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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
William E. Gehman
Bill Gehman was born April 2, 1941 in Vermontville, MI. His life has been dedicated to the improvement of aviation not only in Michigan, but also across the nation. His love of aviation was passed on to him from his father who had been a pilot since the late 1930s.
Bill received his solo license on his 16th birthday, followed by his private pilot's license on his 17th birthday, and has been flying ever since. He has received his commercial, instrument, and multi-engine ratings, along with a C.F.I. and an airframe and powerplant license.
In 1965, Bill graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in aviation engineering. He began his aviation career with Peckham Engineering, an airport engineering firm. In 1963, he married Cynthia Rae Anderson and they went on to have three children: Deborah, Melissa and William Ray. By 2004 they had four grandchildren.
Bill joined the Federal Aviation Administration in 1972 as the engineer responsible for federal airport projects in southeast Michigan. In 1974, he left the FAA to work at the Michigan Bureau of Aeronautics. In 1985, Bill was appointed Director of the Bureau and Director of the Michigan Aeronautics Commission. Some of his accomplishments as director include:
- Advanced Michigan Department of Transportation's Airport Development Program for funding capital projects at the state's public-use airports from $40 million to more than $120 million annually.
- Developed a nationally-recognized Air Service program to assist out-state carrier airports in obtaining and retaining quality air service.
- Crate one of the most aggressive General Aviation airport
preservation programs in the country.
- Establish an All Weather Airport Access program for general aviation airports to improve flight safety.
- Designed and built the nation's first mobile aircraft fire fighting training unit to substantially reduce the cost for federally mandated training of airport firefighters.
- Championed legislation that improves an airport's ability to protect against incompatible land use infringement around airports.
Bill has also provided leadership at the national level, impacting national aviation legislation through his active roles in the National Association of State Aviation Officials, the Center for Aviation Education and Research and the National Transportation Research Board.
Bill has received recognition through several awards. Some of the more notable are: The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Official's President's Award; The Michigan Association of Airport Executives President's Award; and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's President's Award for his efforts in preserving general aviation airports.
William E. Gehman was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on October 2, 2004.