Meet EAA’s New Superhero – Aviore…to the Rescue (of GA)!

11:29 AM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor
All of the various GA advocacy groups have very important roles in helping to build a brighter future for general aviation. The work performed by AOPA, EAA, NBAA, GAMA, WAI and HAI is critical to keeping the skies open to enjoy the freedoms that come from piloting a GA airplane. And while I support them all, I am drawn these days to EAA, as it represents the very core mission of my kind of aviators, those pilots simply having fun while flying while also trying to cultivate the next generation(s) of future aviators and aircraft owners.
Maybe it is the monthly chapter meetings, or the many Young Eagles events that I attend (as ground crew these days), or maybe it’s the camaraderie found at EAA Airventure Oshkosh, but I feel more connected to my friends in EAA than any other association. I do know this about EAA…when it comes to firing up kids, teens and young adults about flying, they never, ever sit in their hands and say what we have now is good enough. EAA’s brass never stops thinking of new ways to reach these important demographics, and now they have developed something so cool, it is certain to grab those future pilots and get their attention.
They have created a Superhero, and his name is Aviore. 
If you’re coming to Oshkosh in a couple weeks, you’ll see Aviore all over. He’s the dude in the blue Spandex suit with a large group of wide-eyed kids engulfing him. He’ll be smiling, welcoming those kids into our world, into our skies. This is the kind of brilliance from EAA that makes me proud to be a member of such a fine association.
Recently, Airplanista sat down (virtually) with Mike DiFrisco, EAA’s Marketing Director, to get the backstory on Aviore. As you will see, it is a story of collaboration, innovation, and inspiration.

AIRPLANISTA: Let's start at the very beginning of the Aviore story. How did the idea originate? Was it one person's idea, or a team, and was a bar napkin involved? And how was the name "Aviore" created?
MIKE DIFRISCO: A member of EAA’s Board of Directors, former NASA astronaut, Charlie Precourt, approached us with an idea hatched by the Stan Lee Foundation to give aviation its own superhero. We worked with a small team from the Foundation and EAA staffers to bring the idea to life at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017. We had converging objectives: The Stan Lee Foundation focuses on developing literacy programs – using comic books to encourage young people to read more – and EAA initiatives include introducing more youth to aviation. It seemed a good fit and, with the mass popularity of superhero-inspired movies, certainly the right timing.
Aviore’s name came from a series of brainstorming sessions. It’s amazing how many naming constructs and mash-ups are already registered trademarks. So when we finally arrived at Aviore, it felt like it was inspired.

AIRPLANISTA: Once the idea and concept was formulated, how did the project progress? 
MIKE DIFRISCO: Representatives of the Stan Lee Foundation supplied EAA with the initial concept for Aviore, as well as the first rendering of the superhero. They were also instrumental in ensuring the unveiling of Aviore would include a visit to AirVenture Oshkosh 2017 by Stan Lee. A press conference was held for the media and the public and then Stan and his entourage participated in the Gathering of Eagles fundraiser that evening to help support EAA’s youth education initiatives. 

AIRPLANISTA: Walk me through the development of the character himself. How was Aviore's backstory developed?
MIKE DIFRISCO: We pulled together an internal EAA team to not only discuss the Aviore story, but to begin plans for integrating the character into our vital EAA Chapter network so they can begin leveraging the character and his attributes at various Chapter functions, including Young Eagles rallies.

We determined early on, for instance, that each issue of the Aviore comic book would include the following four qualities:

(1) Feature some educational component so the reader takes away a nugget of information related to aviation or STEM component from the story,

(2) Showcase the idea that aviation is cool enough. While the comic should be fun, adventurous, interesting, fast-paced, and gee-whiz, we don’t want to get too “far out there” since we believe aviation is cool enough. Being a pilot or mechanic or engineer is cool. The technology and innovations are cool. Flying in an airplane is cool.

(3) Be possible and plausible. The action, the characters, the locations, the vehicles, and the gadgets don’t necessarily have to be real; however, they should be possible and plausible. This was the Jonny Quest rule that made the cartoon a futuristic adventure that pushed the techno envelope, but was still based in near-reality.

(4) The comic should be aspirational, but attainable. We want the readers to aspire to be like the heroes in the narrative, but also to come away with the notion that, “I can do that!”
Aviore’s mission is to be an inspiration to young people all over the world, encouraging them to follow their passions and find their place in the sky.

AIRPLANISTA: Tell me why this character is important to reach the younger generation of future aviators, and what is the target demographic?
MIKE DIFRISCO: EAA certainly isn’t the first to use a comic character or a superhero to educate and inspire. In fact, this EAA blog post, Flying in the Funny Papers, captures this century-old phenomenon perfectly. Demographically, we’re hoping Aviore and his adventures resonates with kids ages 8 to 17 (the age of Young Eagles participants) although certainly some adults find comic books to be engaging and entertaining, too. Aviore also fits into the context of the EAA Young Eagles Flight Plan, which is a five-step plan to get youth interested in aviation:

Step 1: The Young Eagles Flight
Step 2: An EAA Student Membership
Step 3: Sporty’s Learn To Fly Course
Step 4: First Free Flight Lesson
Step 5: Flight Training Scholarships
As you can see, some of these later steps are more suited to an older demographic, so Aviore and his comic adventures could help fill the gap for the younger enthusiast.

AIRPLANISTA: Tell me one cool story about the development of Aviore, something you and the team are most proud of. Was it a hard sell to EAA brass, or were they on board immediately?
MIKE DIFRISCO: EAA leadership embraced the idea immediately. Something about the timing just felt right. EAA was in the midst of celebrating 25 years of its wildly popular youth outreach program, Young Eagles, which has introduced more than 2 million kids to the joy and magic of flight. Aviore, we thought, could be the catalyst for propelling the EAA Young Eagles program into its next successful quarter century.
One insider story I can share with you was the chaos of the last-minute coordination of bringing Stan Lee to Oshkosh in 2017 and making sure he was greeted by some of his iconic creations. In the crazy-busy days leading up to the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration, we hurriedly tapped a local group of costumed performers—including Iron Man, Spiderman, and Phoenix—who were on hand to welcome Stan and his team to the center of the aviation universe. We had to coordinate with security, the air boss, air show announcers, flight line volunteers; then secure credentials, transportation, and other logistics. Plus, we had to work with a Hollywood costume designer to create the Aviore suit and accessories and find a willing EAA intern to play the character. At the end of the day, we pulled it off. Stan Lee was blown away and said: “It takes a lot to impress me. I pretty damn impressed! It’s like a whole city full of airplanes and excitement and wonder. I have never been more impressed. It must’ve taken a year just to set it up.”

AIRPLANISTA: "Jake Peregrine Howard" is the mythical person that becomes Aviore. What is his backstory?
MIKE DIFRISCO: “Perry”, as his friends call him, is Aviore’s alter ego. He’s the Clark Kent, if you will. His backstory will begin to be revealed in the upcoming series of comic book adventures. For live appearances, there is a character in the Aviore costume who can interact with families, offer guidance in building an Aviore VariEze glider, or pose for pictures.

AIRPLANISTA: Aviore is being called a "superhero" on EAA's website, what powers does he possess and how will these powers be used to spark the target demographic's interest in aviation? If flight is one of them, can he fly without an airplane, or does he need a plane, and if so, what is his preferred make/model?

MIKE DIFRISCO: While the story arc is still evolving, it was determined early on that Aviore’s powers would be activated when needed and only when he puts on the Aviore suit. But his powers are simply the attributes that any aviator would be glad to possess, only to a heighted degree: vision, hearing, intelligence, and the ability to be a visionary innovator.
Perry flies a VariEze, and when he’s needed to a mission and turns into Aviore, the VariEze undergoes a transformation, too, with lots of gadgets and innovations to defeat the baddies. Like all of us mere mortals, Aviore can’t fly without an airplane, but because we will be pushing the limits of believability and attainability, it’s pretty amazing what is being done in aviation today, from Yves “Jetman” Rosse to futuristic hover board technology. The sky – and our imaginations – are the limit.

AIRPLANISTA: What are EAA's plans for Aviore at AirVenture?
MIKE DIFRISCO: The big news at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 is the availability of comic book issue #1. This premiere issue will be bound into all August issues of EAA Sport Aviation magazine so that EAA members can pass it along (or enjoy it themselves), and standalone copies will be available for free to AirVenture visitors at several locations throughout the grounds. Aviore himself will also make some appearances and sign comic books. There will also some Aviore merchandise available, including t-shirts, patches, pins, posters, and more.

AIRPLANISTA: How has the initial response been in the EAA community to Aviore?
MIKE DIFRISCO: Amazingly, even though his announcement in 2017 was relatively low key and not much has happened since then (as all the development was happening behind the scenes), there has been an undercurrent of buzz about Aviore this past year. People remembered him and want to know more. They seem intrigued. We’re excited for his “phase 2” debut at AirVenture 2018.

AIRPLANISTA: Is there anything else you think we should know about Aviore?
MIKE DIFRISCO: As Aviore would say, “Look up today; fly tomorrow.” And the message EAA wants to leave is that Aviore is more than a comic superhero. He stands for principles we can all appreciate:

You can do it!
Aviation makes it happen
Build confidence
Break boundaries
Inspire young people to engage in aviation
Encourage kids to follow their passions
Flight is an enabler

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