Tom Poberezny, the long-time president of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) who later became chairman emeritus, died early Monday as the association’s famed AirVenture kicked off in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He was 75.
“It is not lost on us that Tom’s passing occurred on the opening day of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the event he led into world prominence as its chairman beginning in the 1970s,” said Jack Pelton, EAA's chairman and CEO. “Tom’s legacy is tremendous in the world of aviation with his personal achievements as well as the growth of EAA…He will be greatly missed but more importantly, he will be remembered for all that he did for EAA and aviation. Our deep condolences and prayers go to Tom’s wife, Sharon, and his daughter, Lesley, and the rest of the Poberezny family.”
Born Oct. 3, 1946, Poberezny was a little more than six years old when his father, Paul Poberezny, founded EAA in 1953 with a small group of garage-based homebuilders in the greater Milwaukee area.
While Paul Poberezny led the organization as president from its founding until his retirement in 1989, Tom became an accomplished aviator, according to EAA. He served on the U.S. National Unlimited Aerobatic Team that won the World Championship in 1972 and the following year he won the U.S. National Unlimited Aerobatic Championship.
Tom Poberezny continued flying for 25 years as part of the Eagles Aerobatic Team—once known as the Red Devils and which EAA said was “the most successful civilian precision flying team in history.
At the same time, Poberezny remained involved with EAA, including leading the construction of the EAA Aviation Center headquarters and museum complex at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and chairing the annual fly-in that had grown into one of the world’s largest airshows.
He stepped in as EAA’s second president following the retirement of his father and held that position until 2010. Poberezny had added the role of chairman in February 2009 and then became chairman emeritus in 2011.
While at the helm of EAA, he led the creation of the Young Eagles program that mentors and provides flights to kids between the ages of eight and 17. In a little more than 10 years after the program’s founding in 1992, EAA realized its goal of giving one million kids an airplane flight by the centennial of powered flight on Dec. 17, 2003. That goal was achieved in October of that year and the program now counts more than two million Young Eagles flights, EAA said.
“He will be greatly remembered for all he did for aviation and for EAA,” said Dick Knapinski, the association’s director of communications.
While memorial service plans are pending, EAA is planning different commemorations of Poberezny on the airshow grounds this week during AirVenture 2022 to feature his contributions, including a prominent placement for Red 3, the modified Volkswagen Bug that he was frequently spotted driving during the airshow over the years.