Photo by Jim
EAA President and Chairman Tom Poberezny's story became the
1,000th Timeless Voices of Aviation taped on Wednesday morning.
July 29, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
- Sometimes you know it's time. That was the case for Tom Poberezny when
he decided to retire after 25 years as a member of the Eagles Aerobatic
"I retired, not because I didn't enjoy
it, but because it was time," said Poberezny, EAA president and
chairman. With a family and growing EAA commitments, Poberezny said he
didn't have time to spend practicing or traveling cross country for
performances. "But I have 25 years of memories that can't be taken
away from me."
Poberezny candidly talked about his life
during the 1,000th Timeless Voices of Aviation taping this morning. The
objective of Timeless Voices of Aviation, a major video history project of
the EAA AirVenture Museum, is to assure that the first person oral
histories of aviation's development are preserved for future generations.
In an interview taped from the Founder's
Wing in the EAA AirVenture Museum, Poberezny said a major milestone
occurred in 1985 when the Concorde arrived from London's Heathrow Airport.
"Captain John Cook became an icon and
embraced the event and we embraced him back," Poberezny said.
"The Concorde made Oshkosh an international event."
Keeping AirVenture growing each year is a
challenge, especially making sure that everyone - from ultralight pilots
to Warbird enthusiasts - feel that they are an important part of the
organization. He acknowledged that some people feel AirVenture has become
too big, and want the fly-in convention to return to the smaller, more
intimate affair it once was.
"But how can we tell people not to
come?" he asked, noting that EAA must continue to engage people for
the sake of promoting and protecting general aviation.
EAA, in fact, really doesn't have a growth
formula, he said. "We just provide value and encourage people to
participate; that is our growth formula."
But the real success of the organization is
due to its volunteers, he said. "The volunteers have a sense of
ownership, and that is key to this event," he said. "Thousands
of people who volunteer work harder than they would at their own jobs.
That's because they have a passion for flying and want to be part of
something that makes a difference…"
He also said that the decision to move the
EAA headquarters to Oshkosh increased the value of the organization,
making Oshkosh an event that could be enjoyed 365 days of the year.
But he recalled the fundraising campaign
needed to make the headquarters and museum a reality. "Our goal was
$10 million when we embarked on a national fundraising campaign," he
said, noting that they had never attempted to raise such a large amount in
the past. One of his first calls was to Sam Johnson, of S.C. Johnson Co.
"I was about 32 when I went down there
for a meeting. Ten people were sitting around a table when Sam walked in
and sat down," Poberezny recalled. "He looked at me and said, 'I
want you to know that nobody at this table likes airplanes except me.'
" Poberezny said. "He ended up making our first major
Poberezny said EAA was built on dedication
and passion. "When people visit here and express their appreciation,
it helps put into perspective how important EAA is to people. I take
personal pride in knowing that we are making a difference. Day to day, I
just try to do the right thing."
Click here to learn more about Timeless
Voices or view the video archive.