During a last-minute press conference held Tuesday under a bright blue sunny Oshkosh sky, Tom Poberezny announced that he has decided to retire from his job as chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association and chairman of the annual EAA AirVenture Oshkosh show. Poberezny, who has worked for EAA for the past 49 years, recently turned 65 and wants to have time to do things that his busy job never afforded. Poberezny’s retirement takes effect August 1, when he becomes chairman emeritus. EAA president and CEO Rod Hightower “will assume Tom’s responsibilities,” according to Louie Andrew, EAA board vice chairman and chairman of the EAA board executive committee. The board hasn’t yet decided on a new chairman, however.
Poberezny made his announcement at the Brown Arch “Gateway to Aviation” at Wittman Regional Airport, surrounded by the sights and sounds of AirVenture, a Ford Trimotor’s radial engines blatting away in the background, two young boys chasing model airplanes next to the Arch, the ever-present Breezy taking people on rides, the announcer delivering tidbits about the aircraft doing flybys over Runway 18-36.
“I’m announcing my retirement,” Poberezny told the assembled crowd, “and I’m going to tell you why. I built this organization for 49 years and I’m very proud of what we have done together. But like anything, there’s always a time, and nobody knows when that is. The wrong time is when you look back and say, ‘I wish I had done it then rather than now.’ This is a personal decision. Why do it now?
“EAA’s not an organization [and] it’s not a business; it’s a way of life. It’s been very special to me. When I look back, there are many things I value out of this relationship. Among those that are special, I want to share with the members, is this event, this location, Oshkosh. You built it. Six thousand-plus volunteers who are dedicated to a mission, a mission you established. EAA is an outstanding organization. You make it happen. I say it from my heart: this organization has great opportunity going forward.
“I’m still going to be involved in aviation. I’m going to be involved in a lot of things. But I’ll tell you what. I’m not going to miss looking at my BlackBerry every morning, I’m not going to miss looking at my cellphone every two minutes, I’m not going to miss at night with it on mute, slinking around at midnight looking at it under the blanket seeing what’s going on so I don’t wake up my wife.
“But like anything else, when you’re going to move on, it’s not so much moving on because you want to, it’s because you see that you have opportunities to fulfill that you haven’t done yet. And that’s what I want to do.”