Cooksey inducted into Aviation HOF

Wyoming Department of Transportation

John Cooksey with his Piper Pacer in Newcastle, Wyoming.  March 1986. Courtesy: Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame.  



The Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame and the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission have named John B. Cooksey the 2022 inductee into the Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame, according to a release from the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

John B. Cooksey was born in Newcastle, Wyo., on June 18, 1921. He grew up on the Cooksey Ranch along the Cheyenne River near Mule Creek Junction. He married Grace Dutrow Aug. 19, 1953, and they had one son, Donnie. Also having a passion for aviation, Donnie took flight instruction from his father and himself became a professional pilot. Due to post-surgery complications, John Cooksey passed away on April 24, 1986.

Awarded posthumously, Cooksey is recognized for his stellar and lengthy career as a flight instructor and Federal Aviation Administration designated flight examiner in Wyoming.

At the outbreak of World War II, Cooksey joined the Naval Aviation Cadet Program and was sent to Le Mars, Iowa, for training. He then served in the Pacific Theatre as an Aviation Machinist Mate Third Class on aircraft carriers where he was an aircraft mechanic, the release stated.

After the war, he continued to serve in the Navy where he was stationed in California. While there, he resumed his flight instruction and earned his private and commercial licenses, his multi-engine rating, and Certified Flight Instructor certificate. After his Naval service, he worked for his brother-in-law at Burton Air Service in Hyannis, Neb., where he taught flight instruction and sold aircraft. 

The oil boom brought him back to Wyoming in 1952, where he worked in the oil industry in Rock Springs before relocating to Casper in 1955, where he worked for the Wyoming Oil & Gas Commission as an inspector. He also operated a Phillips 66 station. However, his passion for flying remained.

He joined Hailair in 1964, where he was a flight instructor and commercial pilot. Hailair became Seeley Flying Service where Cooksey remained until he established his own business, Intermountain Aviation, in 1967. To expand his capabilities, he earned his Instrument Rating, Instrument Instructor, Ground Instructor, and Instrument Ground Instructor ratings. Intermountain Aviation became a Veterans Affairs and FAA approved flight school. Cooksey also earned the distinctive Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, and he was an FAA Accident Prevention Counselor. Cooksey’s primary focus was flight instruction. 

As a flight instructor, he instructed as many as 400 student pilots over the span of 40 years. Between 1968 and 1985, he administered 223 flight examinations. In his role as a flight examiner, he also mentored many flight instructors.

The Intermountain Aviation fleet of aircraft included Cherokee 140 and 180 models. Cooksey believed in the importance of tail wheel training, so his fleet also included Cessna 170 tail wheel airplanes. Intermountain had a contract with Wyoming Pipeline Company, Wyoming Refining Company, and Northwest Crude Inc. In this capacity Cooksey mostly flew as a pipeline inspector. He was active in the Civil Air Patrol and was heavily involved in its cadet program. An annual tradition that he valued very much was offering rides to residents of the Wyoming Life Resource Center (then known as the Wyoming Training School) in Lander. He also assisted during blizzards with aerial supply drops for rural residents and provided other aerial services around the state, according to the release.

The Cooksey family will host a fly-in and induction ceremony at Mondell Field Airport on Saturday, Sept. 17, in the county hangar. The fly-in will begin at 7 a.m. and breakfast will be served. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. All are welcome. 

The Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame was founded in 1995 as a non-profit, publicly supported, tax-exempt organization dedicated to honoring individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the establishment, development, and/or advancement of aviation in Wyoming. The organization comprises a board of directors and operates in conjunction with the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission. Board members include Kent Nelson, retired U.S. Air Force colonel and former Wyoming Aeronautics Commissioner; Dean McClain, who operates an aerial spraying business in Torrington; and John Waggener, a University of Wyoming archivist and Wyoming transportation historian.

For more information about the WAHF, to nominate an individual, or to make a donation, please contact WAHF President John Waggener, in Laramie, at 307-766-2563, or by email at Biographies of the inductees can be found on the WYDOT website at

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