Monte Mitchell, the former longtime president of the Aircraft Electronics Association and a legendary figure in the avionics industry, died on Oct. 16 in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. He was 83.
Mitchell served as AEA president from 1977 to 1996 during a 40-year career in the avionics industry. After serving in the Korean War, Mitchell joined Wilcox Electric Co., a transponder manufacturer, in 1956. When he left Wilcox in the mid-1970s, Mitchell became vice president of marketing at a new name in the aviation manufacturing industry, Bonzer, where he was responsible for marketing its line of radar altimeters.
In 1977, Mitchell was recruited for the position of executive director at AEA. Until 1977, a volunteer staff managed the small organization. Realizing the potential for growth, the board of directors decided to hire a full-time, paid staff to properly manage AEA. During his tenure as AEA president, Mitchell tripled the membership size and introduced new programs and services to the members.
Mitchell also led the establishment of the AEA Educational Foundation to help promote careers in the aviation maintenance industry. Since its inception in 1990, the AEA Educational Foundation has awarded more than $1 million in educational scholarships to students.
Two of Mitchell’s three daughters, Debra McFarland and Paula Derks, are closely involved with AEA to this day. Derks serves as the association’s president and McFarland as executive vice president. In addition, one of Mitchell's grandchildren, Lauren McFarland, serves the AEA as manager of marketing and advertising, making three generations of family service to the association.
"I know from personal experience that Monte Mitchell devoted his entire professional career to serving the general aviation avionics industry," said Derks. "He was respected and trusted by aviation professionals, and his knowledge and dedication to avionics made him a powerful leader in our industry. He truly loved serving and guiding the vision and mission of the AEA, and he will be dearly missed by so many friends and family."