We are thrilled to announce the well-deserved recognition of one of its esteemed board members, Thomas (Tom) E. Cochran, as he is inducted into the West Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame. Tom Cochran’s remarkable contributions to the aviation industry and his dedication to the community have left an indelible mark on southern West Virginia.
An installment ceremony to celebrate the 2023 inductees was held on July 31, 2023, during a private event at Canaan Valley Resort, coinciding with the annual West Virginia Aviation Conference. The ceremony brought together family, friends, and colleagues of Thomas E. Cochran, who were eager to honor his outstanding achievements and enduring legacy.[Bonny B. Copenhaver] “New River CTC celebrates the career and accomplishments of Mr. Cochran,” said Dr. Bonny Copenhaver, President, NRCTC. “One of his goals for the Raleigh County Memorial Airport included New River CTC establishing an aviation mechanic program on the airport property. The College is proud to be working with the Airport and other community partners to establish that program and to complete Mr. Cochran’s vision of the economic diversity for the region and access to education that leads to a meaningful career.”
Born on July 8, 1940, in Beaver, West Virginia, Tom Cochran’s professional journey began in the coal mines. However, his passion for aviation led him to pursue a second career in the industry. After attending the Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he earned his Federal Aviation Administration certifications in aircraft maintenance, radio operations, and aircraft accident insurance investigation in 1968.
Following the completion of his A&P license, Tom joined Trans World Airlines (TWA) as an aircraft mechanic based at Dulles International Airport. After three years of dedicated service, he encountered a nationwide layoff that prompted him to seek opportunities elsewhere. Tom eventually found employment with the Pittson Coal Company, where he remained until his retirement on July 7, 1997.
Tom Cochran’s true aviation legacy began the very next day when he was appointed as the Director of Raleigh County Memorial Airport, located in Beaver, WV. Throughout his tenure, Tom displayed an unwavering commitment to safety, propelling the airport’s reputation as a self-sustaining entity ripe with economic potential for the entire region.
Under Tom’s visionary leadership, Raleigh County Memorial Airport completed several vital projects aimed at enhancing safety and promoting economic growth. Notable accomplishments include obstruction removal, significant interior and exterior passenger terminal renovations, and the successful development of the corporate hangar area and industrial park, which fostered future economic diversification.
Moreover, Tom’s deep understanding of how airports serve as economic engines led to a groundbreaking partnership with higher education, resulting in specialized training for aspiring professionals in aerospace technology. This initiative empowered graduates to remain in West Virginia for their aviation careers, contributing to the state’s economic growth and prosperity.
Beyond his achievements in aviation, Tom Cochran’s dedication to the community is unparalleled. A tireless advocate for West Virginia, he generously served with numerous volunteer organizations, including Visit Southern WV and the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority.
Tom and his wife, Barbara, currently reside in Kingsland, Georgia, where they continue to inspire their family with their remarkable values. They are proud parents to Wendy Campbell and Susan Cochran and doting grandparents to Isaiah, David, and Amelia Campbell.
New River CTC congratulates Thomas E. Cochran on his well-deserved induction into the West Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame. His exemplary career and outstanding character will undoubtedly serve as an inspiration to current and future generations of aviators and community leaders alike.