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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedTom adds his story to 'Timeless Voices' collection
By Barbara A. Schmitz, EAA AirVenture Today

Photo by Jim Koepnick
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 Team.

"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 donation."

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.

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