After meeting and talking with participants from the mass arivals to Oshkosh, one thing is certain, the impetus for flying formation is connection and camaraderie. Whether Cessna, Bonanza, Cherokee, or Mooney, the goal is the same, to be able to train, fly and camp together. To celebrate general aviation and our ability to attend this iconic event as an aviation family.
For those unaware, the process to fly the mass arrival to Oshkosh isn’t as daunting as you might think.
Last year I flew the Fisk arrival into OSH and happily landed on the yellow dot. But I was intrigued by the formation arrivals and wanted to be a part of it. I was grateful to have attended a training in Chino, California. I wasn’t sure if I would have the skill set to fly so close to another airplane, let alone landing fast with no flaps while looking only at my Lead. I was so pleased when everything jelled on the second day and I was actually enjoying the formation flying. I hope you enjoy this bit of history about the various aircraft types who fly the mass arrival, and also consider flying the diamond lane into OSH17.
Bonanzas to Oshkosh
Their website https://www.b2osh.org/Web/B2OSH/default.asp
Each year in late July about 100 Beechcraft Bonanzas and Barons assemble in Rockford, Illinois and fly in the world’s largest formation of civilian aircraft, to the world’s greatest celebration of aviation – EAA AirVenture, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
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. Wayne Collins led Bonanzas to Oshkosh until 2001 when Elliott Schiffman took over the reins. During Elliott’s tenure B2OSH established a nation-wide network of regional training sessions. Organized practices led to ever improving B2OSH flights and added a wonderful layer to the social fabric. In 2007 Larry Gaines slid into the left seat.
Today their focus remains firmly fixed: pilots flying the best general aviation airplane camping together in friendship and camaraderie. The formation arrival is their means of accomplishment. The requirements are membership in EAA and a demonstration of basic formation competence in the preceding six months. They cannot stress too strongly that this event focuses on friendship, camaraderie and a grass-roots structure.
According to Larry Gaines there were 115 airplanes on the ramp at Rockford. 98 Bonanzas and 17 Barons. They sent 1 Bonanza out ahead of the group as a weather scout to verify that thunderstorm movement from the west would not accelerate and affect the flight. 2 Bonanzas had maintenance issues after engine start (out of ordinary CHTs and alternator failure). Both flew to Oshkosh later.
So, there were 113 airplanes in our flight this year, counting the weather scout.
Vita nimis brevis est tarde volo [Life is too short to fly slowly.]
Their website http://www.mooneycaravan.com/home
The Mooney Caravan’s roots originate in a message posted on February 21, 1998 to a Mooney email list started by Doug Fields. Following is the text of the message from Akmal Khan (who flew a 252 and enjoyed taking goodhearted jabs at his normally aspirated brethren):
“I am taking my family over to Oshkosh this year. I know a number of you Northwest Mooniacs were planning on flying over this year. I thought it might be fun to organize a caravan of Mooneys to fly in together. I will have my speed brakes on so you can keep up :-). We could arrange for a couple of stops along the way and maybe do a formation flight into Oshkosh. What do you think?”
Through the efforts of a core group of volunteers led by Jonathan Paul, the first Mooney Caravan of 42 aircraft took off from Madison Dane County Regional airport on July 27, 1998 with Jonathan as lead and Dave Piehler as tail. During the months prior to the flight, the organizers including a Letter of Agreement with the FAA and the flight procedures, which were developed following consultation with Bonanzas to Oshkosh, worked out the Caravan logistics. Bonanzas to Oshkosh had been conducting formation Bonanza arrivals into Oshkosh since 1990 when the organizers recognized that the only way to camp together in the North 40 was to arrive together!
“I had not been into AirVenture and so many people commented on the madness of the Fisk arrival and the relative ease of the Caravan that formation seemed like a better option. Additional considerations were the opportunity to get an introduction to formation flying techniques and skills. Third, I was aware that the Caravan planes would park together and there would be opportunities for meeting Mooniacs.” –Robert C. (Bob) Belville. Based at Morganton, NC.
41 Mooneys arrived OSH in 2 plane elements (instead of 3 due to surface wind) every 15 seconds. There was a little congestion on the taxiways – arrivals to the airport had been backed up by the weather and by the next morning the field would be closed temporarily – no more parking space!
“Friends don’t let friends fly the Fisk arrival” … overheard in the North 40
Cessnas to Oshkosh
As has been the case with other events in aviation history, the origin of the Cessnas 2 Oshkosh mass arrival can be traced back to a group of pilots searching for a way to fly and spend time together. In the summer of 2005 a small group of Cessna owners led by Fred Johnson and Rodney Swanson met in the North 40 during the celebration of EAA AirVenture – Oshkosh to figure out a way to fly in, camp and hang out together as a group under the wings of their airplanes in the North 40. The ultimate goal was to share their mutual passion for aviation and have a good time together during the week of Oshkosh.
C2O reports that eighty-five aircraft, arranged in thirty elements, participated in the 2016 Cessnas 2 Oshkosh Mass Arrival Flight. This number represents an unprecedented eighteen percent increase in participation compared to the seventy-two aircraft in 2015 and even higher compared to the previous three mass arrivals: 54 in 2014, 42 in 2013 and 41 in 2012.
Cherokees to Oshkosh
Cherokees to Oshkosh began a tradition in 2010 which we are confident will continue to grow and promulgate. The enthusiasm that effervesced from the founding group will be the base, which stands the test of time, and encourage future Cherokees to Oshkosh members to make the choice to join us. If you decide to join us in 2017, be prepared to attend a mini-clinic of your choice, as well as coming in early to Waupaca to enjoy the family of aviators that are the essence of Cherokees to Oshkosh. Both venues will require effort on your part. However, if you take the time to speak with any of the pilots that flew with us in previous years, we are confident they will tell you the hard work paid off. That belief was evidenced upon landing at Oshkosh, as we did not observe one pilot exit their aircraft in the North 40 without a smile!
“2016 was the third time flying my airplane into Oshkosh for EAA AirVenture and it’s been an adventure each time. The first time I flew in was as a single arrival. To me the single arrival was more challenging and I believe more dangerous because you have no idea who is lining up with you over Ripon and It can be hectic The past two years I have flown in to AirVenture with the Cherokees to Oshkosh group. This group is very organized and there are minimum qualifications for the pilots. One of the requirements is all pilots must attend a mini clinic on formation flying that are offered around the country during the year. We all arrive in Waupaca, Wi about three or four days prior to the day we plan to fly the mass arrival. During those few days we fly training sorties in formation and practice different scenarios of arrival in case we are assigned a different runway or some other change. When we fly in you know who is on your wing and what to expect. It is much easier and safer way to arrive not to mention it is a lot of fun and looks really cool.” —John Bova Based at KSBP, San Luis Obispo, CA
No matter the make or model everyone I talked to in the mass arrivals was happy to have completed the task. Do consider a formation clinic in your region in 2017. Most clinics welcome all brands of aircraft. The skills you will learn will serve you well and formation flying has a strangely addictive quality. It is not too early to start making plans for OSH17. The fun, fellowship, and flying are hard to beat. Plus you might get a super cool call sign to memorialize your participation.