Leeward Remembered as Passionate Aviator
September 17, 2011 – Jimmy Leeward, who died in Friday’s tragic accident while flying at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, is being remembered today as a passionate pilot and enthusiastic supporter of aviation and EAA.
The 74-year-old Leeward (EAA 73757) had been a member of EAA since 1972 and a member of EAA’s board of directors since 1977. He also held memberships in EAA’s vintage, warbird and aerobatic divisions. Leeward had received the EAA President’s Award in 1988 for his contributions to the organization.
“I knew Jimmy since he was 15 years old,” said EAA Founder Paul Poberezny. “He’s a damn good pilot and could always handle airplanes very well. He always had been a part of the family to Audrey and me. He served EAA with distinction as a Director for many years, and was a wonderful help to us in the design and construction of the AirVenture Museum. It’s just a sad, sad day.”
Leeward’s impact on EAA will be long-lasting. He headed the committee responsible for the planning, design and construction of the EAA Aviation Center in Oshkosh, which opened in 1983. He also funded the building’s Leeward Courtyard, a green space immediately behind the complex, which is dedicated to his father, Al, who ran aviation businesses in Pennsylvania and Indiana.
Leeward’s flying career began early with his father, as Jimmy flew a Piper Cub at age 12 and a T-6 at age 14. He began racing at Reno in 1976 and was an annual competitor in the Unlimited class, the races’ top division. Leeward also became a talented pilot for movies, flying sequences in such films as Amelia, Lonely Hearts, Dragonfly, Tuskegee Airmen, and Cloud Dancer.
In the 1980s, he used his real estate development background to establish the Leeward Air Ranch in Ocala, Fla., a residential air park built “for pilots by pilots.”
Leeward’s sons, Dirk and Kent, also developed an interest in aviation and became part of their father’s businesses.
Details of Leeward’s memorial services in Ocala, Fla., will be announced when they are finalized.