Poberezny: EAA Members Excited About New Young Eagle Co-Chairs
October 6, 2009 — Sully Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles are the new co-chairs of EAA’s Young Eagles program and EAA members have expressed surprise and excitement about the announcement. “Many people have contacted me and said what a great choice; it was unexpected, but what a great choice for the next step to go on and lead the Young Eagles program,” said EAA President Tom Poberezny.
When selecting a chairperson, Poberezny says the most important criteria is the ability to communicate “[That] you’re passionate, you’re supportive. We’re not using people’s names to promote a program. People are using their name to tell [others] how important this is to aviation’s future,” Poberezny said.
Previous Young Eagles Chairman Harrison Ford became so deeply involved in his role as chairman that he served much longer than he expected to, according to Poberezny. Then, at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2009 they [Poberezny and Ford] started talking about the transition to a new leader that would balance leadership, motivation, and name recognition - along with a background that was divergent from the previous chairmen. Poberezny also thought it was important that the new leader of the Young Eagles program be a team, and Sullenberger’s and Skiles’ names came to the forefront. “Not so much for what they did back in January in terms of saving [so many] lives,” Poberezny said. “It’s how they’ve conducted themselves since then.
“In terms of professionalism, representing the general aviation community, and their expressed passion for what we’re doing. They observed and saw it, and immediately became engaged.”
Since the Young Eagles program launched in 1992 three other well-known people have served as chairman. Poberezny says that each was selected partly because of their name recognition—however each chairman found himself engaging far beyond lending his star power to the cause. “Cliff Robertson—he was passionate and was actively involved in aviation” Poberezny said. Harrison Ford had both the qualities of an entertainer and a pilot but, according to Poberezny, Ford was a natural choice since he had already been flying Young Eagles before being approached to lead the program. “He [Ford] really raised the bar—because of his passion for EAA, for outreach, and engaging young people in aviation.”
The Young Eagles program began as a way to introduce kids to their first flight. The Sporty’s Next Step program will be a series of “next steps” including first flight lessons and first solo scholarships. Poberezny says the goal is to build long-term engagement programs that will build a human infrastructure “that will sustain aviation from a passion [and] business standpoint long term.”