Tom Poberezny

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Tom Poberezny
Tom Poberezny 17 April 2004.JPG
Poberezny at the Sun 'n Fun airshow in 2004
Born (1946-10-03) October 3, 1946 (age 74)
NationalityUnited States
Alma mater Northwestern University
Known forFormer Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) president, Eagles Aerobatic Team pilot, Young Eagles co-founder
Board member of Garmin, AKIA, Cirrus Aircraft, Citation Jet Pilots Association, Angel Flight West
Parent(s)Audrey and Paul Poberezny

Thomas Paul Poberezny (born October 3, 1946) is a retired American aerobatic world champion, as well as chairman of the annual Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Fly-In and Convention from 1977 to 2011 and president of EAA from 1989 to 2010. He succeeded his father, Paul Poberezny, who founded the organization in 1953. [1] [2]


Poberezny was a member of the Eagles Aerobatic Team (originally the Red Devils), which was formed in 1971 and flew for more than 25 years, setting the record for the longest-running aerobatic team with the same members. He led the effort to build what is now known as the EAA Aviation Museum, opened in 1983, and is a co-founder of the Young Eagles, an EAA program created in 1992 to give children the opportunity to experience flight and to learn about general aviation. [3] From his involvement in the EAA, Poberezny is often credited with having led the introduction of the light sport aircraft category in 2004. [4] [5] [6] In 2016, he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. [6]

Life and career

Eagles Aerobatic Team aircraft, flown by Tom Poberezny, Charlie Hillard and Gene Soucy, on display at the EAA Aviation Museum Eagles Aerobatic Team Display.jpg
Eagles Aerobatic Team aircraft, flown by Tom Poberezny, Charlie Hillard and Gene Soucy, on display at the EAA Aviation Museum
Main grounds of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011 OSH-2011.jpg
Main grounds of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011

Tom Poberezny was surrounded by aviation from the very early stages of his life. Because of his father's early key involvement with EAA, the basement of Tom's childhood home in Hales Corners, Wisconsin was considered "the regional social center of [aircraft] homebuilding." [7] Poberezny graduated from Northwestern University in 1970 with a degree in industrial engineering, and became preoccupied with aviation soon after. He joined the US National Unlimited Aerobatic Team and was part of the team that won the World Championship in 1972 at Salon, France. In 1973, he won the individual US National Unlimited Aerobatic Championship. [1]

In 1971, Poberezny, Charlie Hillard, and Gene Soucy formed the aerobatic team The Red Devils (soon renamed the Eagles Aerobatic Team) and went on to perform at airshows until the Daytona Skyfest in 1995. [1] [8] This makes the Eagles the longest-performing aerobatic team in the world with one group of members. [9] Poberezny also appeared as a pilot in the movie Cloud Dancer in 1980. [10]

He was appointed to chairman of the EAA Convention and Fly-In (now known as AirVenture) in 1977. This annual event takes place in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and attracts over 750,000 visitors with 10,000 aircraft from 68 countries, making it the world's largest aviation gathering. [11] Much of the convention's subsequent growth occurred under the leadership of Tom. [7] In the late 1970s, he led the campaign to build the present-day EAA Aviation Museum at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, which officially opened in 1983. [8]

In 1989, Poberezny was elected president of the Experimental Aircraft Association. [12] EAA promotes the hobby of building and flying small aircraft and has over 180,000 members worldwide. In 1992 he led the creation of the Young Eagles program, which introduces young people to aviation. The goal of giving one million kids a ride in an aircraft was met in October 2003; [8] and in July 2016, the two millionth Young Eagle was flown by actor and former chairman of the organization, Harrison Ford. [13]

Poberezny was a member of the Centennial of Flight Commission, [14] a six-person board created by Congress in 1999 to coordinate the nation's celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' 1903 historic first flight. [1]

Poberezny has also promoted the EAA's role in the light-sport aircraft category, bringing new opportunities for people to learn to fly or keep flying. [15]

In March 2009, Paul Poberezny stepped down as chairman of EAA and Tom Poberezny took on these duties as well, with Rod Hightower as president and CEO from September 7, 2010. Tom Poberezny retained the positions of chairman of both EAA and AirVenture. [16]

On July 26, 2011, Tom Poberezny and the EAA announced that he would be retiring from EAA effective August 1, 2011. The president and CEO, Rod Hightower, would assume Poberezny's duties until a replacement was found. [17] However, on 22 October 2012, Hightower resigned as president and CEO of EAA, and on the same day, Jack J. Pelton was elected chairman of the EAA board of directors. He issued a press announcement saying that he would assume all leadership duties of the organization until suitable replacements could be named. [18]

Poberezny currently serves on the boards of several aviation organizations, including the Board of Directors for Garmin International and the Advisory Boards of Aircraft Kit Industry Association (AKIA), Cirrus Aircraft, Citation Jet Pilots Association, and Angel Flight West. [4] [19] [20]

Awards and recognition

Poberezny was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame in October 1996. [1] He was also awarded the Distinguished Wisconsin Aviator Award in May 2007. Past recipients of this award include astronaut Mark C. Lee, Major General Albert Wilkening, Major General Fred R. Sloan, and astronaut Jim Lovell. [12] In 2011, Poberezny was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. [21]

In early 2013, Poberezny received the prestigious Living Legend of Aviation award at a ceremony in Beverly Hills, California. [15] Later that year, a campaign and website was launched dedicated to honoring Poberezny and his accomplishments during the 20 years he led EAA. The website also included a Roster of Support for others to add to the cause. Notable proponents behind the effort consisted of aerospace engineer Burt Rutan, Cirrus Aircraft CEO and Co-founder Dale Klapmeier, and retired test, fighter and air show pilot Bob Hoover. [22] [23]

Tom Poberezny was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame on 1 October 2016 in Dayton, Ohio, making him and Paul Poberezny (1999 inductee) the first father and son duo to be honored by the Hall. [3] [6]

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