Tom Poberezny (1946-2022) was first elected president of EAA in 1989, succeeding his father, EAA founder Paul Poberezny. He assumed additional duties as EAA’s Chairman of the Board in February 2009, then retired as chairman of EAA and EAA AirVenture in August 2011.
An accomplished aviator in his own right, Tom was a member of the U.S. National Unlimited Aerobatic Team that captured the World Championship in 1972. The following year, he won the U.S. National Unlimited Aerobatic Championship. He subsequently flew for 25 years as one wing of the legendary Eagles Aerobatic Team (originally the Red Devils), the most successful civilian precision flying team in history.
During his career with EAA, Tom led a number of the organization’s milestone events. In the late 1970s, he spearheaded EAA’s first major capital campaign, which supported construction of the current EAA Aviation Center headquarters and museum complex at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
In 1992, he led the creation of EAA’s Young Eagles, which has become the most successful aviation youth program in history. Realizing the importance of mentoring to the future of aviation, EAA aimed to give one million kids between the ages of 8 and 17 an airplane flight by the centennial of powered flight on December 17, 2003. The one millionth Young Eagle was flown in October 2003, celebrating the efforts of 85,000 EAA volunteers to reach the goal. The Young Eagles Program has now flown more than 2.2 million young people.
In 2002‐2003, Tom played a pivotal leadership role in the national centennial celebration of flight. He was a member of the Centennial of Flight Commission, a six‐person board empowered by Congress to coordinate and publicize the nation’s commemoration of the Wright brothers’ historic first flight. At the same time, he led EAA’s Countdown to Kitty Hawk program, which commissioned the construction of the first completely authentic reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer – the airplane that gave birth to powered flight.
The airplane successfully flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in late 2003 and was present on those hallowed grounds on December 17, 2003 – 100 years to the minute from the Wrights’ first flight.
As EAA president he spearheaded EAA’s leadership role in the sport pilot/light‐sport aircraft categories that were introduced in 2004 after a decade-long effort. Tom constantly served as an ardent spokesman for the importance of general aviation as essential to the national transportation system and a unique expression of personal freedom.
One of Tom’s most demanding roles was as chairman of the annual EAA AirVenture Fly‐In Convention for more than 30 years. During that time, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, as it is now known, grew to be the world’s largest annual general aviation event, attracting an attendance of more than 500,000 from 70 nations and 10,000 airplanes for one spectacular week every summer.
After his retirement from EAA in 2011, Tom served on a variety of boards and assisted numerous aviation organizations with his expertise. He died on July 25, 2022 – the opening day of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2022 – at age 75.
(updated August 2022)
READ MORE: EAA Mourns Loss of Tom Poberezny