This year’s AirVenture may be the last time Rod Hightower is able to roam around Wittman Field to look at the show without constantly attending a media event or meeting. On July 26 EAA President and Chairman Tom Poberezny announced that Hightower had been tapped for the role as the new EAA president. Hightower, who takes over the post Sept. 7, is the third president of the organization and the first outside the Poberezny family.
Hightower, from Missouri, has been flying for 31 years. He proudly notes he has been an EAA member for 21 of those years. He owns a Stearman, which was purchased as a “basket case” and restored to show quality. Hightower, who holds commercial, instrument and multiengine certificates, is as excited as a student after his first solo about his new job.
I caught up with Hightower as he and two of his daughters drove a golf cart into the Warbird area of the show, which kicked off Monday and runs all week. Hightower, who was selected from a field of 700 candidates, was happy to share his thoughts on his new position.
“The EAA membership one of the most dynamic of any organization in the world,” he said. “I love the spirit and the culture, the whole can-do attitude. The members need to know that they are part of something very special and unique. How many organizations in the world have this kind of excitement built around them?”
EAA was founded by Paul Poberezny in 1953. The fly-in began as part of the Milwaukee Air Pageant in September of that year. A handful of airplanes, many of them modified or homebuilt designs, were on display and less than 200 people attended the event, which was held at the airport now known as Lawrence J. Timmerman Airport (MWC) in Milwaukee. By the 1980s the event had become internationally known and was relocated to Wittman Field, where it is held today, attracting more than 500,000 people from all over the world. Paul retired as president in 1989, handing over the reins to son Tom, who will continue as chairman of AirVenture. He also will focus on building EAA’s business relationships, philanthropy and endowment.
Hightower plans to carry on, growing the organization.
“I feel great about it because strength builds on strength,” he said. “The organization is in great shape, it is growing, it is robust, it is broader and more diverse and dynamic than ever. It’s really an honor and privilege to lead an organization that is in such good shape. Paul and Tom have done such an amazing job with EAA and all of us as EAAers should be proud.”
For more information: EAA.org.