A Trip to Oshkosh

March 28, 2009 by Craig Fuller

During the past week, I had a chance to fulfill a commitment I made during my transition into AOPA…I’d promised Tom Poberezny that I would come to Oshkosh. 

It was a pleasure to spend some time with not one, but two members of a legendary GA family. I flew to Oshkosh, Wis., for a meeting with Tom Poberezney, chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and his father and past chairman, president, and founder Paul Poberezny, who retired earlier this year.

I have been lucky enough to visit Oshkosh during AirVenture before, but this was my first trip away from the crowds. As much as I love that exciting airshow environment, it was wonderful to experience the museum and see the sights on a quiet morning, and I highly recommend it if you have the chance.

Strolling around the museum collection, with its more than 200 aircraft, was like traveling through time, making stops at key moments in general aviation history…like joining Tom in the cockpit of the B-17! And seeing the grounds, emptied of the throngs of people and aircraft that take part in AirVenture each summer, I realized what an enormous undertaking that event is. It’s hard to imagine that EAA began in Paul Poberezney’s basement in 1953, and started with only 36 members. But most great enterprises come from humble beginnings, as AOPA did 70 years ago.

Talking with Tom, Paul and the EAA leadership team, we all could see opportunities for our two organizations to cooperate and collaborate.  Tom suggested and I agreed that an important next step is to return to Oshkosh with some of our AOPA leadership team and look at ways we can work together. Key members of our two organizations will be getting together in the near future to explore those opportunities and more, and I for one can’t wait to see all that we can achieve together.

And of course planning is well under way for EAA Air Venture, July 27 through Aug. 2. I’ll be there, and so will AOPA’s Big Yellow Tent. I hope you’ll join us and be part of the excitement at one of general aviation’s premier events.

  • Richard Scott

    This is great news! AOPA & EAA have had the reputation that suggests animosity rather than cooperation.

    I suggest you start by working on 2 issues:

    1. Develop some sort of transition program so kids go from the Young Eagles program of EAA to the pilot mentoring program of AOPA.

    2. Work together to find a new fuel for piston aircraft. AOPA has taken the position that 80% of the aircraft owners, who don’t need 100LL, should subsidize the 20% who have to use 100LL because they use 80% of the gas. That’s not what AOPA has said, but that’s the effect of AOPA’s approach. Whether the result is Swift Fuel, some other fuel or detuning high compression engines so everyone can fly with 94UL, aircraft operators need prompt action on this issue before the EPA or an accident at the TEL production plant renders 100LL unavailable and grounds most of the GA fleet.

    I commend Mr. Fuller for reaching out to EAA. I hope the two organizations can really work together.

  • Christine P.

    I agree – great news! One comment I’ve made to EAA, and now want to share with you, is that I encourage both organizations to work together to reach beyond your typical audience in exciting people to learn to fly. Bringing AOPA to the masses, rather than having everyone travel to Maryland, is a good start. But really, we all need to stop preaching to the choir and boost our outreach efforts. This can not only bring new pilots but help educate non-pilots on the value of general aviation.

    I seem to recall reading about booths at sporting events (e.g. NASCAR). Great idea! How about advertising in non-aviation magazines. In particular, as a woman I’d like to see ads directed to female-oriented magazines. For some women, it may never occur to them that they could fly until the possibility is waved under their nose, so to speak.

    Brainstorm with your marketing dept, or focus groups, or ASN volunteers. There a lot of good ideas out there. With the combined resources of EAA and AOPA, a lot could happen, even in these tough economic times.

  • Bill White

    Another good place to have booths would be state and national conventions of professional organizations such as medicine, dentistry and law.