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Happy 57th Birthday, EAA!

Early board meeting
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EAA Founder Paul Poberezny (far left) with the association’s board of directors during a meeting the in the 1950s, held in the basement of the Poberezny’s home.

January 26, 2010On the cold evening of Jan. 26, 1953, about three dozen airplane enthusiasts met in Gran-Aire’s facilities at Curtiss-Wright Airport in Milwaukee, Wis. It was a meeting that included some longtime airplane builders as well as one 31-year-old Korean War veteran named Paul Poberezny, who had just recently returned to his hometown.

That group had no idea of the influence they would have on aviation history around the world for the next 50-plus years. From this group would grow the Experimental Aircraft Association, which now has more than 160,000 members in over 100 countries, nearly 1,000 chapters and one of world’s premier aviation events in EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

“I remember the meeting was in the dope-and-fabric shop at Curtiss-Wright Field,” Poberezny said on the 57th anniversary of that first meeting. “We had to carry benches up for everybody to sit, because it was an upstairs room.”

Paul had an idea that he wanted to explain, about forming a Milwaukee airplane homebuilders club. Some of the people had been airplane builders since the 1930s – local friends such as Harold Gallatin and others, who Poberezny called “sparkplugs for my interest in airplane building.”

Poberezny was named the group's first president and suddenly found himself involved in more details than expected, as flying homebuilt aircraft was much more tightly controlled than today.

“No one realized how much government work was involved,” he said. “Most people have never heard of the early history.” That included convincing federal officials that giving additional flying freedom to aircraft builders was a good idea.

One tenet from EAA’s early days has remained, however: Membership is open to all who wish to participate. That welcome to all has created tremendous opportunities for EAA, its members and all of aviation in the more than half-century since.

Not bad for a group of guys who simply wanted to share information on their hometown airplane projects 57 years ago – an accomplishment that never ceases to amaze EAA’s Founder.

“I never expected it to become what it has,” Poberezny said.

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