In high school, Poberezny’s history teacher, Homer Tangney, encouraged his interest in aviation by giving him a battered Waco primary glider to restore. Tangney offered to pay for all the spruce, fabric and other materials for its repair. Poberezny convinced his parents to let him use the garage as his first airplane shop and completed the glider’s repairs in the spring of 1937. “I don’t know if Mr. Tangney ever realized it or not,” said Poberezny, “but his gift contributed a great deal to my lack of enthusiasm for schoolwork –and for my absence on a great number of days!”
- 1953 – founded the Experimental Aircraft association (EAA), where he was the organization’s first president, serving for 36 years.
- Instrumental in organizing the EAA’s week-long fly-in and conventions which attract over 12,000 aircraft and 850,000 participants to Oshkosh, Wisconsin each year.
- During his 30 year military career, which spanned World War II and the Korean Conflict, he was a pilot, test pilot and combat veteran.
- Prior to his military retirement he attained all seven aviation wings offered by the military –glider pilot, service pilot, rated pilot, liaison pilot, senior pilot, Army aviator and command pilot.
Paul Howard Poberezny was born on September 14th, 1921. His interest in aviation began at age five when he decided that he wanted to fly. In the spring of 1937, at the age of 15, Paul flew for the first time in a Waco Primary Glider.
While Paul was in high school, a teacher changed his life and aviation history forever. Homer F. Tangney, an ancient history teacher and the supervisor of “Wings,” the model airplane club, realized Paul’s interest in aviation. Tangey gave him a slightly damaged Waco Primary Glider from Troy, Ohio, with the condition that Paul complete the repairs. He finished the glider repairs in the spring of 1937 and fifteen-year-old Paul became a pilot.
After joining the Milwaukee Flight Club, Paul flew as many times as he could afford. His first cross-country flight occurred on Christmas Day 1938. On May 13th, 1939, Paul soloed. That same year Paul had his first engine failure and forced landing. He flew a Stinson SM-8, a LeBlond powered Monoprep, an American Eagle, a Straightwing, and a Piper Cub.
Paul, a high school junior, and Audrey Louise Ruesch, a freshman, met when she started at West Milwaukee High School. For him it was love at first sight; for her, he grew on her over time. After some courting, Paul gave Audrey her first airplane ride on September 18th, 1940, in a Cub Coupe. Audrey and Paul married on May 28th, 1944.
In 1940, Paul was offered a half-ownership of an American Eagle, a biplane, for $250.00. His partner was Laverne Garmon. Years later, Paul found out that his dad had taken out a bank loan for the $125.00 that Paul had asked to borrow. At that time, Peter Poberezny was making $19 a week that supported himself, his wife and three children. Paul was a nineteen-year-old senior in high school and the only student with an airplane. Soon Laverne Garmon sold his half of the plane to Paul; it now completely belonged to him.
World War II brought another opportunity for Paul to fly. After completing the War Training Service, U.S. Army Private Poberenzy was assigned to glider pilot training school. Not only did Poberenzy pass all requirements, but he could have qualified to earn his service pilot wings and receive a commission. Instead, Paul wanted to fly immediately, so he chose glider training. After receiving his glider wings, the program was cancelled. Again the Army offered him a commission. But Paul, still wanting to fly, accepted a position as a civilian flying instructor at the U.S. Army Primary Flying School in Helena, Arkansas. While instructing, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves as a private. After one year of instructing, he applied for and received a position of ferry pilot. During this time, he received a commission and service pilot wings.
On October 3rd, 1946, the Pobereznys welcomed a healthy eight-pound, thirteen-ounce son into their lives. They named him Thomas Paul. A month after Tom’s birth, Paul was appointed a second lieutenant in the Officer’s Reserve Corps, Air Corps, Army of the United States.
On February 24th, 1948, Paul was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery of the Wisconsin National Guard with the classification of “Pilot, Ground Forces.” Paul was again being paid to fly. In March of that same year, Paul received his fourth set of wings, the Liaison Pilot wing, when he was assigned as an Aircraft Accident Investigating Officer. By this time Paul had 2000 flight hours. A new era started in 1948. The era began when Paul purchased a 1938 Taylorcraft airplane kit, his first homebuilt aircraft. This kit became known as “Little Poop Deck.” (“Poop Deck” being Paul’s nickname).
His fifth set of wings, the Army Aviator Wing, was bestowed on him in October 1949, in addition to the rank of first lieutenant. Paul was sent to Korea in 1952 to fly C-47s. After a few harrowing experiences and completion of a brief tour of duty, Paul returned to Audrey and his son Tom. By the end of his military career, Paul had flown innumerable aircraft and had received seven military pilot wings but his yearning for flying was still going strong.
Nineteen fifty-three was the year the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) started. Paul and Audrey volunteered their time at EAA while Paul worked full-time with the Wisconsin Air Guard. The first EAA meeting was held on January 26th, 1953. Paul was voted president and would remain in that position for 36 years. Paul invited the governing aviation body, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), to work with EAA rather than work against it. This relationship, like Audrey and Paul’s, is still going strong. Nineteen fifty-three was also the first official “fly-in” when 22 airplanes participated. By the second “fly-in,” EAA had two chapters, a newsletter, growing membership and an addition to the family. On July 13th, 1954, Bonnie Lou Poberezny was born. The following year, EAA became the dominant private aviation organization for the CAA personnel because of an article Paul and Audrey wrote for the July issue of Mechanics Illustrated.
A year later, the Poberenzy’s moved into a house where the basement contained the EAA business office. Paul received the very first Billy Mitchell Award in 1957 for being a tireless worker in the development of experimental aircraft. From the beginning, membership, “fly-in’s,” and general interest in EAA has continued to grow in phenomenal proportions, but through it all, Paul was able to succeed with the love and assistance of Audrey. Paul retired in 1989 from his official capacities with EAA, although he remains active. Since then, Audrey and he have spent their time refurbishing a nineteenth-century farmhouse.
Valued as a pilot and a leader, Paul has been respected for his accomplishments and for his willingness to explore, learn and experience. For the dedication and enthusiasm he has demonstrated and which he has instilled in others, Paul Howard Poberezny is enshrined with honor into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
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