Paul Poberezny founded the EAA in 1953 at age 30. Tom Poberezny became involved in EAA’s first Fly-In at the age of five. With the exception of the four years Tom spent at Northwestern University, his entire adult life was dedicated to EAA. For 42 years he worked in the organization, and for 20 years he ran EAA as its second President.
Paul has been honored in many ways on many occasions. His contributions as the Founder of EAA have been well recognized and lauded. An entire wing of the EAA Museum is devoted to displaying his accomplishments and memorabilia. It is now time to recognize the work and accomplishments of Tom.
Tom took over as President of EAA in 1989. He also served as Director of the Fly-In and had operated in a number of managerial positions, supporting his father’s efforts. His accomplishments are a matter of public record and they merit review at this point:
- For more than four decades, Tom served EAA as a member of management, and for most of that time he was the Director of the annual EAA fly-in, now called AirVenture.
- He established a culture of high standards, cleanliness, respect, innovation and collaboration.
- He expanded on and enriched the procedures for recognition of volunteers.
- Under his leadership the attendance of exhibit aircraft, the general public and exhibitors more than doubled.
- He was successful in attracting a number of significant sponsors and contributors, who added to the scope and success of the event.
- He worked tirelessly to improve on AirVenture, bringing in new attractions never before seen in the Midwest (like the Russian AN-124 and the Concorde), and he worked with others to make AirVenture the World’s Premier Aviation Event.
- Tom was responsible for raising the funds, creating the design and overseeing the construction of the EAA museum, as well as the exhibits that are in it. He also oversaw many of the land purchases that are now part of the EAA “campus.”
- For 25 years, Tom, Charlie Hillard and Gene Soucy provided the finest in airshow entertainment as the Eagles Aerobatic Team, which flew every year at AirVenture for a record 25 consecutive years.
- Tom undertook significant youth initiatives:
- He authorized and developed the Young Eagles program, that is now on its way to taking two million kids for their first airplane ride
- He developed the EAA Air Academy and raised funds for the construction of the Lodge, along with a number of other new buildings, roads, and infrastructure.
- He created KidVenture.
- Tom spent 10 years developing and implementing the Sport Pilot license and FAA’s Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category.
- Tom was successful in preventing any new limitations from being imposed on the FAA’s Experimental Amateur-Built rules (an extraordinary accomplishment!) and he always included representatives of the kit industry when there were discussions that might impact the rules for homebuilding.
- Today, as a result of Paul’s initiative and Tom’s expansion of it, there are over 30,000 Experimental Amateur-Built aircraft in the FAA Registry. There may be an equal number of aircraft under construction and headed for the Registry.
- Tom assembled a collection of talented, skillful individuals, who developed a strong esprit de corps and high level of tribal knowledge about EAA.
- Tom identified and persuaded a large group of individuals and corporations to contribute to the ongoing cause of EAA and its diverse programs. He gave them a reason to believe in the organization and support it.
- Tom managed a successful transition from the EAA founder to himself. He built up the EAA upon the same principles that guided his father, but also expanded its outreach to all aviation enthusiasts. He never lost sight, gave up, or turned his back on Paul’s mission or the essential ingredients of sport aviation. He was quick to dismiss social stratification, and he kept pace with the evolving changes in aviation, but never allowed the organization to forsake its roots.
Tom’s greatest achievement is perhaps the shaping and evolution of what many of us refer to as the “EAA Culture.” It is a mood, an attitude, a reaffirmation of the core values that Paul established. But Tom went beyond what Paul envisioned. He opened the organization to all of General Aviation, inviting every pilot and aviation enthusiast to come and join in the celebration of sport aviation and all of its component parts: the homebuilts, antiques, classics, warbirds, ultralights, rotorcraft and the spirit of innovation that has always been the hallmark of EAA. Tom made the term “recreational flying” legitimate and noble. As a result of the culture Tom fostered, EAA grew and its mission grew along with it.
So, let’s recognize these extraordinary accomplishments!
How We Can Honor Tom
If you support the idea of recognizing Tom at AirVenture 2014, please add your name to our Roster of Support by clicking on the orange button near the top of this website (Your email address will be kept confidential and will not be shared with anyone). The exact dates, times, and locations for the events will be posted on this website April 1, 2014. If you have a comment you’d like to share or if you are willing to assist with organizing and hosting one of the events, please let us know and send your contact information (name, phone number, City/St, and EAA number, if you have one) to HonorPoberezny@gmail.com. Thank you.