Just three minutes away from the RAI Jets headquarters at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (KAZO) is an important institution in Michigan history, especially for military veterans. It’s the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame at the Kalamazoo Aerospace & Science Museum.
The Kalamazoo Air Zoo honors veterans not simply on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month (which we now call Veteran’s Day), but every day. It’s an especially appropriate outing this time of year and an opportunity to visit and reflect on the many brave men and women who have served our country in foreign and domestic conflicts, particularly from the air. Looking at the vintage warcraft on display, we are reminded that we are free, because of the brave. It’s one of the reasons RAI Jets has supported and aligned ourselves with the Michigan Hall of Fame.
If you’ve never been to the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame, it’s worth a visit. Founded in 1979 by Suzanne and Pete Parish, the Air Zoo itself is the effort of two aviation veterans who wanted to share their love of WWII planes with everyone. The museum became known as the “Air Zoo” because of the animal names of the aircrafts housed in the museum’s original collection. The names include Hellcat, Bearcat, and Flying Tiger. Decades later, the museum continues to educate visitors through its collection of WWII exhibits. They have also expanded to include the history of flight, the Cold War, and space.
In 1987, the Air Zoo added the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame. It was to honor local men and women from Michigan who have made honorable contributions to aviation. Enshrinees are inducted each year at the Science Innovation Hall of Fame Awards Gala held in April, and RAI Jets is a regular participant and/or sponsor. In 2019, were delighted when Cpt. Jeffrey W. Randall was nominated for a spot in the Michigan Hall of Fame. At the time, he was flying part-time for RAI Jets, and we thought his presence in the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame was not only appropriate, but necessary!
When we heard the news that Cpt. Randall was selected to be enshrined, we were excited to join him on his big night at the Awards Gala.
Jeff is a native of Battle Creek Michigan, who attended the University of Michigan on a ROTC Naval scholarship. He was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy and trained as a U.S. Navy Aviator. He was assigned to Attack Squadron 105, flying the Vought A-7 Corsair II. He earned 20 medals during missions over North and South Vietnam, each given for a single act of heroism or meritorious achievement while in aerial flight.
As an A-7 instructor with Attack Squadron 174, he completed two cruises with Attack Squadron 12 in the Mediterranean. He then became a test pilot for the Air Development Squadron 5 at China Lake, California. In 1976, Jeff joined the Naval Reserve and flew Douglas C-118 transport aircraft from Selfridge Air Base in Mount Clemens. He was promoted to Captain and served as a NATO staff officer in the Naval Reserve in Battle Creek until his retirement.
We were proud to have Captain Randall then join our team, flying part-time for RAI Jets. These days he’s retired, but we still remember the contribution he made to aviation in the military as well as here at our aviation management company.
Veterans Day is celebrated every November, but we are grateful to veterans everyday, especially those many veterans who make aviation possible at RAI Jets. If you meet a veteran, shake their hand and thank them for their service. It’s the least we can do. And if you want to see an exhibit of some of the biggest and best in Michigan, visit the Kalamazoo Air Zoo and the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame. Tell them RAI Jets sent you!