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60 Years of EAA: What Lies Ahead? (2013 and Beyond)

Maintaining culture, inviting participation

This is the final installment in a five-part series of articles highlighting EAA's history, in commemoration of the organization's 60th anniversary on January 26, 2013.

January 25, 2013 - The creation and growth of EAA is a true success story in many dimensions, from its humble beginnings, to the annual event in Oshkosh that is its crown jewel, to the worldwide influence the association has had in aviation.

"I'm not sure you could create EAA today," EAA Founder Paul Poberezny has said on more than one occasion.

That's not a knock on the people or potential of this era. EAA's founding and evolution was the result of much hard work over six decades, but also a case of the right inspiration at the right moment.

What is ahead for EAA in an aviation world that is significantly different than what existed 60 years ago, or even 30 years ago? Where will the needs of aviation enthusiasts take the organization, and what outside influences create challenges?

Aviation's modern history is relatively short - just 110 years - but it is one of continual evolution. Thirty years ago, the technology available to today's pilots was not even imagined by most. The tube-and-fabric exclusivity of 1950s homebuilders has morphed into laser die-cut kits or fiberglass. Communications have gone from reliance on the printed page to nearly instantaneous sharing of data.

The future for EAA is already being planned. It's exciting but certainly more complex than that first meeting in Milwaukee 60 years ago. No one can predict the exact circumstances or technology that lies ahead, but we can build on what we do know.

EAA's vision is for a vibrant and growing aviation community, based on the things that EAA members have always been: passionate about flight, welcoming to others, and inspiring to those who are inside and outside of the organization. That has always been part of EAA's culture and will remain so.

EAA and our members must also face today's challenges to personal flight. We must invite more people to get involved in flying and welcome them when they want to become a part of it. There are economic and regulatory hurdles to clear. New technology offers great opportunities, but sometimes creates a widening chasm between what individuals prefer.

Some of things that will be part of EAA in the future include:

  • Getting people involved in aviation where they want to be involved. For some, that means building an airplane or as part of a local EAA chapter. For others, it might be a Young Eagles flight or a chapter breakfast. It could be a visit to the local fly-in or to Oshkosh. Each opportunity is one to bring another person into aviation. 

  • EAA will continue to protect and promote the rights and privileges for recreational flying. The ability for an individual to dream, design, build, and fly is an essential freedom. It also inspires innovation, which we've seen by EAA members for the past 60 years. 

  • In addition, EAA will provide the pathways to discover more about flight. That includes the youth aviation movement based in the success of Young Eagles, as well as ways for people of all ages to engage in aviation. The fellowship and camaraderie of EAA is one of the organization's greatest strengths and we must use that strength to bring more people into aviation. 

  • AirVenture will continue to be the event where the world looks for the best in aviation and in EAA. Our annual gathering in Oshkosh means many different things to different people, and it continues to reflect the diverse community of aviators within the organization.

Wherever events and progress carry aviation in the future, we are certain of one thing: The desire to fly has been inside people since the dawn of history. It will continue to be there in the future and people will find a way to, as Paul Poberezny has often stated, "use hand and mind to explore the ocean of air above us." EAA is committed to helping that happen for as many people as possible.

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