Tom Poberezny Bids Farewell to EAA
In the long term, the circumstances of the abrupt departure of Tom Poberezny, chairman of the board of EAA, won't matter much at all. What will matter is the legacy that Poberezny leaves. That legacy, in case you haven't noticed, is an organization that is influential in nearly every facet of general aviation in the country, and not only in homebuilding. It is a strong voice for pilots and aircraft owners of every type of airplane from ultralights to business jets. It weighs in on topics from safety of flight to regulation to airport access to equipage. And this is not to mention the show, which became AirVenture under Poberezny's leadership and continues to be the largest and most diverse aviation show in the world. . . by far. The legacy is powerful indeed.
Poberezny was not without his detractors, however.
That is how it should be. There are leaders who make bold decisions and there are leaders in title only. Poberezny was surely an example of the former. And he knew a few simple truths that guided the organization that many of his detractors seemed simply not to get. Foremost was that a strong organization with resources, clout and reach benefits every member, from powered parachute practitioners to owner/operators of big multi-engine warbirds. He also got that the strength of the grassroots nature of EAA was not something that had to be or even could be controlled at the national level. The work of rank and file members of individual EAA chapters scattered around the country and around the globe kept alive the dreams of Tom Poberezny's father, Paul, to democratize the building of simple, lightweight, inexpensive and fun to fly airplanes, a mission that some might have missed in the grand success of the larger organization but which was surely not missed at the chapter level.
Much of the energy that has propelled EAA into this millennium has been via one of Poberezny's greatest legacies, Young Eagles, the EAA program that was created under Poberezny's leadership to introduce kids today to flying with an actual flight in an actual airplane. Around a million and a half kids have taken such Young Eagles rides.
And EAA under Poberezny, as it did with Young Eagles, energized all of us in general aviation though AirVenture, the weeklong celebration of flight that has brought together friends in flight for decades. It is fitting that it was here, under whatever circumstances they might have been, that Tom Poberezny made his farewell to EAA, the venue where he welcomed a universe of pilots, aviation enthusiasts as friends to pass beneath the original brown arch to experience a world of aviation experience that without Poberezny's leadership might never have come true.