Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Producer Class hero is something to be

One of the news stories on the local Wisconsin televisions last Friday concerned the death of Paul Poberezny—probably the most famous guy most of you have never heard of.  In 1953, this former military flight instructor founded a club he called the Experimental Aircraft Association.  The Army Air Corps had trained thousands of pilots during WW II who hoped they could keep flying when they returned to civilian life.  Unfortunately, airplanes are always going to be expensive but Poberezny figured with the help of his organization, it would be possible for guys who really wanted to fly on a budget to build their own planes.

Poberezny would build at least five airplanes himself—besides an organization that introduced massive amounts of creativity into the world of flying.  And every year the EAA would host a fly-in at Oshkosh Wisconsin that provided absolute proof that the Instinct of Workmanship was a very real phenomenon—the levels of craftsmanship on display were literally breath-taking.  Besides row after row of these perfectly crafted homebuilts, there were lovingly restored antiques and old warbirds.  And every afternoon, there would be an airshow where some of these planes proved they could perform miraculous maneuvers.

Because Poberezny put great effort into getting the FAA to allow almost anything to be licensed for the guy who built it, the incredible costs of certification were avoided and creativity flourished.  This wasn't especially risky and when a homebuilt did crash, it was usually because the builder created a plane with far more performance than he could fly.

The Rutan VariEze (first flown 1975—hundreds built)
One of the reasons I found EAA so interesting was that it perfectly embodied one of Veblen's more obscure concepts—technological diffusion.  The EAA was able to foster those incredible levels of creativity because it could live off the "leavings" of military aviation.  This became especially true when this obvious genius named Burt Rutan introduced methods in the mid-1970s that allowed a guy in a garage to use bleeding-edge materials like Kevlar and carbon fiber.  Turns out that the composite parts made for Boeing or Lockheed are largely made by hand.  This is a major headache for production output.  But hand-built usually means cheap tools which is perfect for a homebuilder.  Besides, when your "medium" is fabric and styrofoam, you can fabricate almost any shape you can possibly imagine.  The EAA's 'golden age' was triggered by composites and the resulting designs were intensely beautiful, whimsical, and futuristic.

The lesson that EAA has taught is that USA has an abundance of technological literates.  After all, building bleeding-edge aircraft is their HOBBY.  It is people like this who built this country.  Unfortunately, this is the class of people that has been trashed by de-industrialization.  This is an insane tragedy but the EAA demonstrates what is possible should we ever decide to upgrade our devastated infrastructure.

Here we see a homebuilt biplane designed for the "sport" category—a pet project of Poberezny who wanted a way to lower the costs of flight training.

This is also a sport homebuilt with much higher performance than a biplane.  It is rendered in aluminum—which some believe to be the ultimate aircraft building material.

An ultra high performance airplane prepares for a dawn takeoff.  This plane was probably built by professionals but was still licensed as an "experimental" aircraft—a category that was the prime political accomplishment of the EAA.

Burt Rutan, the incredible genius of Scaled Composites, was a loyal member of EAA and always showed his newest designs for the crowds at Oshkosh.  This little gem was a prototype for a company that wanted to make a personal four-seat jet plane.

The flying at the EAA events was always superb.  Here a sailplane pilot leaves a trail to be illuminated by the setting sun.

This RV-8, one of the more popular all-aluminum homebuilt designs ever, makes an inverted pass at Oshkosh.  Note the "hershey-bar" wings.  Simplified designs like this helped make for a bunch of completed RVs.  The tiny aerodynamic compromise of that simplified wing doesn't prevent an RV-8 from doing serious aerobatics or going like stink.

EAA founder Paul Poberezny dies at 91 in Wisconsin

August 22, 2013  By M.L. JOHNSON

Paul Poberezny, founder of the Experimental Aircraft Association, which draws tens of thousands of pilots to Wisconsin each year for a convention that includes one of the nation's largest air shows, died Thursday after a fight with cancer. He was 91.

Poberezny died in the morning at a retirement home in Oshkosh, where EAA has been based since 1983. The organization announced his death on behalf of his son, Tom Poberezny.

EAA started as a club for those who built and restored their own aircraft in 1953, when Poberezny gathered a group of recreational aviation enthusiasts in Milwaukee. Working from an office in his basement in the Milwaukee suburb of Hales Corners, he grew the club into an association with more than 180,000 members.

EAA moved in 1983 to Oshkosh, where it had been hosting AirVenture, an annual pilots' convention and air show, since 1970. The event draws 10,000 planes and tens of thousands of participants each summer.

"As Paul often said, he considers himself a millionaire because through aviation he made a million friends. He leaves an unmatched legacy in aviation and can be best remembered by all the people who discovered aviation through his inspiration to create EAA," his family said in a statement issued by the association.

Poberezny championed amateur aircraft building, working with federal officials to get regular people the right to design, build and fly their own planes. As a result, more than 30,000 amateur-built aircraft are on the FAA registry, the EAA said.

Ron Scott, an 81-year-old pilot from East Troy, Wis., met Poberezny when Poberezny flew a homebuilt airplane into the airport where Scott kept his plane. They had a cup of coffee, and Poberezny told Scott about EAA. Scott joined the group and began designing a plane that he finished in 1969 and flew for more than 40 years.

"As far as I'm concerned he's the father of sport aviation, that's why I used to call him dad all the time," Scott said and then laughed.

The great attraction to EAA was the camaraderie that began with Paul, Scott said. He remembered a board member once worrying that the group was getting too big.

"Paul says, `What are you going to do, put a sign out there that says we can only let 5,000 people in?' Well, you can't do that, so it just grew," Scott said.

Born Sept. 14, 1921 in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Poberezny moved as a child to Milwaukee, where he grew up in near poverty. He got his start in aviation when a high school teacher gave him an old glider on the condition Poberezny restore it to airworthiness. He rebuilt the glider and taught himself to fly it at age 15.

Poberezny served in the military during World War II, teaching flying in several types of aircraft. After the war, he served in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1973.

Scott said Poberezny built five or six airplanes during his life, and his designs for a couple aerobatic planes with double wings are still being sold. Poberezny had no engineering training but was self-taught, his friend said.

"He's always been an airplane nut, kind of like the rest of us old guys," Scott said.

Poberezny served for decades as the volunteer president of EAA. He retired from day-to-day involvement in 1989 but served as board chairman until 2009, EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski said. Even after that, he continued to participate in association activities and events.

Along with his son, who lives in Brookfield, Poberezny is survived by his wife, Audrey, and daughter Bonnie Parnall, of Oshkosh. more

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