Experimental Aircraft Association
|Type||Not for profit|
|Headquarters||Oshkosh, Wisconsin, United States|
|Tom Poberezny (Retired 2011)|
Chairman of the Board
|Jack J. Pelton (October 2012)|
|Jack J. Pelton (November 2015)|
Young Eagles Chairman
|Sean D. Tucker|
The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is an international organization of aviation enthusiasts based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Since its inception it has grown internationally with over 200,000 members and nearly 1,000 chapters worldwide.
The organization is overseen by a chairman, a president, a CEO and a board of directors. Paul Poberezny assumed the duties of president and CEO at the 1953 founding. In 1989 he assumed the (newly created) position of chairman of the board, and his son Tom Poberezny became president and CEO. In March 2009 Paul Poberezny resigned, and the board voted to elevate Tom Poberezny to chairman of the board. At AirVenture 2010, it was announced that Rod Hightower would succeed Tom Poberezny as president of the organization, effective September 2010.
Hightower resigned on 22 October 2012 "effective immediately", directly after a board of directors meeting during which former Cessna chairman, president and CEO Jack J. Pelton was elected chairman. Hightower indicated he was resigning to spend more time with his family and would not relocate from St. Louis to Oshkosh. Pelton was named acting CEO and will oversee the hiring process for Hightower's permanent replacement. In response to questions about Hightower's resignation, Mac McClellan, EAA vice president of publications, stated that it was due to Hightower failing to relocate himself from his home in St. Louis to EAA headquarters in Oshkosh, as the board had expected him to. McClellan said, "I know there's all kinds of complaints, but that's not it. [The residency] was the unsolvable requirement. The board sees the president/CEO living in the Fox Valley as essential to the mission."
Local chapters may be formed whenever ten or more EAA members reside in a given area.
The EAA was founded in 1953 by veteran aviator Paul Poberezny along with other aviation enthusiasts. The organization began as more or less a flying club. Paul Poberenzy explains the nature of the organization's name, "Because the planes we flew were modified or built from scratch, they were required to display an EXPERIMENTAL placard where it could be seen on the door or cockpit, so it was quite natural that we call ourselves the "Experimental Aircraft Association". Homebuilding is still a large part of EAA, but the organization has grown over the years to include almost every aspect of aviation and aeronautics.
EAA's first home was in the basement of the Poberezny home. In the early 1960s, the association's first headquarters was built in the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin. That was the headquarters for the organization until 1983, when EAA combined its headquarters and fly-in site in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The EAA Aviation Center also includes the EAA Aviation Museum, with more than 200 aircraft, approximately 130 of which are on display at any given time.
In 1953 the Experimental Aircraft Association released a two-page newsletter named The Experimenter. The newsletter was written and published by founding members Paul and Audrey Poberezny along with other volunteers. The newsletter transitioned to a magazine format and was renamed Sport Aviation and became a membership benefit. The Experimenter name lives on, however, in an online magazine specifically for amateur-built and light plane enthusiasts that debuted in 2012. It was folded into the monthly Sport Aviation print magazine in 2015.
In 2010, the United States' national aeromodeling organization, the Academy of Model Aeronautics, was involved in negotiations with the EAA homebuilt aviation organization, that resulted in a "memorandum of understanding" that is intended to encourage collaboration between the two American-based sport aviation organizations, in developing, in the words of the AMA's then-President Dave Mathewson, "the creation of new concepts that will promote aviation, both full-scale and modeling, as a perfect family recreational and educational activity".
Located adjacent to EAA's headquarters in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the EAA Aviation Museum is an extensive collection of aircraft and aviation displays. The Museum is home to EAA's collection of more than 200 aircraft, of which more than 90 are on display inside the museum at any time. The museum's Pioneer Airport is a re-creation of a vintage aerodrome, with more than 40 additional airplanes on display. From May through mid-October (daily Memorial Day through Labor Day), flights are offered in vintage aircraft.
Programs and activities
Technical Counselor program
To help ensure that all amateur-built aircraft are well-constructed, safe aircraft, the EAA organizes a group of volunteers, known as Technical Counselors, who will visit the construction project to identify any areas of concern. Technical Counselors are EAA members who volunteer their time and who have met at least one of the following criteria:
- Have built an experimental category aircraft
- Have restored an antique/classic aircraft
- Hold an A&P, IA, DAR, DER or Aerospace Engineer rating in the United States, an equivalent international rating or have the qualifications for those ratings.
There is no charge for this on-site review. The program is strictly voluntary. The recommendations of the Technical Counselor are advisory only. The EAA recommends a minimum of three Technical Counselor visits over the course of construction.
Flight Advisor program
The Flight Advisor Program is designed to increase homebuilt aircraft safety by developing a corps of volunteers who have demonstrated expertise in specific areas of flying and making them available to EAA members who may be preparing to fly an unfamiliar aircraft. A Flight Advisor helps the pilot conduct a self-evaluation as well as evaluate the flying characteristics of the aircraft. The pilot then uses that evaluation to decide whether he or she is capable of flying that airplane. If not capable, the Flight Advisor explains where and how he or she can get the proper instruction, or alternatively find someone to make the initial flights.
Under the EAA Flight Advisor Program, the Advisor does not fly or decide whether or not the pilot is capable of flying the airplane to be tested. The Advisor provides the pilot with the pros and cons as they relate to this specific combination of pilot and airplane. The pilot makes the final decision on how to proceed with the flight testing program.
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh
Each summer EAA presents the largest annual general aviation event in the world, 'EAA AirVenture Oshkosh', also commonly known as the "Oshkosh Airshow". During the event, the city's airport, Wittman Regional Airport, is the busiest airport in the world (in terms of traffic movements). The week-long event annually attracts around 10,000-12,000 planes and a total attendance of more than 500,000. The event also attracts more than 800 exhibitors, hosts nearly 1,000 forums, seminars and workshops, and welcomes more than 700 journalists each year.
The annual fly-in was first held in 1953 at what is now Timmerman Field in Milwaukee. In 1959, the growing event moved to the Rockford, Illinois airport. Attendance at the fly-in continued to grow until the Rockford airport was too small to accommodate the crowds, and so it was moved to Oshkosh in 1970. A study conducted in 2008 by the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh determined that the 500,000 annual fly-in attendance generates $110 million of tourist income for the three counties surrounding the airport.
The EAA also sponsors the Young Eagles program, which was started in 1992 with the aim of giving one million children an airplane ride by 17 December 2003, the Centennial of Flight (see Wright brothers). The program reached that goal, and has continued, with more than 2 million young people flown as of July 2016.
The Young Eagles program has been overseen by a series of nationally famous chairmen:
- Cliff Robertson - first chairman, film and stage actor (1992–1994)
- US Air Force General Chuck Yeager - first man to fly faster than the speed of sound (1994–2004)
- Harrison Ford - film and stage actor (2004–2009)
- Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey B. Skiles - pilots of US Airways Flight 1549 (2009–2013)
- Sean D. Tucker - aerobatic pilot (2013–present)
Sun 'N Fun Airshow
The other major yearly airshow attended by EAA members and staff is Sun 'n Fun, held every April in Lakeland, Florida. Sun 'n Fun has been an independent organization from the EAA since its first show in 1975, although the event has always involved significant EAA participation.
The two organizations signed an agreement in January 1989 recognizing their independence. On 30 March 2005 Sun 'n Fun issued a press release affirming the independence of the two organizations but assuring the aviation public that they would continue to work together. As such Sun 'n Fun remains a show with participation from EAA chapters and a presence from the national EAA staff, but it is not an EAA event.
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