Wood-Ridge, NJ – On Wednesday, November 1, 2017, the Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum of New Jersey held its 44th Annual Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at the Fiesta Ballroom in Wood-Ridge, NJ. This tribute dinner honors local aviation pioneers and financially supports the hall of fame and museum, located on Fred Wehran Drive in Teterboro, NJ. It is one of the museum’s biggest fund raising events of the year.
Founded in 1972, the Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum of New Jersey is dedicated to the preservation of the Garden State’s distinguished, two-century aviation and space heritage. Men and women whose outstanding aeronautical achievements have brought worldwide recognition to the state are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Meridian is a proud supporter of the museum, and representatives of the company enjoy attending the induction dinner every year. Ken Forester, Sr., who founded Meridian with Bob Hewitt back in 1946, was himself inducted into the hall of fame in 2008. His son and Meridian CEO, Ken Forester, Jr., was among those who attended the ceremony for the company.
This event recognized four individuals who are connected to New Jersey and who have each uniquely contributed to the advancement of human flight.
The 2017 NJ Hall of Fame Inductees were:
General Michael L. Cunniff (1957 – )
A longtime resident of Belle Mead, NJ, General Cunniff is the Adjutant General of New Jersey. Cunniff commands more than 9,000 Soldiers and Airmen of the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard. He directs controls and manages the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in the execution of federal and state missions.
In addition, he manages all state veterans’ programs, commissions and facilities in New Jersey. His previous commands included the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey and the 150th Air Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, 405th Air Expeditionary Wing, Thumrait Air Base, Oman.
Cunniff entered the United States Air Force in July 1982, and was commissioned through the Academy of Military Science in October 1983. He received his pilot’s wings at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, in 1983. He has served in many operations including Operations Northern Watch, Joint Forge, Allied Force, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
In the area of education, Cunniff graduated in 1981 from the New Jersey Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering. He also completed the 1996 Operational Risk Management Course at Andrews Air Force Base, MD. He is a graduate of the 2002 Air War College, by correspondence.
During his long career, he has earned an amazing 29 awards and decorations from both the United States military and the State of New Jersey. Cunniff is rated as a Command Pilot and has over 6,000 military flight hours, including 336 of them in combat situations. He is checked out on 9 aircraft types including the F-4D/E, C-17, and several models of the KC-135.
Thomas S. Marotta (1943 – )
A longtime resident of Bloomfield, in 1967 Marotta joined Marotta Controls Inc., the family business founded by his father and 1995 NJAHOF inductee, Patrick T. Marotta. As he took the helm, the younger Marotta continued the momentum begun by his father’s work on rocket engines for the U.S. Air Force and later NASA, which spanned the X-1 through the Apollo Programs.
Under his leadership the company gained recognition as a world class engineering and manufacturing center for precision control systems supporting the aerospace and defense industries. Marotta led the company’s involvement in many historic programs from the earliest days of human spaceflight to innovations in today’s “New Space” industry. He also guided the company’s growth and development of new weapons technologies and electronic controllers that improve the effectiveness of our warfighters and enhance the safety of our nation.
Active in community affairs, Marotta is a leader of many local organizations. Since 1985 he has served as a trustee for Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology. He has also been a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Governors for the Aerospace Industries Association.
Marotta served on active duty with the 108th TAC Fighter Group, NJ Air National Guard at McGuire Air Force Base, and has remained an active pilot with commercial, multi-engine and instrument ratings. In his near half century of flying he has logged over 3,600 hours as Pilot in Command.
Currently Tom Marotta is Chairman Emeritus and Advisor to the President and CEO of Marotta Controls, his son Patrick A. Marotta. His sons Tommy and Michael have also joined the company, and his daughter holds a directorial role.
David J. Morris (1930 – 2010)
Born in Weehawken, Dave Morris grew up in Union City, NJ. He began working for the then Port of New York Authority in 1948 at the age of 18 as a courier, retiring in 1996 as Chief of Aeronautical Operations at Newark International Airport for the Port Authority of NY & NJ – totaling 48 years of service. During his tenure he received numerous awards and commendations reflecting the many positions he held and the caliber of service he rendered in each.
His passion for aviation history in general, and the history of Newark Airport in particular, was well-known. His collection of historical documents and photos concerning the airport was unparalleled and now resides at the Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum of NJ.
Morris was also known for his love of both Newark International and its people. In his near half-century of service he became a beloved figure there, embodying the spirit of the largest and busiest airport in the Garden State. One example of his personal concern for all who worked at Newark International was his initiative to write and produce a safety film — 13,000 and You — which welcomed every new employee starting at any of the numerous companies there. In addition, Morris strove to extend his passion for aviation to friends and family and led the planning of the annual Newark Airport Family Day.
During his years in airport operations, he had the opportunity to greet several VIPs and celebrities passing through Newark. Of these, the two he was perhaps most proud of assisting were Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan.
Morris was a graduate of Saint Peters College and also a veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserves.
Captain Lynn O’Donnell (1947 – )
A New Jersey resident, Captain O’Donnell began in aviation learning to skydive and participating in formation jumps beginning in the early 1970’s.
While working as an analyst at Piper Aircraft Corporation, she began flight training. Within two years, she earned certificates including Commercial, Multi-engine, Instrument, and Flight Instructor. To build hours, she ferried light aircraft to new owners across the Atlantic. Eventually 52 of these solo Flights were completed (including 33 in single-engine equipment). Desiring to become an airline pilot during a time when this was a difficult endeavor for women, she began flying for charter and commuter carriers. Later she became jet-qualified and flew for two air-cargo companies. From there she attained to flying passengers for three major U.S. airlines: Eastern, Pan Am, and finally United. Upon retirement from United in 2008 she was type-rated on the Boeing 747-400, 757/767 and 777.
In retirement, Captain O’Donnell endeavored to be an aviation educator and continues to serve the aviation community. Her management of the scholarship program of the North Jersey 99’s, a women’s pilot organization, saw a 67% increase in awards. Involvement with the 99’s also led to a major role in redesigning the NJAHOF museum’s “Women in Aviation” exhibit. Today she instructs, is an officer in the International Stinson Club, and flies for the EAA’s Young Eagles initiative.
Throughout her career, Captain O’Donnell’s fascination with sky diving continued. In recent years she’s earned multiple world records in the sport. This included being part of a formation jump with 120 participants. In 2012, she participated in a record setting jump involving 60 participants, all over 60, who only joined together after a 90-second freefall!