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Weather Delays Most Mass Arrivals Saturday

By Barbara A. Schmitz

July 21, 2018 - It’s said that the early bird gets the worm, and a group of Cherokee owners know that best.

So, when the Oshkosh area forecast called for rain and cloudy skies on Saturday, the Cherokees to Oshkosh group, or CtO for short, decided to depart a little earlier than originally planned, and taxied in to the North 40 at about 10 a.m., an hour before their scheduled arrival.

The next group scheduled to arrive, the Mooneys, decided to play it safe and stay in Madison, Wisconsin, until the weather cleared. And at press time, the Cessna group was still in Juneau, Wisconsin, hoping to arrive late afternoon, if the weather cleared as forecast.

The Bonanzas, by far the largest group arriving en masse, almost made it to Oshkosh before weather caused them to divert and land in Fond du Lac at about 1:15 p.m. An hour later, they were making arrangements to complete their flight and land in Oshkosh.

Bonanzas to Oshkosh (B2Osh) leader Larry Gaines said that 149 airplanes made the initial flight, and everyone was safely on the ground in Fond du Lac. Although they didn’t make it to Oshkosh on the first try, the group still easily surpassed their record set in 1995.

“We hold the official NAA World Record for largest formation of civilian aircraft of 132,” he said. “We didn’t arrange for sanction of a new World Record, but we obviously beat that record handily.”

2018 marked the 28th annual trek to Oshkosh from Rockford, Illinois, for the B2Osh group.

The Cherokees to Oshkosh group, or CtO, flew into Wittman Regional Airport from Waupaca, Wisconsin, at about 1,800 feet Saturday morning. “The only issue was our concern that we get here before the ceiling dropped,” said lead pilot Tony Harding, of Wadsworth, Ohio, who led the group of 29 airplanes and approximately 60 people on the flight.

This was the second year that Harding led the group, and his eighth year of joining CtO. However, it is the ninth year that the group has arrived together.

“The first year was SplashKosh,” he said. “We staged at Waupaca and stayed there for a week because of all the water on the grounds here.”

Safety is always the primary concern for the group, which holds clinics throughout the year. But this week is the only opportunity to practice their mass arrivals with the entire group. They spent the previous four days doing training flights, Harding said.

This is the ninth year that Ed and Dori LeBlanc, of Austin, Texas, have arrived with the group. ” It’s a great chance to get together with friends who feel like your family,” Ed said. “We are all about safety and camaraderie.”

Harding agreed. “We’ve grown to be a very big family.”

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