’s Summit attorney Joe Willerth and they have three grown children.

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About the Author

Barb Zuehlke | Past Senior Editor | AMT