Many EAA members will know the name Gary Buettner, EAA 36348. Gary spent more than 60 years working in aviation, including 23 years at EAA as the head restorer of many projects. However, Gary did more than restore airplanes — he also helped light the aviation flame in his grandson, Mathew Schaub, EAA 1468770. Mat is a newly minted captain for Delta Air Lines.
“Really, I owe it all to my grandfather, because he’s the one that got me started in all that when I was a kid,” Mat said. “He’s the one that got my brothers and I enrolled into the Air Academy Camp, so I went to three of those as a kid. … I went up to AirVenture every year for like 20 years in a row, so between my grandfather and the EAA, that was the thing that got the whole ball rolling
Even before going to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh or attending the Air Academy camps, Mat knew he wanted to be involved with aviation. In fact, one of his earliest memories involves his grandfather and flying.
“He owned his own plane when I was growing up, so he would always take us up flying, and obviously we all loved that,” Mat said. “He took me flying as a kid, and I remember he said, ‘Hey, do you want to fly the airplane?’ I thought I was, though I know now I really wasn’t. … He moved the wings a little bit, and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. That’s kind of when I knew. I was like, ‘Man, I want to do this one day, I want to be a pilot.’”
After being surrounded by aviation his whole childhood, going to EAA’s Air Academy was like a dream come true. However, the most memorable parts of camp weren’t the speakers or the activities, but the people Mat met along the way.
“I met a friend of mine… we met when we were 17, 16 maybe, at one of the camps, and he’s still my friend to this day.”
Mat went on to intern at the Air Academy, and that just helped strengthen his friendships.
“There’s a bunch of other people that, some other interns that, so then our group kind of grew over the years,” Mat explained. “So it’s… the people. The EAA always talks about that too. Aviation is a tight-knit group.”
Friendship wasn’t the only perk about interning with the Air Academy.
“As camp counselors, we were lucky enough to start our flight training,” Mat said. “We flew the EAA Young Eagles airplane. By the end of the summer, I got to do my first flight solo at Oshkosh on Runway 9.”
Mat went on to Saint Louis University to get his bachelor’s in aviation science and technology. After graduating, Mat took a series of flying jobs, from flight instruction to cargo flying, until he finally ended up with the airlines.
“I ended up in a few other airlines along the way, including working for Emirate Airlines over in Dubai for about two years,” Mat said.
However, his current position is literally a dream come true.
“I remember watching an Airbus 380, which is a double-decker, biggest airliner ever built,” Mat explained. “It came to Oshkosh I think in 2006. I was a little bit older, I was in my 20s. I remember that landing in Oshkosh, and I thought to myself, ‘How cool would it be to fly that?’ And little did I know, five years later, that I actually would be flying that.”
After working for Delta for six years, Mat was officially upgraded to captain in late July, and after years of encouragement, Grandpa Gary couldn’t be prouder.
“[Gary] is living vicariously a little bit through me, enjoy my experiences and success,” Mat said. “If anything, I just want to make grandpa proud, because he had such a big influence on what I’m doing today… I still send him lot of pictures and stuff like that, we talk every couple weeks. I give him as much of the experience as I can.”