2013 Inductees  

Tom Cleveland

Tom Cleveland has been Airport Manager for the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport for the past 11 years. During this time, Tom has overseen airport improvements and expansions that have resulted in the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport becoming a reliever airport for Northern Illinois.

Beyond his efforts to promote the airport, Tom Cleveland has been a great supporter of the local aviation activities and numerous aviation groups. The DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport, under Tom’s leadership, has been the host for the annual DeKalb Corn Fest. This event has attracted up to 60,000 people to the Airport. In addition, they have hosted EAA Breakfasts and Young Eagles events, Illinois Pilots Association Conventions, 99s Air Meets and the Fly-In Drive-In Veterans Weekend.

Most notably, Tom has a passion for aviation education for youth. Tom contributed to the formation and continuing progress of the high school aviation program offered by the Kishwaukee Education consortium.

Congratulations to Tom Cleveland for being inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.


John (Jack) Sheridan

Jack Sheridan has been involved in many aspects of aviation, including piloting and instructing in gliders, balloons and fixed wing aircraft.

IJack has been a volunteer for the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Encampment in Mattoon for over 30 years. He began as a tow plane pilot and instructor, and eventually became Air Boss involving overall safety and decision making for the Encampment. During this time he has soloed over 100 students. For his efforts in CAP he was awarded the Ill Wing Commanders Award for Excellence and several other citations.

In addition to the CAP Encampment, Jack became Chief Pilot of the Illinois Wing of the CAP. This included managing flight programs for over 200 pilots. He over saw pilot clinics, regulations updates, training for Check Pilots and Mission Crews, and conducted recurrence flights for various types of missions. His role was to promote safety in all activities and encourage growth for the future of CAP.

Jack Sheridan has clearly dedicated his life, as a volunteer in many different roles, to the enhancement of aviation in the State of Illinois.   For this we would like to congratulate Jack Sheridan on being inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.

Walt Kessler

Walt Kessler has always had a passion for flying. He started flying in 1946 but was not able to pursue his flying interests due to an injury to his right eye.  Eventually he completed his flight training, and bought his first airplane  in 1965 and in 1972 purchased an airstrip.

Walt developed an attraction to antique aircraft.  He has acquired several vintage aircraft and  in 1981 was one of the founders of Vintage Aero Association.  Today there are over 100 members throughout the Midwest.

Walt has shared his love for aviation and interest in vintage aircraft by participating and volunteering his services  to charity Fly-Ins and other Cancer Fund Rally events. Some of these include participating in events to honor Veterans, Rotary Club Cancer Fund Rally’s and flying volunteers assisting at Whitewater WI paraplegic wheel chair student events. Also participated in volunteer programs for Abused and Neglected Children Charity Tours with vintage cars and airplanes.

In 1998 he was  one of the founders of the Poplar Grove Wings & Wheels Museum, at Poplar Grove Illinois. Walt has been a  Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame volunteer for fifteen years.

Walt has worked diligently to preserve the history of vintage aircraft and to honor the men who flew them. It is an honor to welcome Walt Kessler to the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.


John Reining

John Reining is best known for his contributions to the Freeport Albertus Airport. When John first came to the airport it was pretty much abandoned. He took over as Airport Manager and grew the airport to what it is today.

Not only did John manage the Freeport Albertus Airport, but he also conducted flight training, sold aircraft, flew charter and opened a maintenance shop.  He even started a glider school. All of these contributed to the growth and utility of the Airport.  John formed the Freeport Pilot’s Association which is still in existence today.

As if Freeport were not enough, John also managed the DeKalb Airport and saw it through significant airport improvements. While managing the airport he coordinated with Northern Illinois University to provide ROTC Army and Marine flight training at the airport.

In the course of his career, John Reining became an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner. He has given nearly 6,000 check rides.

John Reining accumulated over 30,000 flight hours and, in 2006, was awarded the Wright Brothers Award for 50 years of accident free flying.  Congratulations to John Reining on being inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.



Max Firebaugh

Max Firebaugh experienced nearly all that aviation has to offer - from military combat to corporate aviation to FBO ownership and airport management. Max was instrumental in the planning and development of the Mt. Vernon Outland Airport during years of unprecedented growth.

Max was a member of the Purple Heart Organization, having earned the Purple Heart and Air Medal with 13 oak clusters for the European and African theater.  He also flew three missions during D-Day in Normandy.

Outside of his military involvement, Max was quite active in aviation in Illinois.  He volunteered his time with the Civil Air Patrol and organized ground schools for prospective pilots. Max was a member of EAA Chapter 1155 and assisted with over 1900 Young Eagle rides. Max Firebaugh is deceased.

We congratulate the family of Max Firebaugh as he will be honored as a new inductee to the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.


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