RIP: Paul H. Poberezny

Seeing Paul briefly during Oshkosh a few weeks ago made me smile; cruising with a driver in Red One, his presence reminded me of the irrefutable influence “Papa Paul” has been in aviation — general aviation, specifically.

From our first face-to-face visit at EAA’s old HQ in Hales Corners, Wisc., he exuded enthusiasm and delight at introducing a young, green aviation writer to the inside story of EAA…he made my hang gliding feel more a part of aviation than we “hippie pilots” got from any other corner of aviation.

And when ultralight aircraft started to catch fire Paul wanted the newcomers to understand there were rules and a system to work within, even as he pushed back against others in aviation who wanted us barred from airports, banned from the skies or otherwise relegated to someplace the existing aviation establishment wouldn’t suffer from seeing us operate our “flying lawn chairs.”

“We’re all part of this and we all have the same rights to enjoy that great ocean of air above us,” he told many a critic. “It’s not your airspace or mine — its ‘our airspace’ and if we want aviation to grow we need the kind of fresh blood and fresh thinking the ultralight and hang glider people represent.”

The influence of Paul and his band of EAA founders extends to vintage, into warbirds and antique airliners, throughout the homebuilding movement and, not least by any means, the Light Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot categories — which EAA championed in the same spirit it championed those other segments of personal, recreational flying.

It was Paul’s continued dedication to aviation that prompted him to found the Sport Aviation Association several years ago and, with the cooperation of his old friend Rudy Frasca, launch a magazine and an annual Sport Aviation fly-in in Illinois. I’ve held on to my SAA stickers and my membership card (#499) as tightly as Paul seemed to hold on to his aviation ideals.

His influence will live as long as people fly their own airplanes for the love of flying and we’re all the better for the contributions of the organization he helped found 61 years ago.

Condolences to Audry, their children and all the EAA family. We grieve with you.