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Cherokees Make the First Mass Landing
By Barbara A. Schmitz
July 18, 2015 - It was only a 35- or 40-minute flight. But it wasn’t just any flight.
Months of planning and training came to a successful conclusion on Saturday morning after 20 Cherokee airplanes landed en masse at Wittman Regional Airport. During a debriefing only minutes later, Jack Pelton, EAA chairman of the board, welcomed the group to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and told them about the plethora of activities planned for the week.
The 2015 Cherokee lead, Doane and Karole Bailey, from Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, spent the last three years flying the No. 2 spot in the mass arrival. When asked to take over the lead this year, Doane said he was almost speechless. “It’s an honor to fly lead,” he said, “and I was proud to do it.”
Registration for the flight opened on January 1, and mini clinics were scheduled in March, April, and May throughout the country, Doane said. Each pilot participating must attend and pass a training session to be able to fly into Oshkosh with the group.
The group of pilots and friends spent the last few days in Waupaca, enjoying the camaraderie and practicing for the flight. The group experienced no problems with Saturday’s flight, Doane said.
While the first Cherokee mass fly-in was scheduled in 2010 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the airplane, the group continues to fly in together because it is fun, the Baileys said.
Tony and Sandra Harding, of Wadsworth, Ohio, agreed. “We always wanted to come here, but it’s intimidating going through the Fisk arrival, not knowing who is flying in front of you and behind you,” Sandra said. “You don’t know if someone in front of you got their license in the morning and are flying here in the afternoon,” Tony added. When they heard about the mass arrival a few years ago, they immediately signed up.
The other advantage of flying en masse is that you also get to camp near your friends, Sandra said. And coming in early has a benefit, too, in getting a prime parking spot.
Parking next to the bathroom and showers is a big plus, Sandra said. “At 3 a.m., I really appreciate being that close.