Recreating Ancient Selection Process Required
ANN April 1st Special Edition: In most years,
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is distinguished primarily by advances in
aviation technology. But this year, the most conspicuous attraction
on AeroShell Square is expected to be something straight out of the
As ANN has reported, EAA's quest to find a qualified candidate
to succeed Tom Poberezny as President of the organization has not
gone so well. Near the end of last year's AirVenture, instead of
covering the announcement of that successor, we were learning of
the unravelling of the process. In the months since, former members
of the EAA Board of Directors followed their resignations with
tales of political turmoil.
Now, ANN has learned that a proven, impartial and, frankly,
legendary selection process will be employed, culminating in a new
choice for President happening live on AeroShell Square this
EAA Media and Public Affairs
Director Dick Knapinski explained the spectacle. "When an
organization is stumped for a solution to a problem such as this,
it only makes sense to look for historical precedent. Given how
long man has inhabited the earth, there has to be someone who's run
up against these issues and solved them before. We just had to find
"In our case, the set of challenges had a familiar ring," continues
Knapinski. "A kingdom in turmoil, no worthy male heir to the
throne, and a commotion among dozens jousting for the right to
succeed Tom. Suddenly, the light bulb went on."
EAA Chairman and President and AirVenture Chairman Tom Poberzny
adds, "I was recently going through an old sport coat, and found a
ticket stub for a 1977 off-Broadway production of Camelot, starring
Richard Harris. In reflecting on how great that show was, and how
I'm a much better singer than Harris, it suddenly struck me - we
have all the same issues, and access to similar ingredients needed
to replicate the sacred process through which Arthur won the
What followed was a stunning example of the ingenuity for
which EAA and the homebuilding movement are famous. Recognizing
that the worlds largest gathering of qualified aviation management
candidates would be present at Oshkosh in July, work quickly
commenced to create a modern-day equivalent to a sword in a stone.
A WWII-vintage Merlin engine block was chosen as the most
appropriate stand-in for the stone.
But the EAA Secret Sword Committee came up short when supplications
to the Lady of Lake Winnebago, to provide the ceremonial weapon,
were rebuffed due to noise complaints related to last year's
seaplane base. Some other source of a magic sword had to be found.
Eventually, a recess was machined in the Merlin casting to exactly
match the shape of a single propeller blade from an Excalibur
ultralight, which was put in place using heat-cured aerospace
adhesives with a predicted shear strength of over one million
There will be a few complications in precisely creating the setting
of the original Sword in the Stone. For one, compliance with the
Americans with Disabilities Act will require construction of a
wheelchair ramp in AeroShell Square next to the engine block, and
instructions for removal of the blade on an attached plaque in
Spanish, English and Braille. Asked if it would be dangerous to
entrust so much power to someone with limited vision, Knapinski
commented, "not in our experience, no."
EAA AirVenture 2010 runs from July
26 - August 1, and will draw hundreds of thousands of aviation
enthusiasts (and potential presidents) to Wittman Regional Airport.
There is no way to know exactly when during the week one of the
attendees might pull Excalibur from the Merlin block. For that
matter, it's hard to imagine anyone exceeding a million pounds of
force manually. Poberezny remains upbeat.
"Look, when Arthur pulled Excalibur from the stone, he was a
spindly lad of little strength, and performed the task with ease
after much stronger men had tried and failed. It's obviously not
about upper body strength, it's about being acknowledged by Heaven
as the the only person on earth who's right for the job. I have no
doubt that if the next rightful President of EAA is Jessica Cox,
she'll be able to remove that prop blade with either foot.
"And, if nobody can do it, and it turns out that I'm supposed to
serve in this role for life, well...I'm prepared to make that