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EAA’s Role in Aviation Community Bigger Than Ever

January 15, 2010EAA’s role and influence in the aviation community has grown enormously in the past quarter-century, and with it come more expectations and opportunities for the organization. Serving its members has always been paramount. In addition to that core mission, EAA is uniquely positioned to serve as a catalyst to grow aviation and strengthen the positive perceptions in the non-flying public. In a video interview this week, EAA Chairman/President Tom Poberezny highlighted ways EAA is working to engage people in aviation. Among the broad topics addressed by Poberezny were:


Pathways to Participation

EAA started out as a group of builders and innovators. Poberezny stressed that today, EAA has a higher responsibility to sustain and grow participation.

 “We have become the pathway to participation,” he said. “With thousands of people who are looking at how to become engaged in aviation whether it’s a pilot, builder, restorer, enthusiast, or photographer. We’ve always had the attitude that we welcome everyone. Today if you are passionate about flying or interested in aviation, EAA is the place to be.”


People and Planes

 The growth and expansion of EAA AirVenture over the decades is just the most visible example of how EAA’s role in the aviation community has evolved. The convention started as a gathering for builders and other aviation enthusiasts to exchange ideas. The event has grown into one of the world’s most significant showcases for aviation. That emergence came about because of a growing interest in the culture of “Oshkosh” and EAA. The core principles of EAA have not changed, but expectations have expanded tremendously at AirVenture and elsewhere.

“People see EAA as the incubator of innovation, the place for creativity but more importantly participation and relationships,” Poberezny said.


Member Participation and Leadership 

What does this growing role mean for EAA members? It means the ability to be stronger as an organization and a unique structure that is in a superb position to grow aviation—something that is essential on all levels.

“We need to show that there is a multitude of ways to reach new people; through our chapters, publications, events, through outreach with our aircraft such as EAA’s B-17 Aluminum Overcast,” Poberezny said. “What has made EAA a success is our members. EAA has many outstanding programs, but headquarters is only a facilitator. The real implementation has been through our members at the regional, state, and local levels. Much of our success has been a result of our members’ participation and leadership.”


Flying Is Fun

There are many practical reasons why people use airplanes such as transportation and business applications. Poberezny emphasized, however, that the best connection comes on a basic level: “Flying is Fun.” EAA members are passionate about flying and want to share it with others.
“The spirit of aviation in which EAA represents is an intangible feeling, it’s an emotion,” he said. “That emotion and passion drives what we do and accomplish that is measurable whether it’s building and designing an airplane, events such as AirVenture, or publications such as Sport Aviation. EAA recently has tried to build up the services we provide to meet members’ expectations in terms of value that they want; to enhance that inner feeling of passion, emotion, friendship, and relationships. That’s the essence of EAA as a field organization.”


AirVenture 2010 to top Last Year

With fewer than 200 days left until opening day of AirVenture 2010, the excitement and inquiries are already starting to build for the annual gathering at Oshkosh. Poberezny is often asked how EAA will top the previous year’s AirVenture, especially one as successful as the 2009 event. Poberezny, who has been AirVenture’s chairman for more than 30 years, is as excited about 2010’s lineup already, even six-plus months before Opening Day.

For instance, AirVenture 2010 will feature a week-long “Salute to Veterans” in conjunction with the Warbirds of America and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Poberezny noted that almost everyone has a relative or friend who has served in the military and EAA is preparing to honor their service this summer.

Also, the buzz is growing for AirVenture’s 75th anniversary celebration of the DC-3. Poberezny says this venerable aircraft that launched the air transportation system in this country will be well represented in Oshkosh.

“We were hoping to get 20 to 25 DC-3s here, which would be unbelievable. We have 40 that have commited and that may rise even higher,” he said. “There will be a mass fly-in and the interest has been tremendous. It will be one of those years when you will come back and say ‘Remember that year at Oshkosh when they had all those DC-3s?’ So I assure you that AirVenture will be the annual shot in the arm that aviation needs, both from an industry and passion standpoint.”

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