Published in Midwest Flyer – Oct/Nov 2016
ROCKFORD, ILL. – Each year in late July about 100 Beechcraft Bonanzas and Barons assemble in Rockford, Illinois (KRFD) and fly in the world’s largest formation of civilian aircraft to the world’s greatest celebration of aviation – EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH), Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Bonanzas to Oshkosh (B2OSH) 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 nationwide 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.
Their requirements are membership in the American Bonanza Society (ABS) and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and demonstration of basic formation competence in the preceding six months. They cannot stress too strongly that this event focuses on friendship, camaraderie and a grassroots structure. First-timers are encouraged to walk up to any cluster of pilots and friends, introduce themselves, and join in. Organizers say that this is how friendships are made. Everyone has a common interest.
The camaraderie of the Bonanzas to Oshkosh crowd has led to other same-type mass arrivals. B2OSH supports the efforts of the Mooney Caravan, Cessnas to Oshkosh, and Cherokees to Oshkosh, making the “North 40” a truly special place to be in late July each year. This year’s event took place on July 23, 2016.
Members of Bonanzas to Oshkosh participate in clinics nationwide, where Bonanza & Baron pilots can get free training.
The clinics have become another layer in a network of friendship and camaraderie. Their annual gathering has put together people who have become lifelong friends.
The B2OSH group gathers in Rockford, Illinois the day before the flight. They have a hangar party that evening the night before AirVenture opens.
There were 115 Bonanzas and Barons that participated this year. One aircraft flew ahead as a weather scout, and there were two mechanical aborts, reducing the number to 112 aircraft in the formation. Upon their arrival, the group partied again with endless pizzas and margaritas, courtesy of Kevin O’Halloran. A total of 150 pizzas were delivered this year, and 30 gallons of margaritas were consumed. On Sunday, the group had a bigger party with a catered buffet.
“The formation flight is very tame,” says B2OSH leader, Larry Gaines. “We take off three abreast, then separate to about five wingspans out for the en route segments. Each element’s leader and left wingman land on their own side of the 150-ft. wide Runway 36 Left at Wittman Regional Airport. It’s the same as if each pilot is landing on his own 75-foot wide runway. Our guys have pride, so we train to accomplish nice-looking element landings, but if they’re not airshow perfect, they are safe regardless. The right wingman lands single ship on 36 Right.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Greg Stratz, Larry Gaines, Pete Farrell, Matt Mullahy, Rob Hardcopf, and Laura Jones for the information and photo used for this article