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Mass Arrivals Finally Make It to Oshkosh

By Barbara A. Schmitz

July 22, 2018 - A group of 149 Beechcraft aircraft — 128 Bonanzas, 20 Barons, and one Twin Bonanza — took off Saturday from Rockford, Illinois, planning to land en masse at about 1 p.m. on the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh grounds and unofficially break their own record of the largest formation of civilian aircraft.

But about 10 miles out from Oshkosh, those plans fell apart. The group was diverted as a storm system came through, said B2Osh leader Larry Gaines. The vast majority — 120 — landed at the Fond du Lac County Airport, while 24 landed at the Dodge County Airport near Juneau. The remainder went to a private airport near Fond du Lac, the Dane County Airport in Madison, and a few even flew the normal Fisk arrival, arriving in Oshkosh well before the rest.

Gaines said he was very grateful for technology and their mass texting service. “After we landed, I put out a text that said, ‘If you are not in Fond du Lac, text me where you are,’” he said. “Within 10 minutes of landing, I knew where everyone was and that they were all safe.”

The largest of the scattered group — 120 planes from Fond du Lac plus three who later joined them — made it to Oshkosh on their second attempt, landing at about 6:45 p.m. Saturday. By Sunday morning, Gaines said 148 of the 149 aircraft had arrived, and possibly all 149.

Gaines said the group plans for emergencies like this. “When something like this happens, you just do the best you can,” he said. “But on the plus side, we got to see how hard flight ops works to keep pilots safe.”

The weather didn’t just delay the Bonanzas mass flight. About the same time some of the Bonanzas finally arrived, so did the Cessna group, Cessnas 2 Oshkosh (C2O), which landed interspersed with some of the Bonanzas. This is C2O’s 13th group arrival to Oshkosh after staging at the Dodge County Airport. A gaggle of Mooneys also eventually made it to the AirVenture grounds, despite the weather, although most came in one-by-one versus the planned caravan. This is the 21st year of the Mooney caravan.

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