Our Name

Ed Tunison was the Radio Operator on our C-47 Placid Lassie during World War II. In 2014, we discovered that Ed was the only surviving member of her wartime crew. Ed had not seen Placid Lassie since the crew flew her back to Florida from Europe in 1945.

When Placid Lassie was in the U.K. for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day celebration, we brought Ed and his son to the event. Ed flew with us on our commemorative missions, and we even gave him a turn flying the aircraft.

Ed passed in 2016. When seeking a name for our nonprofit foundation, we thought of Ed, and the Tunsion Foundation was created in 2017.

Ed Tunsion (right) and his son Claude. Ed was the last surviving member of Placid Lassie’s wartime crew and the namesake of our foundation.

Board of Directors

Jon Helminiak, Executive Director

Milwaukee, WI

Jon has spent his career in nonprofit executive leadership including assistant chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Most recently he was the Executive Director of the Aviation Heritage Center of Wisconsin where he founded and led two commemorative projects of national recognition: A tribute to the among pilots of the U.S. Secret War in Laos during the Vietnam War, and North Central Airlines. Both projects included the acquisition of historic aircraft, a T-28 and a DC-3. He also founded the Great Lakes Air Museum, a planned multi-million dollar convention and aviation museum west of Milwaukee, WI.

Jon has authored six published books, is a scuba diver, and has independently explored more than 60 nations. He was the world’s first person to sea-kayak and camp down the coast of Oman and also in the Raja Ampat Archipelago near Papua New Guinea. Jon comes from a family of military aviators. His father, an Air Force Lt. Col., was a B-17 pilot, and his uncle flew the C-47, both in the European theatres during World War II. Jon is a SEL, MEL instrumented rated pilot with more than 2,500 PIC flight hours. Jon is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he also earned an NCAA championship as a member of the crew (rowing) team.

Eric Zipkin, President

Oxford, CT

Eric is the founder and president of Tradewind Aviation a regional airline with bases in the NYC area, Caribbean and Texas. Founded as a single-pilot operation in 2001, Tradewind now operates a fleet of 25 aircraft including the Pilatus PC12 and Citation CJ3. Eric holds a degree in Entrepreneurial Management from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

As a pilot, Eric is qualified as Pilot in Command in the Pilatus PC12, Douglas DC3 (C47) Beech 18 (C45) and T-6 Texan. Eric is an instructor pilot in all four types with over 9,000 hours of flying time and a current FAST (Formation and Safety Training) lead card.

Eric lives in suburban Connecticut with his wife, Ann and two boys Luc and Ben.

James R. Lyle, Vice President

Nassau, Bahamas

James is currently the founder of Fulmar Advisors. Previously he was the Chief Investment Officer of Millgate Capital for 15 years and prior to that, was Managing Director at Tiger Capital and a fund manager at Fidelity.

Benjamin A. Smith, Secretary

Readington, NJ

Ben is the Chief Information Security Officer of iCapital Network, an alternative investment financial technology firm. Previously he was the CISO for IEX & BlackRock, and has held information security leadership positions in the financial industry since 2000. He started his career in information security at the Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake in 1994. Ben holds a B.S. degree in Physics from the California Institute of Technology.

As a pilot, Ben enjoys flying his Ryan Navion. He holds commercial MEL, private SEL, and instrument ratings.

Ben lives in rural New Jersey where he is an elected member of his Township's Council and has served as Mayor twice. He lives with his wife Christina and two girls, Anne and Katherine.

Col. John G. Grones (Ret)

Port Orange, FL

Col. Grones recently retired as head of the Boeing 777 fleet at FedEx, where he managed 650 Captains and First Officers in flight operations. Prior to FedEx, he was a captain for People Express Airlines. John served in the USAF flying C-141s and C-17s.

Richard R. Hough III

Richard R Hough III is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Silvercrest Asset Management Group which manages nearly $22 billion on behalf of families and select institutions. Richard joined Silvercrest in 2003 and has served on the firm’s Executive Committee since 2007. Richard was Silvercrest’s president and chief operating officer from 2010-2013.

Richard is a member of the Board of Governors of the Investment Adviser Association and serves on its executive committee. He started his career in public policy. Richard also serves as chairman of The Institute for Family Studies, and he serves on the boards of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation; New York Men’s Leadership Forum; and the advisory boards of The New Criterion and Children’s Scholarship Fund. He previously served as a Scoutmaster for over a decade. Richard received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics (Theory) from Princeton University. Richard is married to his wife Vera for 25 years, and they have four children.

Garrett Fleishman


Garrett is currently studying Unmanned Aircraft Systems Science at Embry-Riddle with an expected graduation of 2020. He has been working numerous jobs throughout Tradewind Aviation, a part 135 charter company.

In his free time other than flying many different types of aircraft, Garrett is a certified skydiver and enjoys working on his aircraft projects.

Guillaume de Ramel

Aquidneck Island, RI

Guillaume de Ramel, investor and developer, has been dedicated to good works in Rhode Island, providing funds to educational, environmental, health care and social needs. Guillaume earned a degree in Architectural Studies from Hobart & William Smith Colleges, and Masters, with high honors, from Columbia University.

A great-nephew of Norman Prince, co-founder of the WWI Lafayette Escadrille, Guillaume was born with flying in his blood. He learned to fly at age 17 and is a qualified Pilot-In-Command in numerous aircrafts, including the T-6 Texan, with more than 3,000 hours of flying time and a current FAST (Formation and Safety Training) wing card. He enjoys flying his home-built Carbon Cub EX on amphibious floats.

Guillaume lives where he grew up, on Rhode Island’s Aquidneck Island with Molly and their two children, Charlie and Elizabeth. He sought the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State of Rhode Island, in 2014 (49%) and 2006 (47%).

Michael Hall

Michael Hall is a US Marine Veteran and a seasoned Motorsports team/business development leader with 15 years in the motorsports Industry as a Team Manager and Principal. When not competing across the globe in professional sports car endurance racing, Michael is an avid and lifelong World War II aviation enthusiast. With a long track record of volunteering his time on military aircraft restoration projects, Michael shows great passion and takes great pride in making sure that the aircraft are historically accurate. As a unit leader in the Commemorative Air Force's Rhode Island Sea Control Squadron he does his part to keep history alive and flying.

Director of Maintenance

Steve Kelly

A&P Mechanic 42 + years
Inspection Authorization 39 + years
FAA Designated Mechanic Examiner 30 + years
FAA Designated Airworthiness Representative 25 years

Comm SEL, SES, MES, Glider
CFI, ME, and Glider

Type Rated: DC-3; Grumman Albatross; Gulfstream G-200; and Beech 1900
Approximately 11,500 Hours

Steve is currently employed as a corporate pilot.