EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration

 for Sat, Aug 2, 2008

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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 7 August 2, 2008     

Gathering of Eagles raises record funds for EAA's youth-oriented and inspirational programs
"Fly kids and make friends."

Golf legend Arnold Palmer with aviation legend R.A. "Bob" Hoover at the Gathering of Eagles fundraiser. Photo by Jamie Flores

Rae Lovenburg successfully bids on a ride with the AeroShell Aerobatic Team. Photo by Jamie Flores

Over 1,000 people enjoyed dinner and guest speakers at the annual Gathering of Eagles event held in the Eagle Hangar of the EAA AirVenture Museum. Photo by Jim Labre

Young Eagles Honorary Chairman Harrison Ford started the Gathering of Eagles with that simple statement, which says so much about the spirit of the program and the pilots who make it a success.

More than 1,000 people gathered in the EAA Museum Thursday night, July 31st for both live and silent auctions to raise money for the EAA Young Eagles program and other EAA activities using aviation to inspire scholarship and achievement. EAA members, government officials, aircraft and kit manufacturers, local residents, and celebrities alike were greeted by youth who had cultivated a passion for flying through an initial exposure from EAA Young Eagles and follow-up programs.

EAA President Tom Poberezny emphasized the importance of the program to EAA. "The children and youth we introduce to aviation today are the members, engineers, and innovators of tomorrow," he said.

The Cessna Aircraft Company served as the hosting sponsor of the event for the fourth consecutive year. CEO Jack Pelton expressed the company's pride in supporting Young Eagles. "EAA does a fantastic job of preserving the history of aviation, and ensures the future through this important program."

The event and auction raised more than $3 million for EAA's mission-oriented programs, including the Young Eagles operations that provide first-flight experiences to 80,000 to 100,000 kids each year. EAA will use the proceeds to administer this nationwide program and to build on the follow-up programs such as academic scholarships, EAA Air Academy, and EAA AeroScholars online instruction.

With Harrison Ford's term as Young Eagles chair coming to an end after AirVenture 2009, Ford sees the program as an important way to protect general aviation. The program can act as an ambassador to regulators, communities, and the industry.

"There are a lot of threats to general aviation today," he said earlier in the day to a group of EAA-member volunteers for the Young Eagles program. "EAA Young Eagles can help us show the value of GA in our communities. Because of that, it becomes even more important to maintain the program and to keep the events going around the country."

Items donated to this year's auction included trips, flights with celebrity pilots like Sean D. Tucker, a limited-edition Harley Davidson motorcycle, artwork, and other aviation-focused items. A surprise donation of a stay in Jackson, Wyoming, and dinner with Ford garnered one of the highest prices of the evening.

An additional treat for the auction winners was an entry into a drawing for two days on an aircraft carrier, including a catapult takeoff from the flight deck.

The traditional matching donation program called "Raise the Windsock" gave donors an opportunity to challenge each other to donate to Young Eagles. Celebrities like Arnold Palmer and Harrison Ford both shared their personal stories about why aviation and programs like Young Eagles are important to them as they made their respective donations.

"I didn't come to flying until I was 53 years old," Ford said as he made his matching gift. "But it has made me feel young and challenged again, and given me an opportunity to give back."

Champion golfer Arnold Palmer said that his career in golf could not have existed without aviation. "When I was young, I was afraid to fly, and I knew that I couldn't have this job without air travel," he said. "So I learned to fly, fell in love with aviation, and now have over 18,000 hours logged."

Back at AirVenture for the first time in 28 years, actor John Travolta also urged members to fly with Young Eagles and give to the program. "When I was a kid, everyone was interested in flying," he said. "Nowadays, programs like this will keep that interest alive and motivate the next generation."

The highlight of the auction was the final item of the night, a special-edition, one-of-a-kind P-51 inspired Ford Mustang specially designed for the Gathering of Eagles fundraiser. The car features a full-glass roof and interior appointments reminiscent of the P-51 cockpit, and was signed by the Ford designer, engineer, and legendary Ford officials Jack Rousch and Carol Shelby, as well as Harrison Ford. The car fetched a high bid of $500,000 to benefit EAA's youth-inspirational programs.

"With this generous giving comes an important mandate," Poberezny said at the end of the night. "We can keep kids flying, and keep general aviation at the top of the minds of communities all over the country."

One-of-a-kind Ford Mustang raises $500,000

Ford Motor Company’s one-off vehicle, the Mustang AV8R, sold for $500,000 Thursday evening at the Gathering of Eagles charity auction, part of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008.

Ford built the Mustang AV8R specifically for the auction. Proceeds from the sale will support EAA youth education and inspirational experiences that prepare young people to become the engineers, pilots, and innovators of tomorrow. Ford is the exclusive automotive partner of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and recently announced that it has extended its partnership with the event through 2011.

"Ford is a longtime supporter of EAA and its mission to showcase the finest innovation and technology in the world of flight," said EAA President and AirVenture Chairman Tom Poberezny. "The hard work of the Mustang AV8R team and Ford’s generosity in donating this beautiful vehicle to the Gathering of Eagles will help EAA do some amazing things for future engineers, pilots, and other young people interested in aviation."

Produced using internal resources and named to commemorate Ford’s participation in AirVenture, the one-of-a-kind, fully-customized Mustang AV8R was created by a team including Mustang Design Chief Doug Gaffka and Mustang Chief Nameplate Engineer Paul Randle, with performance support from Ford Racing.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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