Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Av-World In Which We Live

Paul Poberezny, sport aviation and me

The fact that we lost Paul Poberezny, founder of the EAA, in August is, by now, old news. Nonetheless, it's still important news to those of us who call sport aviation home. Paul didn't invent sport aviation, but he certainly helped create the world in which those of us who fly for fun could live and flourish. Personally, I can't even begin to imagine what kind of life I would have had if it weren't for Paul and the Experimental Aircraft Association.

I haven't the foggiest idea why some people are attracted to certain parts of aviation to the total exclusion of all others, e.g., their world is built around nothing but the Mk.III Firebird, or they don't fly unless it includes drawing a straight line from A to B. To me, aviation is just one huge continuum, Cub to A-380, ultralights to warbirds and everything in between. And I like it all. However, like most, I lean toward certain factions more than others.

My taste runs to just about everything that's out at the edges of the bell-shaped curve, both in the types of hardware that tug at my heartstrings and the activities that call out to me. I'll easily walk past a mile of spamcans to get at a Gullwing Stinson, Pitts or P-40, but I'll casually eye every spamcan on the way past. And I dearly love snaking down through a winding canyon to land on a sandbar, but I'd rather drive to California to see my daughter than fly, so I can experience the desert at ground level.

Just about all of my prime aviation interests exclude the practical uses of an airplane for transportation. And it's always been that way. From when I was 15 years old and started taking flying lessons, flying for fun, i.e., sport aviation, has always been my prime focus. Unknown to me at the time, but it's obvious from this end of the historical telescope, I got into aviation at the perfect time to experience the growth of the sport aviation movement, and central to that movement was Paul Poberezny and the EAA.

I didn't discover the EAA until the early '60's, when I was about halfway through undergraduate school. At that point, the organization was just gaining steam. I didn't make it to my first EAA convention until '67, when I hitchhiked to Rockford, Ill. It was during that trip that I first met Paul Poberezny, and I can remember the occasion as if it happened this afternoon.

In those days, the warbird thing was just getting rolling, and I was severely bitten by the bug. A couple years earlier, I had made forays into the warbird world while trying to buy various Canadian or Nicaraguan Mustangs that were on the market (I was a college junior at the time, and the concept of financial responsibility meant nothing to me), but what I really wanted (and still want) was a P-40. Those were rarely seen for sale, but when they were, they ranged between $400 and $1,000, where Mustangs were three or four times that amount (makes you want to puke, doesn't it?).


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