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Hightower Visits Midwinter Warbirds Flightline Meeting

By Rick Siegfried, President, EAA Warbirds of America

Rick Siegfried

Traveling to Oshkosh is always a pleasant journey, although the middle of January isn’t exactly the same experience as visiting OSH during EAA AirVenture. This year, just like in many previous Januarys, many of the Warbird of America’s volunteer community gathered in central Wisconsin to attend the Midwinter Warbirds Flightline Meeting. Forty-two hardy volunteers and 13 members joined via the Internet to review last year’s effort and look ahead to the 2011 Oshkosh experience. Paul Poberezny, Rod Hightower, Adam Smith, and Sean Elliott of EAA all stopped by during our meeting. I was also able to spend a little time with Rod now that he’s six months into his new position at EAA. Read more

The Warbirds Flightline Meeting only lasted a few hours on Saturday; however, the discussions and activities began on Friday afternoon and lasted through Sunday morning. Certainly the weather conditions prior to Oshkosh 2010 took up some of the conversation. Once a review of the wet conditions was complete, we moved on to better organizing Warbird Alley, use of equipment, additional aircraft tugs for 2011, and of course the plan to welcome more Navy Warbirds in 2011. We also touched on the drainage issues in the Warbird camping area, and although no buildings will be changed this year, we’ll make better use of space available to members. The Warbirds in Review schedule is coming together nicely with a Navy influence because of the 100-year celebration of Naval aviation.

Officially Rod Hightower became EAA president in early September. Rod hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped since. He established a few goals for himself early last fall. The first was getting to know EAA’s personnel, its organization, and the members. Although a longtime member of EAA, he endeavored to learn more about the history, the different administrative and operational divisions,and the relationships between members and the organization. Next, Rod sought to learn more about EAA’s position in the industry. Rod spent a great deal of time visiting the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association convention, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, National Business Aviation Association, and the FAA to see exactly the significant role our organization has within the industry. Tom Poberezny and the EAA Board of Directors feel Rod brings a unique set of abilities to EAA.

Rod is a well-established businessman and entrepreneur; he has run complex organizations successfully. He offers these skills, but more importantly, he’s a well-roundedEAA member and passionate about flying. Rod has been an active pilot for most of his adult life. He restored a Stearman and has been active with the National Stearman Fly-In organization. Shortly after completing his Stearman restoration, he moved his family to England for business.

Rod saw this as a great opportunity to pack up the Stearman, bring it to England, and fly the English countryside. After all, the Stearman is part of the family. Rod recently purchased a North American T-6 to fly the Wisconsin countryside and travel between Oshkosh and Saint Louis until he can move his family to Oshkosh. Rod has also been an active member of the EAA Chapter in Saint Louis, Missouri, and enjoys flying Young Eagles.

I met Rod for the first time in Reno, Nevada, at the Reno National Air Races in 2009. Rod was out in support of his friend, T-6 racer John Lohmar. We had a great time at the races as we always do, and Rod certainly fit in well with the rest of our T-6 community. Our next meeting was in Oshkosh just before the official announcement of his new position at EAA.

You didn’t need to travel far during AirVenture 2010 to see Rod and his family visiting all areas of Oshkosh. Since AirVenture 2010, I’ve been with Rod many times, and I always look forward to spending time with him. I find he’s genuinely interested in working to make flying accessible to everyone who shows an interest. He understands that we fly for fun and need to expose the next generation of pilots to the fun, camaraderie, and sense of wonder that flight brings to the human spirit.

Keep ’em flying.

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