EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration

 for Mon, July 28, 2008

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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 2 July 28, 2008     

Bonanzas mark unofficial AirVenture start
By James Wynbrandt

Two flightline volunteers keep their eyes on the skies as more than 100 Bonanzas arrive for EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 in a repeat of a mass migration started more than a decade ago. Photo by Dave Higdon

It was about as official of an unofficial start to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 as there could be. Bonanzas to Oshkosh (B2Osh), the organization that started group formation flights to the fly-in now mimicked by Mooneys, Cessnas, and Comanches, arrived at AirVenture with 92 aircraft early Saturday afternoon. The parade of Bonanzas taxiing to their tie-down spots in the North 40 is a perennial indicator that the world’s largest aviation gathering is about to begin.

"This year’s flight had an international flavor," B2Osh leader Larry Gaines said, shortly after being welcomed to Oshkosh by EAA President and AirVenture Chairman Tom Poberezny. "We have Bonanza owners from Australia, South Africa, and Canada with us."

Taking the left seat in Gaines’ 1958 J Model Bonanza was 19-year-old Max Ringo. The recent high school graduate, who’s already earned his commercial pilot certificate and multiengine rating, was making his first arrival in Oshkosh aboard a general aviation aircraft.

"It couldn’t have been better," Ringo said after stepping out of the plane. Like all B2Osh pilots, he underwent formation training in preparation for the group flight. "It makes you a better pilot," he said.

The Bonanzas gather in Rockford, Illinois, the day before the flight, where they have a hangar party and preflight briefing. This year’s armada includes examples of almost all the 40 Bonanza models built, from a 1947 Model 35 Bonanza, the first year of production, to a 2008 G36 Bonanza from the Hawker Beechcraft factory.

Drew McEwen came in the Model 36 his mother, Pat McEwen, bought new in 1969 and flew in the Powder Puff Derby. It’s painted a distinctive red, with a horizontal checkerboard strip circling the mid section of the fuselage.

"There’s really nothing better than to come to Oshkosh with people passionate about aviation and their airplanes," McEwen said.

McEwen learned to fly in the aircraft at age 16, and since his mother passed away some years ago, the airplane has continued to keep his bonds with her alive.

"With a wife and kids, I’ve thought about getting a newer Bonanza, but my mom won’t let me do it," McEwen, who now works for Hawker Beechcraft, said. "She’s looking down saying, ‘That airplane is good for you.’"

As for the international visitors, John Chambers from Australia and Bob Verwey from South Africa flew commercially to the United States, then hitched rides with Jim Posner from Seattle and Stan Stewart from Sacramento, California, respectively. Marc Charron and his son Luc flew their 1968 Model 36 Bonanza from their home in Ontario.

"I’ve been coming to the fly-in since the 1980s," said Marc, who bought his Model 36 four years ago. "I figured this was a great group to fly with."

The Model 36 is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft, which has long supported the B2Osh crew, presented the Charrons with a copy of the original invoice for the aircraft, in honor of its having been made in the first year of the model’s production.

Within minutes of parking, tents were being erected and participants were gathering for their traditional arrival pizza party.

Kevin O’Halloran, a Bonanza owner from Cordell, Oklahoma, organizes the welcoming fete. An enthusiastic participant in one of the online Bonanza forums, O’Halloran began assessing other participants $5 for "stupidity" if they paid too much for a part or confessed online to an operational lapse. Those funds pay for the party every year.

Former F-16 pilot and retired Lt. Col. John "Weebs" Webener, who’s in charge of the preflight briefing, was busy preparing beverages in the chain saw motor-powered blender.

"This may have been the most problem-free flight from my perspective," said Webener, who has a 1969 V35A Bonanza. And how did he know it went so smoothly? "We had the least communications in flight."

For anyone wishing to see Bonanzas of almost every vintage and talk to owners about the aircraft, the B2Osh group is camped on rows 528-533 in the North 40 aircraft camping area.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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