July 30, 2014

EAA founder Paul Poberezny has died

Paul Poberezny (PHOTO: Experimental Aircraft Association)

Paul Poberezny (PHOTO: Experimental Aircraft Association)

Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Founder Paul Poberezny (po-ber-ezz’-nee) leaves behind a huge legacy within Wisconsin, aviation, and specifically the home-built aviation community.

Dick Knapinski is EAA spokesperson. “I think Paul was the most surprised person on earth that EAA grew into what it was and AirVenture grew into what it was. He really started with his friends to begin an airplane club in Milwaukee back in 1953 to share information about building, restoring, flying aircraft. He found others in the nation who were in the same situation — kindred spirits, so-to-speak.”

Poberezny — a former military pilot — started a club for recreational flying enthusiasts 60 years ago with just 35 people in Milwaukee. EAA moved to Oshkosh in 1983 and has grown to over 180,000 people in more than 100 countries.

Knapinski says even after his retirement as president in 1989, Poberezny lived just a couple of miles from EAA headquarters.

Poberezny was the richest guy on earth, and he knew it. “Paul often said that he feels that he was a millionaire because he had made a million friends through aviation.”

About 1/2 million aviation enthusiasts come from all corners of the state, across the nation, and 60 countries for AirVenture, bringing an estimated $110 million economic impact to Oshkosh-area counties each year. Wittman becomes the busiest airport in the world every year for the week of AirVenture.

Poberezny died in Oshkosh Thursday morning at Evergreen Retirement Village at the age of 91 after a battle with cancer.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 2:05