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EAA Inducts Six into Hall of Fame

Evening of Friendship and Camaraderie Inspires All

October 18, 2009 — “It’s not how close you can come to killing yourself but rather how precise you can fly. It’s about knowing your capabilities and your aircraft’s capabilities.” Those were the words of wisdom R. A. “Bob” Hoover shared with the audience as keynote speaker at EAA’s annual Hall of Fame ceremonies on Friday October 16, reflecting on his lifetime career as an air show performer and test pilot.

Hoover, known for his air show performances in a P-51 Mustang and Shrike Commander in a flying career that dates back to World War II, is the 2009 International Aerobatic Club inductee into the Hall of Fame. He was joined by five others whose contributions to the history, development, and growth sport aviation were honored during the evening:

George H. Baker – Warbirds of America inductee (see video)
Lance A. Neibauer – EAA Homebuilders inductee (see video)
Roy Pinner – EAA Ultralights inductee (see video)
Paul Sanderson – National Association of Flight Instructors inductee (see video)
Stephen Pitcairn – Vintage Aircraft Association Inductee (see video)
Bob Hoover - IAC Inductee (see video)

During the ceremony held in the Eagle Hangar of the EAA Aviation Center, EAA President/Chairman Tom Poberezny welcomed 300-plus people to the festivities, noting that the audience included representatives from more than 19 countries, as the Commission Internationale de Voltige Aerienne (CIVA) prepared to hold its international meeting at EAA Headquarters on October 17-18. CIVA is the commission responsible for the administration of aerobatic competition worldwide. International Aerobatic Club Treasurer Mike Heuer currently serves as CIVA president.

Other notables in attendance included Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO), AOPA Air Safety Foundation President Bruce Landsberg, and US Airways Pilot Jeffrey Skiles, co-pilot on the famed Flight 1549, who recently accepted the co-chairmanship of the EAA Youg Eagles program with fellow pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

Oshkosh businessman, banker, event organizer and EAA volunteer Mike Dempsey was honored with the Henry Kimberly Leadership Award. In making the presentation, Poberezny recognized Dempsey as one of the leaders of the Oshkosh community whose welcoming spirit makes EAA members feel special. Poberezny particularly recognized Dempsey’s assistance in organizing this year’s Doobie Brothers concert during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2009. In accepting his award, Dempsey said, “You get back what you give; EAA contributes a lot to this community. I’m part of what you get back.”

In welcoming Young Eagles Co-Chairman Jeff Skiles to the podium, Poberezny announced that the EAA Young Eagles program had officially recorded the 1.5 millionth free airplane ride given to a young person this week. Skiles thanked EAA for honoring him and Sullenberger with the Young Eagles co-chairmanship. “When Harrison invited us to accept this role, I thought with my heart and immediately said, ‘Yes.’ We have monstrous shoes to fill, but Sully and I, like all EAA members, share the commitment to promote aviation and encourage, inspire and enlighten the aviation leaders of tomorrow. Our experience on Flight 1549 has given Sully and me a unique opportunity to be spokesmen for aviation, and we feel an intense obligation to make something good of this opportunity.” (Read a letter from Sullenberger and Skiles highlighting their sentiments about their roles as Young Eagles co-chairmen.)

Bob Hoover was then welcomed back to the stage to accept his IAC Hall of Fame honors. In his acceptance speech, Hoover recalled one letter he received from a young Air Force pilot who thanked Hoover for his influence on his life. “This young man said he became a pilot because of me; I’ve never appreciated a letter more. We never know when we influence young people. Time spent with them is more important than we may ever know.”

Hoover reflected about attending the first EAA fly-in in 1953. “Paul and Audrey Poberezny welcomed me to their home afterwards, and I haven’t missed an EAA gathering since. Oshkosh is the place to come to each year.”

Hoover captured the hearts of the audience as he recalled the time when he commandeered a German Focke-Wulf 190 to escape from a German prisoner of war (POW) camp where he’d spent more than 15 months in captivity. “General Eisenhower had directed us POWs to ‘wait things out,’ anticipating the war would end soon, but I’d been trying to escape the whole time and I couldn’t quit trying. I have to say, though, I didn’t think that idea through well. After I took off with the 190, I realized that I could easily be shot down by my fellow Americans since I was flying an enemy airplane. I flew the airplane west until I ran out of fuel, then spiraled down into a field in Holland…. After landing the airplane - I had to ground loop it to avoid crashing into a ditch - I headed for the woods only to be met by Dutchmen coming at me with pitch forks, thinking I was a German. I managed to communicate to them that I was American and that I wanted to get to a nearby road. Luckily I got there and British truck happened by and the driver picked me up.” Hoover added, “People shouldn’t think I’m a hero because of that; it was probably one of the stupidest things I ever did.”

Mike Posey, of aircraft restoration firm Posey Brothers, accepted the Hall of Fame honors for the late Stephen Pitcairn, the Vintage Aircraft Association Hall of Fame inductee. Posey described Pitcairn as a man “guided by the highest standards of personal integrity. He felt a duty to shed light on his father’s accomplishments that were more extensive than his contributions to aviation.”

Pitcairn preserved his father’s legacy by restoring Pitcairn aircraft, including the PCA-2 autogyro Miss Champion that is now a part of the EAA AirVenture Museum collection, and quietly donating to many aviation endeavors.

George H. Baker, the Warbirds Hall of Fame Inductee, has flown more than 100 different aircraft in an aviation career that began when he earned his pilot certificate at age 16. At 20, he began an aircraft restoration business that’s still active today.

A Warbird member since 1974, Baker thanked fellow inductee Bob Hoover for the influence he had on his life. “I remember when shortly after I bought a T-33 with friend, Hoover called and said, ‘I know the best instructor in T-33s; how ‘bout I arrange some training time with him for you. That shows his commitment to aviation safety isn’t just words; he follows through.”

Mark Van Tine, president and chief executive officer of Jeppesen, represented Paul Sanderson at the festivities, accepting the National Flight Instructors Hall of Fame award in his honor and noting that more than 2.5 million pilots have been trained using the training program that Sanderson developed.

Sanderson began his career as an aviation instructor in the Navy during World War II. He went on to start his own ground school, offering pilot rating courses from which the Sanderson Training System was developed. By 1968, more than 3,000 schools were using the Sanderson Courses.

Van Tine called Sanderson “a pioneer in multi-media training,” and recalled his dedication to flight instructors. “In Paul’s opinion, flight instructors are vitally important. He’s often said, ‘Without flight instructors, the aviation industry would not exist.”

Sanderson’s company, Sanderson Films, merged with Jeppesen in the 1960s when that company was acquired by the Times Mirror Corporation. Jeppesen is now a Boeing company.

Lance Neibauer, founder of Lancair International and Neico Aviation, accepted the Homebuilder’s Hall of Fame honors, recalling his first exposure to homebuilding while attending a fly-in in California. “I saw a Woody Pusher on the line, and it intrigued me. When I asked about it, I learned about EAA and its local Chapter 96. I immediately joined and that was the start of what eventually became a 30-year career for me.”

Neibauer gravitated toward aviation as composite structures began to appear. His first homebuilt, a Lancair 200, made its first flight on June 26, 1984. The Lancair family of aircraft now covers the range of private pilot aircraft from the two-seat aerobatic Lancair Legacy, the two-seat Legacy fixed-gear, to the four-seat, fixed-gear Lancair ES, the 330 mph Lancair IV speedster to the pressurized piston single, the Lancair IV-P. Lancair’s sleek, innovative design has won it numerous awards at national and international air shows, highlighting Neibauer’s background and formal training as a graphic designer.

Neibauer said, “I am humbled to join these men to receive this honor tonight.”

Roy Pinner accepted the EAA Ultralight Hall of Fame award, calling the evening’s ceremonies symbolic of all is EAA about…”fellowship among people with a common interest.”

Pinner’s aviation interest began with model airplanes as a youth. While skiing in the late 1970s, he saw a powered hang glider in flight and decided he needed one. He earned reserve grand champion ultralight honors at EAA Oshkosh 1979 for his Klaus Hill-designed Hummer. Along with Dennis Franklin, he helped redesign the Hummer into the Drifter and earned grand champion honors with his Drifter at EAA Oshkosh 1983. With Franklin, he designed the Double Drifter and helped put that airplane into production.

EAA President Poberezny closed the ceremonies by honoring his parents, EAA Founders Paul and Audrey Poberezny, for their dedication to EAA throughout their lifetimes, and calling the evening “a special night of friendship and camaraderie.”

To read more about each inductee and view a video of their accomplishements, visit www.EAA.org/HallofFame.

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