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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedWe have a new leader!
 

Tom Poberezny and Rod Hightower share a light moment Monday during his introduction as EAA’s new president. Photo by Mariano Rosales

Rod Hightower, a longtime EAA member, pilot, aviation enthusiast, and businessman, will become EAA’s new president on September 7. Tom Poberezny, chairman and current president, made the announcement on Monday at an opening day press conference. Hightower is only the third president in EAA history and the first outside the Poberezny family.

“Rod’s selection completes a process that I began in 2005,” said Poberezny, who has served as EAA president since 1989. He succeeded his father, Paul—president since EAA’s founding in 1953.

“He has the passion for aviation that is absolutely essential to serve EAA’s 160,000 members, as well as the extensive business operations background that is necessary to successfully meet the challenges and opportunities ahead for EAA,” Poberezny said.
Hightower was selected from more than 700 candidates for the position, including those from inside and outside the aviation industry. EAA was assisted in the search by the international executive recruitment firm Korn/Ferry. The initial group of interested individuals was slimmed to about 100 before selecting candidates and finalists for further interviews.

Hightower’s duties will include directing EAA’s day-to-day operations and EAA’s many member-focused programs. Asked at a later Q&A session with the media what his first job is, Hightower responded, “My training wheels are firmly attached for awhile. But Job One is for you to get to know me and for me to get to know you.”

He also said it was a priority to “Preserve the culture here, protect the EAA brand.”

Poberezny, 63 will retain an active role as chairman of the organization, a position he assumed in March 2009.

Meanwhile, Poberezny will employ his years of experience and relationships that he developed to foster and grow EAA’s business partnerships, philanthropy, and the organization’s endowment. He also will remain as chairman of the annual EAA AirVenture fly-in at this time.
“Rod’s skills are complimentary to mine,” Poberezny said.

Outreach programs like Young Eagles: important to engaging youth
How do we outreach and grow the organization, he was asked. “Without question that’s a priority for all of us. What works well is when you are exposed to aviation early in your life there is information to suggest that you’re more than likely to stay involved in aviation.

“So I think that the outreach programs, such as the Young Eagles, the SportAir Workshops, the Air Academy—those models that engage people at an early age—that interest can last a lifetime.

“So there are some models working very well. There is a significant opportunity to reach out internationally as well.”

During more than 25 years of business management and leadership experience, Hightower has led domestic and international business operations with as many as 2,300 employees and annual revenues of up to $470 million. That experience includes positions at Square D Corporation, York, and Public Safety Equipment Corporation.

An enthusiastic aviator
Hightower is also a vintage aircraft enthusiast, having restored the Stearman biplane he flies out of Creve Coeur Airport near St. Louis, Missouri. He serves as a director of the National Stearman Foundation and helps organize the annual Stearman National Fly-In. He is also a member of the EAA Warbirds of America.

When asked if he flies “regular” airplanes, his response was that he used to own and fly a Cessna P210 for business, calling it “the closest thing to a time machine we know of.

“But the Stearman is a pretty good airplane, too, isn’t it? I haven’t been in an airplane I didn’t like.”

Hightower holds a commercial certificate, and multi-engine and instrument ratings.

Asked if he plans to build, Hightower said he was enamored with the Scorpion helicopter when he was young, “But those RVs sure look nice.”
Hightower, who is attending AirVenture with his wife, Maura, and their five children, added, “This is a very exciting time for EAA and general aviation.

“I’m honored to be selected as the next leader of such a passionate group of aviation enthusiasts as EAA members, since I’ve long been a part of the organization for more than 20 years.

“There is much work ahead, but I am eager to start.”

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