President and CEO of the Experimental Aircraft Association
Aerobatic champion. Aviation leader. Respected administrator.Tireless
innovator. All those phrases accurately describe Tom Poberezny,
President and CEO of the EAA, The Leader In Recreational Aviation,
and President of the EAA Aviation Foundation.
Throughout his life, Poberezn, chief officer of the 170,000-member
worldwide organization headquartered in Oshkosh, WI. has shown himself
to be, as one colleague described him: "An aviation visionary with
a hands-on approach." He is a person who, having spent his entire
life in the world of recreational and commercial aviation, commands
a broad grasp of the industry that few ever attain, a respectful
understanding of aviation's storied past, knowledge of its importance
to the fiber and well-being of our nation, and confidence in its
ever-growing and boundless future.
Throughout his aviation career, Poberezny has been
a man of action. In his early years, he performed as an internationally renowned
pilot, famous for his aerobatic prowess. In 1972 Poberezny was the U.S.
National Aerobatic Champion, and was a member of the team that captured the
1972 world title at Salon, France. Subsequent to the world championship, he
also joined Gene Soucy and the late Charlie Hillard to form the internationally
renown "Eagles" Aerobatic Team (originally known as the "Red Devils") which for
a quarter century was one of the premier acts in the aviation industry.
Even while reaching the pinnacle of aerobatic performance,
Poberezny was becoming a highly respected aviation leader, who coupled his
dynamic can-do attitude with the belief that sound planning, decisive action,
and leadership by example are the hallmarks of any successful venture. Since
Poberezny was first elected President of EAA in 1989, membership has increased
by over 40%, and EAA has grown into one of the nation's foremost voices for the
individual aviation enthusiast, respected by industry and government alike.
Over the years, Poberezny has shown a unique
ability to create and build alliances in order to achieve a common goal. In
1972, he spearheaded the highly successful "Wings on Dreams" campaign that
raised funds that made possible construction of EAA's impressive Aviation
Center in Oshkosh. This Center is the site of Pioneer Airport and houses the
world-renown EAA AirVenture Museum that attracts over 175,000 visitors a year.
For the last 26 years, Poberezny's ability to
organize and motivate large groups of people has served him well as Chairman of
the annual EAA AirVenture Fly-In Convention in Oshkosh. This world class
aviation event attracts over 12,000 airplanes and an attendance of more than
750,000 each year, and is carried out with the help of more than 4,500
Poberezny is also known as a "visionary" with
respect to education – a tireless advocate in creating, preserving, and
extending aviation's rich heritage. In his 24 years as President of the EAA
Foundation, he has created a multitude of popular, hands-on activities designed
to introduce young people to the joy of aviation.
First was Project SchoolFlight, coordinating school
industrial arts resources into the building of an airplane. That led to the EAA
Air Academy, an intensive, three-week course for 15-17 year old students held
each year at the Aviation Center. Since 1984, the Air Academy has offered
numerous aviation camps, which include dormitory living and total immersion in
an aerospace environment. Then came Air Adventure Days, a series of one-day
programs offered throughout the country.
Perhaps Poberezny's greatest "vision" was the
creation and development of the ambitious "Vision of Eagles" concept, which
includes the "Young Eagles" introductory flight program, and the
Science-Math-Technology (S-M-T) Project. The Young Eagles goal: To reach out
and give one million youngsters the chance to experience the exhilaration and
freedom of flight through a free airplane ride by the year 2003. (More than
540,000 have already done so, with the program still gaining momentum.) S-M-T
is a school-based program aimed at youth, utilizing the thrills of aviation to
motivate students to pursue science, math, and technology-related careers.
In 1997-98, Poberezny also unveiled new additions to the EAA residential camp
program: A 22,000 square foot Leadership Center which contains classrooms,
computer labs, and hands-on workshops, and a $2 million Air Academy
Lodge for housing up to 45 students attending these classes.
Poberezny is also active in numerous civic and
aviation organizations. Most recently, he was named to the prestigious
"Centennial of Flight" Commission, a six-person board empowered by Congress to
co-ordinate and publicize this nation's celebration commemorating 100 years of
powered flight in the year 2003. Poberezny is also a board member of
Competitive Wisconsin, a group of Wisconsin's top executives promoting the
state, and Firstar Bank of Oshkosh. He is also a founding member of the U.S.
Aerobatic Foundation and has served on many other regional, national and
international governing and educational boards.
Poberezny, 53, is a graduate of Northwestern
University with a degree in industrial engineering. He is a resident of
Brookfield, WI, where he lives with his wife Sharon and daughter Lesley.
The EAA today, it can be said, is an organization
whose credibility and reputation in the aviation industry is known and
respected by flight enthusiasts worldwide. It also reflects the spirit, dreams
and dedication of Tom Poberezny, whose commitment to aviation has been
life-long, and never flagged.