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Paul H. Poberezny


A Leader and Visionary

"Everyone is welcome. Who do we tell to stay away?"

Paul continued his leadership of EAA for nearly two more decades. During that time, the annual fly-in's prominence grew beyond a gathering for individual builders and restorers. Using Paul's mantra - "Everyone is welcome. Who do we tell to stay away?" - the EAA fly-in grew to cover more of the grounds at Oshkosh. Aviation enthusiasts around the world and the nations' media had focused on what they regarded as the everyman's airplane gathering in Wisconsin, which had an eclectic mix of everything from fragile ultralights to the supersonic Concorde airliner.

Paul on the grounds
Paul Poberezny (left) with fellow EAA member and volunteer Val Brugger working on the new Oshkosh EAA fly-in site in 1970.

EAA found itself increasingly split between its home office in the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin and the fly-in grounds in Oshkosh. In the late 1970s, a movement began to combine the two entities at the same location. Several areas throughout the Midwest were considered, but eventually EAA decided to bring its headquarters and new museum to Oshkosh, where the roots of the annual fly-in already existed.

Work began on the EAA Aviation Center in the early 1980s and in 1983, EAA's impressive new facility was ready. Paul's simple plan to organize local aircraft builders and restorers in a club to share their passion became a worldwide organization that gave thousands of people the motivation to fly, build, and share all things aviation.

At the same time, Paul had become a leader within the aviation community. He often traveled to Washington, D.C., for conferences with the Federal Aviation Administration regarding aviation policy and safety, and was asked to speak and write for a variety of audiences in the flying community.

Paul & Tom at the Brown Arch
Paul (left) and Tom Poberezny stand in front of the iconic Brown Arch on the EAA fly-in grounds in the 1980s.

Just a few of EAA's accomplishments during Paul's presidency included expanded opportunities for amateur-built aircraft construction and flight testing, and the approval of autogas use in many types of small aircraft.

Mostly, however, Paul wanted to use EAA to share the joy and fulfillment of flying.

"People tell me all the time that they want to bring back aviation," he said. "We don't need to bring it back. We need to reach the potential that aviation has always had to use hand and mind to explore that great ocean of air above us."

In 1989, Paul officially retired from the EAA presidency, with the organization's board naming Paul's son, Tom, as the next EAA president. Tom had served in a variety of roles within the association over the previous 20 years, including leading the construction of the EAA Aviation Center and chairing the annual fly-in.

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