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John Vette Honored With Chairman’s Award


July, 2023 — The Vette Theater, located in the EAA Aviation Museum, and an airport hangar named “John L. Vette Jr., Proprietor” are small insights into the Vette family who has, over the years, significantly contributed to EAA. John Vette, CEO of SNC Manufacturing, is a big supporter of AirVenture and the values EAA holds, and for this he is being recognized with EAA’s 2023 Chairman’s Award, which acknowledges members whose participation and contributions represent the essence of EAA.

John’s dad, a Navy aviator who was on active duty during Pearl Harbor, was the reason for John’s interest in aviation. After the war ended, John’s father became a businessman in Illinois, buying the assets of Swain Nelson Co. (SNC), which now is a manufacturer and marketer of electrical transformers, utility products, and information and communication products. After John’s dad bought the company and knew it would be successful, he moved it to Oshkosh, where he owned a farm and land.

John attained his pilot certificate during sophomore year of college. After graduation, he spent two years in the service and then went to graduate school and right into the workforce. John got a job with Morton Salt and did some research in Puerto Rico, and then later sold power tools for Black & Decker throughout Central America. John, his wife, and his daughter then moved to El Salvador. He ordered his first airplane while there, a Cessna 180, to travel around Central America with his family.

Around 1968, John’s father was experiencing health problems and told him, “John, if you want to come home for business, come now; otherwise, I am going to sell it.” So, with that, John decided to go home to Oshkosh and take over the business. He has been the CEO since then, and during his tenure, the business grew from one location to three, adding locations in Mexico and China. John continued flying and added instrument, multiengine, and seaplane ratings to his commercial pilot certificate.

As his aviation interest and knowledge grew, John also became involved with the EAA Seaplane Base, which started in 1940 when two local aviators, also employees of the family company, created a seaplane base on some of SNC’s property. Little did they know they were making history, because that is the seaplane base EAA actively uses for AirVenture year after year.

“I have to help support AirVenture with the EAA Seaplane Base. This piece of property my sister and I inherited. And I manage this for us, and there is another piece of property that she manages,” John said. “And so I like aviation, and EAA represents aviation through planet Earth. I am in EAA by family, by personal practice, and in culture.”

John finds joy in being at AirVenture and has made many connections over the years. He loves the people it brings into his life and thinks of it as a social event. He fully immerses himself, and it brings him closer to his family. During AirVenture, John takes time off so he can be with his relatives who come in for the week and to do tours for people who want to see more of AirVenture.

“And so AirVenture is a cultural experience for me because of our friends, other people interested in aviation, and of course the sea base,” John said. “And one of the earlier chairmen was a neighbor kid, and he was interested in boating and aviation, and he became chairman of the sea base, so I have always been connected with the people.”

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