September 18, 2013
Credit: Cessna (Jack Pelton photo)
The Experimental Aircraft Association’s board of directors plans to discuss the future leadership of the organization at its fall meeting in November, a little more than a year after Rod Hightower stepped down as president. EAA Chairman Jack Pelton, the former Cessna CEO who has had experience dealing with Washington, has steered the organization in the absence of a president.
Pelton, who was elected chairman in October 2012, agreed to take a hands-on management role during the leadership transition. But he indicated at the time that this was an interim move while the organization sought a successor. However, as no clear candidate surfaced early on and as the organization moved closer to AirVenture, the board put a search on the back burner to focus on its annual fly-in event.
During AirVenture, Pelton noted that the board was considering a number of options beyond the traditional role of a president, including one led by board members. Pelton pointed out that he has a three-year commitment as chairman of the association. He also has an option for an additional three-year term.
EAA officials say no decision has been made on whether a successor will be named or if the organization will be run by the board or through some other structure. “While there are certainly several possibilities for the future executive structure of the organization, it would be premature to get ahead of those board discussions,” says Dick Knapinski, who handles media and public relations for the organization.
Hightower formally resigned last Oct. 22, citing personal reasons. Hightower was a controversial leader, attracting criticism that he was steering the association away from its experimental aircraft roots and disrupting the volunteer base.
EAA selected Hightower to succeed Tom Poberezny in the summer of 2010. Hightower was only the third president of the association, and the first outside of the Poberezny family. The search to find Poberezny’s successor was a difficult one that had been delayed by many months over disagreements within the board.
The association, meanwhile, has added three new board members: Cirrus Aircraft co-founder and Kestrel CEO Alan Klapmeier; James Clark, a former EAA chapter president and co-founder of BANG!Technologies; and Cody Welch, a retired Boeing 757 pilot, vice president/board member of the Tri-Motor Heritage Foundation, and founder/president of the Wings of Mercy East Michigan.