Pelton: EAA president search on hold

July 29, 2013

Nine months after then-president Rod Hightower departed the Experimental Aircraft Association and former Cessna CEO Jack Pelton stepped into the role of chairman, Pelton told media at EAA AirVenture that the board was in no rush to find a new president.

“There is no search under way at all,” Pelton said in response to a question about progress on the search for a new leader of the organization July 29. The Oshkosh Northwestern recently reported that the association had delayed the search until after EAA AirVenture, although Pelton’s remarks at the opening of the fly-in seemed to indicate an even longer timeline.

“We’re taking a big step back,” he said. “… We as a board are looking at, what does this organization need going forward?” He said he has committed to his volunteer role for three years, and has taken on the responsibility of being hands-on with the organization.

During the opening media session, Pelton also discussed highlights of EAA AirVenture 2013, including a renewed focus on the membership.

“We lost our way last year and weren’t as inviting to the members and volunteers,” he said. He said attendees this year will find cheaper food options, additional permanent restrooms, and the removal of the high-visibility exclusive “chalets” that had been newly installed on the flight line.

Even without a military presence this year, Pelton said the airshows will include a variety of acts, including the Terrafugia Transition “roadable aircraft” and Yves Rossy, or “Jetman.” Both acts align with EAA’s emphasis on innovation.

“He is the ultimate homebuilder,” Pelton said of Jetman.

AirVenture fee fight continues

After paying almost $450,000 in expenses to the FAA for air traffic services at EAA AirVenture, EAA vowed that its fight against the surprise fee was not over.

Pelton explained to reporters at the show July 29 that the association had filed a petition disputing the fee and that Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) had taken the issue before newly confirmed Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. EAA also is evaluating alternatives—including contract controllers and military controllers—for next year in case the FAA persists in demanding the fee.

While the $447,000 bill was technically a contract for services, Pelton said it was tantamount to a user fee. With the cost divided by the number of aircraft arriving, “you just paid $45 for a VFR flight from your home airport,” he said.

“And they believe they have the right to do that. What’s next?” he said.