EAA's Catch the Spirit Event at Lakeland
Hundreds Hear From EAA President, Founder
April 9, 2008 — For more than 50 years, EAA's chapters have formed the core of the association, and on Wednesday evening at Sun 'n Fun, EAA chapter leaders attended a special event in their honor hosted by EAA President Tom Poberezny. The evening opened with an ice cream social, where members and EAA staff had the chance to get acquainted - or reacquainted - with the leaders over strawberries and ice cream.
EAA members' common bond - building homebuilt aircraft - led to the formation of local chapters, starting with EAA Chapter 1 in Riverside, California. But over time, chapters have evolved into groups welcoming people from all walks of aviation, and today hold upwards of 15,000 aviation events annually.
Tom explained that EAA's vision is to be the most passionate and engaged community of aviation enthusiasts and its mission is to share the spirit of aviation. Chapters are a crucial component of accomplishing that mission. "EAAers are passionate about aviation and love to share that passion," he said.
EAA chapters will play a key role in helping to grow the nation's pilot population, which Tom explained, has decreased from about 800,000 to around 600,000. "This is essential to all of aviation," he said. "EAA needs to lead this effort, and chapters will be a large part of that. Tens of thousands of people are interested in aviation, but don't know they can participate. We need to encourage people to engage more and more with EAA chapters and empower them to live their dreams of flight."
Tom described the four main accomplishments that comprise EAA's legacy:
- Fostering the amateur-built movement, which has experienced virtually no changes since amateur building rules were enacted more than a half-century ago.
- AirVenture Oshkosh - not just a 1-week, but a 365-day-a-year event due to its impact on aviation.
- Young Eagles, which has provided nearly 1.4 million airplane rides to kids since 1992.
- Yet to come: rebuilding the pilot population through initiatives like sport pilot-light-sport aircraft, which is in the fourth year of what Tom described as a 15-year journey.
Attendees were treated to a screening of Oshkosh: Spirit of Aviation, plus each attendee received a DVD copy of the 17-minutes video after the event. Tom cordially invited everyone to attend the annual EAA AirVenture Oshkosh July 28-August 3.
He also noted that EAA would soon announce a $10 million site improvement plan for the AirVenture convention grounds. "We will make many enhancements to the site to increase value to attendees and exhibitors, but we will not change the event's culture," he stressed.
After Tom introduced members of the EAA staff who are working in Lakeland on behalf of the member this week, a drawing for prizes was held, and several members took home new banners for their chapters.
Later in the program, EAA Director Fred Telling introduced EAA Founder and Chairman Paul Poberezny, and together they reminisced about Paul's life in aviation and the organizations' formation and growth. That led to a discussion about the recently announced Founders' Wing, a special area within the EAA AirVenture Museum that will exhibit items from Paul and Audrey's personal collection that will tell the story of the organization. It will create a members' legacy comprised of three areas: the Paul and Audrey Poberezny Library; and exhibit area dedicated to the culture and heritage of EAA; and special event space.
Click here to read more about the Founder's Wing from a story published in the April 2008 edition of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.