Airshow performer Greg Poe, who used his position as an aviation star to inspire children to excel, died suddenly July 24 from an apparent heart attack, Greg Poe Airshows Team Coordinator Greg Gibson has confirmed. He was 57.
Poe, an Idaho native known for routines in an ethanol-powered Fagen MXS, formed the “Elevate Your Life” program after losing his teenage son to a heroin addiction. As part of the program, he gave presentations at schools and youth organizations around the country, using himself as an example of how hard work and dedication can help someone achieve a dream. Winners of an essay contest were given a ride in Poe’s aircraft.
Gibson told AOPA that Poe had been enjoying a motorcycle ride in the Idaho countryside that day and was returning in a truck with the team’s chief of operations. The health-conscious aviator’s sudden death shocked those close to him, Gibson said.
“We had no warning at all,” he said. “He was in perfect health.” Poe had logged more than 10,000 flight hours in more than 100 types of aircraft over a 20-year career as an airshow pilot, his team said in a press release. The performer also promoted alternative fuels by running his airshow airplane on ethanol. His Elevate Your Life program through the Ryan J. Poe Foundation reached thousands of young people as he visited schools and shared his personal story and the painful memory of his son’s addiction and death.
“It hurt him every time he gave that presentation,” said Gibson, who worked with Poe on both the airshow team and the Ryan J. Poe Foundation. Yet Poe was always professional, he said: “He could pull it off no matter what was going on in his life at the time,” he said “… It was pretty awesome to watch.”
Gibson said both organizations will carry on Poe’s legacy: His colleagues will continue to use Poe’s story to inspire children, and the airshow team is assessing how to move forward with the remaining schedule for the year.
“Don’t count us out,” he said.
Gibson told fans of Poe’s death July 24 on the team’s Facebook page. “This is a great shock and certainly a very sad day for his family, our team and the airshow family he dearly loved.” He said details of funeral arrangements would be forthcoming.
“Greg was at the top of his game and rising, and he will be greatly missed.”EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski shared the somber news with reporters at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., July 25. Poe was not scheduled to perform.Poe is survived by his daughter, Kelsey, girlfriend Terri, and brothers Russ and Rick Poe, the team said. Gibson said those wishing to make contributions in Poe’s memory can make a donation to the Ryan J. Poe Foundation.