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Inclusion Is the EAA Way

By David Leiting, EAA Lifetime 579157, Chapter Outreach Specialist

“EAA is open to all. Who do we tell that they are not welcome? Who do we tell to just stay home?” — Paul Poberezny, EAA 1, Founder

February 2017 - Since the founding of EAA, inclusion has been at the heart of the organization. Paul Poberezny demonstrated this time in and time out. Whether it was the time he welcomed a gaggle of P-51 Mustangs to the Rockford Fly-In, when others turned up their noses and exclaimed that the event wasn’t for their kind. Or the time Paul wrote the following.

“I take this position: Anything that flies, whether it be sailplane, rotary-wing, antique, amateur built, military, or factory-type, has my full enthusiasm and energies, and I will support all of them to the upmost as well as the people who fly them. I find it quite easy to do when one loves airplanes and respects people.”Sport Aviation, October 1966.

Paul was known for his countless “Paulisms,” which have helped guide EAA and its members for the past 64 years. Paul’s words on equality and inclusion are equally as important, if not more so, to your chapter as they are to the entire organization.

Aviation is made up of all kinds, and it is important that your chapter reflect that. For some time, there has been a perception out there that EAA chapters resemble more of a “good ol’ boys club” than a group focused on furthering aviation participation.

No matter the age, gender, experience, or specific area of interest, EAA chapters are a home for anyone who shares an interest in aviation.

Those in the younger generation have described walking into an EAA chapter event as “walking into a den of Chuck Yeagers” — a rather intimidating experience for an aviation newbie. There was also a female pilot who was told, “They will never let you in,” by another female pilot when discussing the local EAA chapter.

I have personally seen a group of young women enter a pancake breakfast and be scoffed at for not being pilots. In addition, I have seen countless chapters drive away different groups of aviators for simply having an interest in different aircraft.

Stories like this are unacceptable, especially for an EAA chapter. It’s up to our current crop of chapter leaders and members to change the “good ol’ boys club” perception and to ensure that everyone is welcome, no matter their aviation interests.

Although some members may not have the same aviation experience as others, it is likely they will bring an entirely new perspective to the chapter. This can be a huge benefit when planning events or how to better promote the chapter. This diverse set of skills and way of analyzing a situation will help continue to grow a chapter. In fact, the most successful chapters are those that have the most diverse group of members.

The future of aviation and your chapter hinges upon your ability to welcome new members. One of the biggest barriers to aviation is the perceived lack of access. EAA chapters hold a vital position in providing ease of access to aviation, so I challenge your chapter to welcome every member, young or old, male or female, pilot or non-pilot, at your next chapter event. Only together will we be able to grow the future of aviation.

Remember, we were all once that onlooker who had yet to pilot an airplane or weld a fuselage. Many of us latched on to a mentor who helped us achieve our aviation dreams. Be that mentor, be that chapter — to support the onlookers of today and aviators of tomorrow.

Serena Kamps, chapter administrator, EAA Lifetime 1011028, has compiled a list of tips and tricks to make your chapter more inclusive. Check it out here.

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