New aviation scholarship named in honor of legacy aviator

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Connell Aviation Group and the Connell family are memorializing the passing of its patriarch, James H. Connell, with a new aviation scholarship.

“James Connell dedicated his life to not only advancing flight but to sharing his aviation legacy with others,” said Alyssa Connell, chief executive officer of Connell Aviation Group. “He was an accomplished pilot, mechanic, and airport manager, having a more than 50-year career as a pioneer in aviation in America.”

“Jim would’ve been proud to have this scholarship help a student pursue their dream,” said Karen Connell, Jim’s wife of 34 years. “His greatest passion was teaching and educating others. To have his legacy carry on this way is the fulfillment of his life’s work.”

About the James H. Connell Excellence in Aviation Scholarship

Connell Aviation Group, alongside the Connell Family, will award one $1,000 scholarship to a student training in any of the following:

  • Aviation Maintenance Technician Program (A&P)
  • Advanced Aviation Maintenance Program (IA)
  • Flight Training resulting in PPL, IFR, MEL, CPL, CFI or CFII

Candidates will be evaluated on personal drive and dedication to the aviation industry and passion for pursuing excellence in their aviation career.

The scholarship will be awarded on or around June 23, 2020, with special recognition at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2020. Scholarship applications must be submitted by May 1, 2020.

Application materials should be submitted to, including:

  • Official application form
  • Typed, descriptive essay
  • Professional résumé
  • Copies of all applicable aviation and medical certificates and the last three pages of pilot logbook
  • Letter of recommendation from aviation mentor or sponsor

Descriptive essay should address:

  • Personal aviation history and goals
  • What applicant has done to achieve goals
  • Where applicant sees themselves in 10 years in aviation
  • What applicant believes it means to achieve “excellence in aviation”
  • Demonstrated involvement in aviation activities

More information about the scholarship is at

About James H. Connell

Jim was born on June 23, 1935, in Anamosa, Iowa. He was a 1954 graduate of Winthrop High School in Iowa, and enlisted into the United States Army on June 17, 1954, serving in Germany with the aviation unit. Upon his honorable discharge from the Army, he returned to the United States to attend Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University, receiving his Airframe & Powerplant certification.

While in Miami, he worked for Pan American Airlines in the engine overhaul department. He also worked at the Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport as a line person.

When Pan American had a major lay off, Jim returned to Iowa to work at Collins Radio and also as a mechanic at the McBride Airport in Marion, Iowa. He was soon able to secure a job at the Oelwein Municipal Airport working as a flight instructor and line person, ferrying aircraft for his employer’s sales office as well as working on his IA (Inspection Authorization) certification.

He then did maintenance for the Vinton Municipal Airport and the Independence Municipal Airport in Iowa, offering maintenance programs at both airports for a period of time.

In 1967, Jim started his FBO business at the Independence Municipal Airport and was appointed airport manager in 1980. He dedicated the next 45 years to building and expanding the Independence Municipal Airport into an Enhanced Services Airport.

Jim felt strongly about bringing awareness and knowledge about the benefits of the airport to the community. He enjoyed showcasing the benefits of the airport facilities to residents of Independence and surrounding communities. Jim made it his mission to host as many public events at the airport, including free airshows that were offered at the airport for close to 30 years.

For more than 44 years, Jim taught thousands of students to fly through his flight instruction programs. He also managed and offered general maintenance until his retirement in 2012.

In spring of 2019, the City of Independence, Iowa, officially renamed the Enhanced Services Airport (KIIB) James H. Connell Field.

Jim Connell received numerous awards and accolades during his career in aviation, including the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50 years of flying with no incidents, accidents or violations, and the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award for 50 years of aircraft maintenance.

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