2007 EAA Sport Aviation Halls of Fame Induction Ceremony
A Night For the People of Aviation
EAA Vintage Aircraft Association Hall of Fame
EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame
International Aerobatic Club Hall of Fame
EAA Ultralight Hall of Fame
National Association of Flight Instructors Hall of Fame
EAA Warbirds of America Hall of Fame
Henry Kimberly Spirit of Leadership Award
November 12, 2007 — EAA, its affiliates and divisions honored the newest members of the EAA Sport Aviation Halls of Fame on Friday at a festive gala event held at EAA AirVenture Museum. It was not a night, as keynote speaker Alan Klapmeier stressed, about the airplanes. "We love the hardware. We all have our favorite airplanes," said the co-founder an CEO of Cirrus Design Corp. "But if it was just hardware, without the people who've made this industry what it is, I think we'd all be doing something different.
"It's the people who make this so much fun. This night is about the people, because when we really think about it, that's the important part."
In welcoming the inductees and those attending, EAA President Tom Poberezny emphasized the high standards met and enhanced by those being honored. "I'm sure if you talked to each inductee that's being honored tonight, they will say they were doing what we love to do. Little did they realize the impact they would have on aviation, whether it's innovation and technology of building your own airplane, or sharing the knowledge with the aviation community. "When you look in your program at the list of those members who have been honored thus far, they established a standard. And the inductees tonight will enhance that standard."
Inducted Friday were:
Chester L. Peek, Ph.D, EAA Vintage Aircraft Association Hall of Fame - noted author and restorer of vintage aircraft; Randy Schlitter, EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame - founder of RANS Aircraft; Debby Rihn-Harvey, International Aerobatic Club Hall of Fame - eight-time women's national aerobatic champion and longest standing member of the U.S. Unlimited Aerobatic Team; Michael Markowski, EAA Ultralight Hall of Fame - author of numerous ultralight books including Ultralight Aircraft, Ultralight Technique, and Ultralight Airmanship; Hal Shevers, National Association of Flight Instructors Hall of Fame - founder of Sporty's flight academy and pilot shops; Wilson Connell "Connie" Edwards, EAA Warbirds of America Hall of Fame - longtime pilot, chief stunt pilot for the movie Battle of Britain and owner of an award-winning PBY Catalina.
Posthumous inductions included William Kershner, International Aerobatic Club Hall of Fame - noted flight instructor who taught aerobatics to more than 600 pilots; and Wolfgang Langewiesche, National Association of Flight Instructors Hall of Fame - author of the book, Stick and Rudder as well as influential articles in Harper's Magazine and Reader's Digest during the late 1940s and 1950s.
"I feel so honored to be here with all these other aviation greats and very humbled, because, as you will see there are really some outstanding people here," Peek said. "It seems like only yesterday that I sent a dollar or two off to some fellow in Milwaukee who was starting a new club for private aviators. He called it the Experimental Aircraft Association, the EAA. Who would have thought back there in those days, as you look around today, the organization would be what it is and what it is doing.
"We're free to fly in this country, and it's something we should appreciate, and the EAA is very much responsible for a very large portion of that freedom. It's been a great journey, these last 50 years at the EAA, and I'm happy to say it's not over. I've got a Pietenpol almost done in my garage."
"Is this Oshkosh or is this heaven?" Markowski asked. "I, like many others, wanted to make my childhood dream come true, and feel what Orville and Wilbur felt. I'm not proud to be here tonight. I'm humbled to be here, and by all those who led the way, taking chances, risking their lives."
Markowski thanked all those who influenced him, beginning with his grandfather who on his fifth birthday gave him a rubber-powered airplane, which hooked Markowski on flight. "I was just in the right place at the right time with the right dream, and EAA was there to support it. Let's all make sure that EAA is always there to support it so that no one, no industry or government, can unfairly tax or limit our freedom to fly.
"Thanks, EAA, for including me with the people I so admire."
A self-described "airport bum," Schlitter was heavily influenced by his father who, as Randy said, owned "an airport or two." In fact, when he told his Dad he wanted to design aircraft and not succeed his in his aviation business, Dad asked, "What makes you think you can build planes better than anybody else?"
"Because I'm your son," was Randy's reply, to which his dad answered, "You'll probably do alright."
"I really wish my father was here, but he's here in my heart and I thank him for having me," Schlitter said. "Also, thanks everyone at EAA and the influence it's been on my life. Without EAA I wouldn't be here today and I wouldn't have done this."
Wilson "Connie" Edwards
"This is really an honor," he said. "It's a great occasion to be here." Wilson had the room rolling when he related an EAA Oshkosh experience. "I broke my back in a Grumman Goose years ago, and I decided, 'To heck with it, we're going to Oshkosh.' And he (son Tex) said, 'Dad, you can't get in that airplane, you've got a full body cast.' And I said, 'We'll get a forklift and a pallet.' And "Pope" (Paul Poberezny) remembers this very well. I called him on the radio and said, 'Pope, I need some help. I need a forklift and a pallet.' Sure enough, they lowered me down out of the plane.
"God Bless the EAA and America."
"I couldn't believe it when they called me, because I really don't feel that I've done anything special. I really don't think that I've done anything more than many other people in the aerobatics. There are lots of people that open doors, that coach, that teach you.
"I've gotten a lot out of aviation, and it's a passion. I want to give back, teach people that they can do whatever they want to do. I can't return nearly enough to aviation or to all of you for what this award means and what you've done for me."
"The word that (describes) everyone up here tonight is passion, and everyone in this room has the passion of aviation. I don't know how to explain how I feel tonight. Became a flight instructor 40 years ago. Some things just lucked out. One thing I want to see, give major support to save aviation for private operations, so that we don't have the airspace stolen from us. I want to continue Sporty's as long as I can. I can't come up with the words, but all I can say is thanks you, especially to the people who made this happen tonight. Aviation is a passion. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
William Kershner's son, Bill, represented his family and thanked the IAC. "We really appreciate this honor, and I'd like to thank the IAC for the recognition of my father. He loved flying, but his instructor certificate is what he cherished the most. I wish Dad was here."
Kershner's Cessna 152, in which he made more than 7,000 spins, is now in the National Air and Space museum.
Ruth Elliott, longtime employee of Wittman Regional Airport, received the annual Henry Kimberly Spirit of Leadership Award, which is presented to the outstanding volunteer on behalf of EAA. She served many roles in airport management, including as airport director over the past couple of years until her recent retirement.
"It is through her tireless efforts, her leadership, her vision, but most importantly, the relationships that she established, that we enjoy the success at this fine airport," Poberezny said. "It truly is the world's sport aviation capital, and tonight we want to recognize Ruth for her for developing a relationship that has allowed EAA to establish and present annually the world's premiere aviation event."
2007 EAA Sport Aviation Halls of Fame Induction Ceremony