founder Paul Poberezny autographed the sleeve of Jessica
Miller’s shirt after his Warbirds in Review presentation
Monday. Miller flew to AirVenture 2008 from Minnesota in an
Founder and Chairman Paul Poberezny came to give a Warbirds in
Review presentation about the P-51 Mustang Monday, but the event
quickly became a warm audience testimonial to the personality and
perseverance of Poberezny.
told the crowd gathered in the Warbirds area that the P-51 "is
like a sports car." He said he was hard pressed to distinguish
the P-51’s handling characteristics from other aircraft because
"I’ve flown over 400 different types of airplanes" in
more than 30,000 flying hours. He recalled the P-51’s dead-stick
sink rate is steep. Poberezny has flown many Mustang variants:
XP-51, P-51A, P-51B, P-51C, P-51D, and P-51H. When asked how to do a
go-around in a P-51, he went over his mental checklist: "First,
get your gear up. Then milk the flaps up."
the Korean War, when F-51 Mustangs were sent into combat as ground
attack aircraft, Poberezny was a serviceman who went to war surplus
stores to buy throat microphones and Mae West life preservers to
equip the aging fighters for one more war.
acknowledging merits of other fighters including the P-47, Poberezny
touted the P-51’s speed, maneuverability, and range. "I would
say the Mustang was top of the line for that kind of
made his remarks in front of EAA’s P-51D Paul I, no longer
flown by Poberezny. "It’s sleeping forever," he said,
referring to his decision to stop flying the high-performance
fighter to ensure its–and his–longevity. Poberezny and Paul I
gave nearly 500 passengers back-seat Mustang rides. He said his
passengers included broadcaster Paul Harvey and singer John Denver,
as well as government officials.
Poberezny said his relationship with government officials has not
been demanding or pushy. When sport aviation issues needed the ear
of government, he found a collaborative approach led to positive
results. Members of the audience offered up their own personal
anecdotes about Poberezny’s powers of persuasion that got them to
volunteer for EAA projects.
sprinkled his commentary with occasional humble humor, always
garnering applause and appreciative laughter from the crowd. He
recalled his early flying years before World War II in an
inexpensive old American Eagle biplane: "I met a lot of
farmers." Off-field emergency landings contributed to young
Poberezny’s piloting skills. The biplane followed Poberezny’s
learning in a Waco glider furnished by a teacher who wanted to see
Paul flourish at something. "I didn’t do well in grade
school; I was always drawing airplanes. I didn’t do well in high
school–same reason." That teacher’s interest in Poberezny’s
well-being is what "started my career in aviation and my love
for people," he told the AirVenture crowd.
the course of his comments, Poberezny mentioned he is 86 years old
and has been married to his wife, Audrey, for 64 years. "If it
wasn’t for my wife, Audrey, I wouldn’t be standing here,"
he said. Poberezny recounted how he and Audrey used their cast-off
kitchen table, a second-hand typewriter, and a converted basement
coal bin as an office to start the business of the fledgling
Experimental Aircraft Association in 1953. His audience appreciated
his recounting of the beginnings of EAA, alternately applauding and
laughing as Poberezny casually chatted with them.
asked his view of EAA’s future, Paul Poberezny said the
organization is in good hands. "I don’t want it to ever
change from being a family," he said. He referred to EAA as
"your organization." Acknowledging that some people resist
changes to anything, Poberezny said "Don’t blame me; you
people have changed it with your love, your ideas…"
Following a standing
ovation for Paul Poberezny, the audience gathered around the EAA
founder for handshakes, autographs, and snapshots.