EAA Founder Paul Poberezny

As the founder of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Wisconsinite Paul Poberezny spent 70 years encouraging thousands of amateur pilots to design, build and fly their own aircraft, having fought for federal approval allowing them to do so. When Poberezny started the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) at his home in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, in 1953, he likely had no idea how successful it would be. Today the EAA has around 170,000 members, located in more than 100 countries, while the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh convention, exhibition and fly-in attracts more than 500,000 visitors each year.

Born in Leavenworth County, Kansas, on September 14, 1921, Paul Howard Poberezny had a passion for aviation from a young age, and has been quoted as saying there wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t say the word “airplane”. As a youngster, he dreamed of being a pilot and, thanks to his high school history teacher, Homer Tangney, he was able to attain his goal, going on to help thousands of other would-be pilots to do the same during his career. Seeing that Poberezny was interested in aviation, Tangney gave the high school student a Waco Primary Glider that had seen better days, with the proviso that Poberezny restore the craft to a flight-worthy state. Fifteen-year-old Poberezny took on the task and soon had the glider restored and was testing it tied to the back of a tow car. By the age of 19, with the help of a loan from his father, Poberezny had co-ownership of an American Eagle biplane.

Poberezny’s flying skills stood him in good stead when the US entered World War II. He earned all seven types of pilot wings offered by the armed services, being the only person to do so, and served as a flight instructor for most of his term. He reportedly had great success in teaching students that other instructors had given up on and all his students graduated, many of whom were four or five years older than him. He noted that with time and patience, almost anyone could be taught to fly.

Following the war years, Poberezny pursued his passion for flying by forming the EAA, with his first office being an old coal bin in his home. Anyone with an interest in homebuilt aircraft and supporting the purpose of the organization was welcome to join, and in time membership cards, a constitution and bylaws were introduced. Prominent aviators of the time were invited to speak to club members, and a monthly newsletter, The Experimenter, was published by Poberezny and his wife, Audrey. The first official fly-in of the EAA was held in September of 1953 with 22 aircraft and around 150 people attending. This was the start of an organization that, through the vision and determination of its founder, has helped many aviation enthusiasts enjoy this thrilling sport.

Paul Poberezny passed away on August 22, 2013, and was honored posthumously by the State of Wisconsin for his achievements in aviation. His family, including his wife Audrey, son Tom and daughter Bonnie, received the resolution at a ceremony at the Wisconsin State Assembly in October 2013.