Jack Pelton was named as EAA’s Chief Executive Officer in November 2015, formally adding those responsibilities to the Chairman of the Board role to which he was first elected in October 2012. Pelton is the first elected Chairman from outside EAA’s founding Poberezny family in EAA’s history. In his role as Chairman/CEO, Pelton leads the organization’s board and staff in its mission of growing participation in aviation and inspiring people to fly, build, and further engage in flight.
Pelton is a lifelong, passionate aviation enthusiast, following in the footsteps of his parents, both of whom were pilots. He built his first airplane with his father as members of EAA Chapter 1 (Riverside, Calif.) in the 1970s. Pelton is an EAA Lifetime Member who has also been devoted to restoring and flying vintage aircraft, even as he reached the highest levels within the aviation industry over the past three decades. He currently holds airline transport and commercial pilot certificates, and has earned instrument, multi-engine and seaplane ratings, plus type ratings for the Cessna Citation and Cessna Mustang jets.
Pelton is the retired chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Cessna Aircraft Company, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas. In his decade with Cessna, beginning as senior vice president of product engineering, he oversaw new aircraft development, testing, certification, and improvements for all Cessna models.
Prior to joining Cessna, Pelton was senior vice president of engineering for Dornier Aircraft in Germany. He began his career with Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, California, where he rose within the company in operations, engineering, and program management.
Pelton’s knowledge and experience has also been a valuable asset throughout the aviation community. He is past chairman of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association board, and served on the boards of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the National Business Aviation Association, and the Corporate Angel Network, as well as numerous local organizations in the Wichita area. Pelton has also served as volunteer chairman of EAA’s Gathering of Eagles, the annual fundraiser held during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh that has raised millions of dollars to inspire youth in pursuit of aviation dreams.
Pelton has received numerous awards through his career. In 2017, he received the National Aeronautic Association’s Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award, the FAA’s Friend of Safety Award, and induction into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame. His other honors include the 2010 Lindbergh Award for balancing technology and nature, the 2008 Aviation Week Laurel for Business and General Aviation, and EAA’s highest honor, the Freedom of Flight Award.