James William (Jim) Hamm, Jr., former AT-CTI director for the OU School of Aviation Studies, died on Friday, Oct. 16, at the age of 77.
He was born April 25, 1943, in Hannibal, Missouri, to James and Irene Hamm. He graduated from Raytown High School and served in the United State Air Force from 1961-1965. During his time in the Air Force, he served as a crew chief on a Strategic Air Command B-47 bomber. As a 19-year-old in October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he provided security for his aircraft, which was loaded with nuclear bombs, in addition to making sure the aircraft was ready to launch at any moment.
“Jim and I shared many fond aviation history stories over the years,” said former OU Aviation Program Director Ken Carson. “He lived a full life and career of service, and we always really enjoyed talking about the early ‘60s, the Cold War and tech advancement in aviation over the years. He was always a great teacher who brought passion to the classroom. He worked hard to pass along what he knew to the students and help them find the joy in air traffic management.”
Hamm earned a number of professional FAA aviation certifications during his career, including a Mechanic Certificate with power plant, airframe and inspection authorization ratings, a Ground Instructor Certificate with an advanced rating, a Flight Instructor Certificate with airplane single, instrument and airplane ratings, and a Commercial Pilot Certificate with airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land and instrument airplane ratings, in addition to earning many certifications as an FAA Air Traffic Controller.
He worked as an Air Traffic Controller from 1970 to 1996. He joined OU shortly thereafter as an instructor, supervisor and manager of the OU FAA Academy contract from 1997 to 2008. He served as an adjunct professor starting in 2005 and as OU aviation AT-CTI director and professor from 2007-2010, when he retired from OU.
“Jim Hamm was my deputy, mentor, friend, counselor and, most importantly, my hero,” said C. Hailey-Seikel, former ATISS contract director. “He always referred to me as his partner, and we worked together and made the ATISS contract a huge success for the Federal Aviation Administration and the University of Oklahoma.
“Jim loved flying. He owned a Cessna 310 he called ‘Song Bird.’ I can still hear him say from the old Sky King show ‘Out of the western skies!’ When his health failed, and he could no longer pass a flight physical, he bought an Ercoupe. As a sport type aircraft, he did not need a medical to fly it. He got his sports pilot’s license and continued to fly. Never give up, that was Jim. He has left a legacy of people who will carry his passionate torch for aviation safety.”
In 2013, Hamm was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. In 2015, he was given a second chance in life with a double lung transplant.
“Jim was from the FAA air traffic control world, while I was from the Flight Standards world,” said former OU contractor Dick Hall. “We shared a lot of good stories over the years.
“Jim and I shared an interest in golf. He played wearing an oxygen pack when his lungs began to fail. He was a huge OU fan. Everything had to be OU that he owned. When he bought a new pick-up, it had to be OU red. He had an extra, professional-size OU golf bag. He sent me one of his OU golf bags, which I will cherish forever.”
Hamm designed and developed OU’s Air Traffic Control curriculum and syllabi for the ATC minor and ATC concentration in Air Traffic Management. In August 2014, the University of Oklahoma designated the OU ATC Simulation Lab as the James W. Hamm Air Traffic Control Simulation Lab in honor of his lifelong service to OU Aviation and the aviation industry and his exemplary dedication and leadership, exceptional teaching, and continuous promotion of aviation at national and state levels.
“Jim was a wonderful mentor to me, and I am grateful for all of the work that he did to establish the AT-CTI partnership as the first AT-CTI program director at the University of Oklahoma,” said current OU AT-CTI Director Steve West. “Jim did so much for OU as deputy manager of the multiple contracts that we held with the FAA in support of training multiple generations of our nation’s air traffic controllers.”
Hamm held a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management (1975) and a master’s in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma (2006). He was a founding member of the OU FAA Center of Excellence for Technical Training and Human Performance and assisted with the original proposal, proving instrumental in recruiting industry partners and shaping the strategy for the OU research plan for Phase I. His professional affiliations included the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, Air Traffic Control Association and University Aviation Association.
He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Darlene Hamm, his son, Troy (Christi) Hamm, daughter Tracy (Nic) Cook, four grandchildren—Travis (Saige) Hamm, Carly Hamm, Jake (Jewell) Hamm and Miranda Cook—and two great-grandchildren, Cayson and Logan. He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, Larry Hamm.
Due to COVID-19, the family will hold a private graveside service at Leavenworth National Cemetery in Kansas. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Donate Life America or Olathe Hospice House.