The departure of Rod Hightower on Monday from the helm of EAA doesn't signal any major change in the direction of the organization, chairman of the board Jack Pelton told AVweb on Wednesday. "This all happened kind of quickly and unexpectedly," Pelton said. "We're still focused on our core mission, which is supporting our EAA membership, volunteers, and employees." He said he will be overseeing the day-to-day operations of the organization, and no timeline has been set for finding Hightower's replacement. "Transitions are never easy," he said. "My real goal here is to keep everybody on the track that we've been on and get the day-to-day stuff done while we focus on getting to an airshow in July."
Reaction to the sudden change in leadership was mixed on the EAA online message board. Some members expressed concern that a core group that wants EAA to focus only on the homebuilder community was behind the change; others felt Hightower had tried to expand the membership and that was a good way to go. A few said they had thought of quitting, but now would wait and see; others said they had planned to renew, but now would wait and see. Mac McClelland, EAA vice president of publications, told the local Oshkosh Northwestern that Hightower had simply failed to move to Oshkosh from his home in St. Louis as the board expected. "I know there's all kinds of complaints, but that's not it," McClelland said. "[The residency] was the unsolvable requirement. The board sees the president/CEO living in the Fox Valley as essential to the mission."