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Mooney Caravan ‘like…a family reunion’

Thirty-nine Mooneys arrived en masse at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Sunday, as they taxi to their parking spot in the North 40.

By Barbara A. Schmitz

  • Mooneys as far as one can see taxi to their parking in the North 40.
    Mooneys as far as one can see taxi to their parking in the North 40.
  • Mooneys as far as one can see taxi to their parking in the North 40.

July 19, 2015 - James Oliphant summed up the allure best.

“It’s like going to a family reunion, but you just haven’t met all of the family yet,” he said.

Oliphant was eager to meet his new “family” after leading a group of 39 Mooneys to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Sunday as part of the 18th annual Mooney Caravan from Madison, Wisconsin.

Oliphant, of Wichita, Kansas, is one of only two to have made all 18 mass flights to Oshkosh. He said the 2015 caravan, which included 1960 to 2015 Mooney models, is a great opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. “We hang out with each other and have a great time,” he said.

The group has activities to encourage that sense of camaraderie, including forums and group dinners.

He estimated that 65 to 75 percent of the pilots each year come back to be part of the Mooney Caravan the following year.

Mooney owners are a close-knit group. “We’re kind of like a cult,” Oliphant said. “We have intense loyalty to our planes because they get us places safely. It’s really about the quality of the plane and the pilots associated with it.”

David Piehler, of Wausau, Wisconsin, is the other one to make all 18 mass fly-ins. He said the group started in 1998 when friends met over the Internet came up with the idea of camping together at Oshkosh. But the only way to camp together was if you flew in together.

They talked to Larry Gaines of the Bonanza group to get ideas how to do that, and as they say, the rest is history. That first year wasn’t very organized, but each year they learned and gradually expanded, Piehler said. Then, in 2011, they added training clinics as they went from flying in “gaggles” to formation.

The clinics not only teach pilots to fly in formation, but also allow people to put faces with names. That face-to-face contact also helps people to develop confidence in the people flying with you, Piehler said.

“This is not Blue Angels stuff,” he said. “We are not trying to impress. It is just an issue of proficiency and confidence.”

It’s also a great experience, he said, and a great way to come to Oshkosh. “It’s way different than the flying we normally do, and a lot of fun.”

To educate others, earlier this year they also formed a 501(c)(3) corporation that aims to foster safe formation flying and the Oshkosh experience.

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