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B2Osh Celebrates 26th Flight in 25 Years

Thunderstorms and a runway change delayed by about an hour the annual Bonanza B2Osh arrivals to Wittman Regional Airport on Saturday.

By Barbara A. Schmitz

July 19, 2015 - It was an anniversary worth celebrating, as 120 Beechcraft Bonanzas and Barons assembled in Rockford, Illinois, to fly to Oshkosh Saturday for their 26th B2Osh flight in 25 years.

Keith Rutherford of Shreveport, Louisiana, led the pilots on the flight in his Baron, the first time the B2Osh group has been led by a twin-engine plane versus the single-engine Bonanza. As the first airplanes taxied into their parking spot in the North 40, other planes were still 42 miles away.

Rutherford said a wind change caused the group to land in two-ship elements rather than the planned three-ship formation. In addition, poor weather in Madison made the group deviate 10 miles to the east, delaying their arrival by about one hour.

Bonanzas to Oshkosh began in 1990 when Wayne Collins and a few friends decided the only way to ensure camping together was to arrive together in formation. Collins, now 90, is the only pilot who has made the flight each year since its inception.

And has it ever grown.

Nine aircraft made that first flight, said Collins, of Mineola, Texas, adding that he had no idea that the formation flight would still occur decades later. People from all over the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, as well as from South Africa and South America, have taken part in the flight throughout the years, he added. The most planes to participate in the formation flight occurred in 1995 when 132 Beechcraft planes took to the air together to arrive in Oshkosh.

From the beginning, the group flight was always a family affair, and Collins is quick to note that some of those children have gone on to attend the Air Force Academy or will soon become a captain in the Air Force.

Collins led Bonanzas to Oshkosh until 2001 when Elliott Schiffman took over and established a nationwide network of regional training sessions. All pilots must now pass the training to participate in the Rockford to Oshkosh flight.

 Larry Gaines has organized the group flights since 2007 and said this year participants came from all four corners of the United States, as well as Germany and Canada. “This is like a family reunion for us,” he said, noting that one girl invited her “Oshkosh family” to her bat mitzvah last December. “Fifty-seven people who they wouldn’t have known without this event came, and that’s pretty amazing.”

Rutherford said it’s the camaraderie of the group that keeps people coming back each year. In fact, 70-80 percent of the pilots come back each subsequent year, he said.

“We’re a group that is 100 percent serious about flying, but once here, is 100 percent about having fun,” added David Copeland, of Wichita, who helped with the ground crew this year. “It’s all about reminiscing about the flight and talking about the flight next year.”

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