Tony passed away on the 2nd of January 2019 and was an exceptional gentleman and the General Manager at Gentex West for many years. Tony devoted his entire life and career to Aircrew Flight Equipment and safety. The tribute below was in our December 2013 newsletter.
Tribute to “Tony” van Haastert by Tommy Tompkins and Linda Percival
Tony’s early life was very hard, as he was separated from his family and interred by the Japanese in a West Indies POW Camp during WW II. Returning to Europe after the war, Tony’s career covered quite a span of time and a multitude of technological areas. Tony has been involved in some form of flight safety all of his adult life. For over forty-eight (48) years, beginning in 1951, Tony served as an Air Force Fighter Pilot, flying Tactical Fighters and Reconnaissance A/C for USAF, RNAF, and NATO. He was assigned to the 2nd ATAF in Germany during the Hungary/USSR Crisis. From 1959 to 1961 he was a commercial pilot flying in the Middle East and the North Coast of Africa. This meant that many times he was his own safety and maintenance officer.
From 1962 until 1999 Tony was actively employed in the Aircrew Life Support Industry. His employers of the past included Sierra Engineering Company, Scott Aviation, Synergetics Company, ILC Dover and GENTEX Western Operations in Rancho Cucamonga, California.
Highlights of Tony’s Management/Engineering experience includes General Manager of R & D Programs developing aircrew chemical defense masks (XM-29, XM-40, MCU-2P, M-43) and General Manager of Program Development and Production of the COMBAT EDGE (MBU-20/P) Anti-G Oxygen Breathing Mask. Tony also designed and patented specific items such as a “Low Lift Helmet” and “Valve Adapter for the Folding, Hanging, and Quick-Don Mask.”
The past years have seen one product in particular, which has consumed his interest and efforts, and that is chemical defense masks for the flying community.
Tony has also served faithfully on the SAFE Board of Directors and as SAFE National President. In 1999 Tony was awarded the very Prestigious SAFE Award for Career Achievement. He is also a Life Member of SAFE!
Tony’s career exemplifies that he’s an individual dedicated to safety/survival and flight equipment.
After his retirement, Tony and his bride Sissy remained in Sunny Southern California where Tony has served as a Deputy Sheriff in the city of San Dimas, California. Tony and Sissy also attended the Aircrew Life Support Reunion held in Mesquite NV September 2004.