Friday, July 24, 2015

B2OSH 2015 - Rockford to Oshkosh, Flight of 120!

"My Favorite Things"
(The unofficial Dallice version of the Sound of Music song you can sing along to)

Bright rainbow t-shirts on good looking fella's
Cool shiny spinners and Hartzell propellers
Turbos on engines and tip tanks on wings
These are few of my favorite things

Gear overflowing and Oshkosh-bound smiles
Transponders turned off and hands off the dials!
Co-pilot goes silent, no more musings...
These are few of his favorite things!

V-tail Bonanzas leading formation
Thumbs up in windows, before rotation
Over the lake, gear down for landings
These are a few of my favorite things

When the clients fight
When my feet hurt
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

Wakey, wakey, rise and shine!

July 18th, 2015... The day that 120 Beechcraft (which I'll refer to Bonanzas, for the purposes of this post - sorry Weebs!) take to the skies and descend into Oshkosh together, for EAA's AirVenture 2015.

Breakfast was a well attended social gathering at the main airport terminal in Rockford. I'm sure no-one missed it, but I couldn't tell you how many times we were reminded not to ask the hotel staff, bus driver or event organizers what time the 7 AM breakfast started.  LOL

Following breakfast the ramp was re-opened for B2OSH'ers to wander, pack, re-pack and fidget with their airplanes, before the mandatory 10 AM pre-flight briefing. If there was one hard and fast rule, this was it: "You miss the briefing and you'll not be flying with the Bonanza's to Oshkosh formation flight". Totally and utterly understandable!

I spent the early morning with my camera glued to my eye. The sunshine was nice and the increasing cloud cover provided some on and off again relief from the rising temperature. Humidity?... Yes. High but still workable.


Briefing time...
All poured into the auditorium for a reminder of the plan and where you could find the same info in your pile of paperwork - for when needed in the airplane. There is nothing quite like a sea of tie-dyed rainbow t-shirts to remind you that you fit in... That your shirt (and you) belong in this group, with these people, on this day.

Final walk around the aircraft. Luggage stowed, last chance to pee or hold it silently until camp is made and of course a wingman-lead briefing.

Passengers and pilots alike, flooded the ramp. Rainbow shirts were here, there and everywhere. Anticipation was building....
And then, another briefing was called. The tower at Wittman Field (Oshkosh) sent word that Runway 36 right and left were not cleared for landing, however, Runway 18 was. That meant a 2-ship landing and elements of 2, not 3 for the formation flight north. Now instead of 40 elements of 3, we were a long line of 60 elements.

Hmmm, this was new for B2OSH!
Re-briefed, the gallant pilots took the changes in stride, re-focused and prepared for take off once more. My heart leaped as row by row, engines were started and taxiing to the runway began.

Yes, while we waited our turn, I stepped out on the wing for pictures. In less than a minute I felt like I had experienced tornado-like winds, gotten chapped lips and done things to my hair that would take 6 months to undo! So freaking awesome... I cannot describe the atmosphere, the excitement and anticipation.

Ten seconds apart and then some between rows, we took off. At rotation, I had a view of MJ and Bob out Marks window and in front of me another 10 Bonanzas in flight. We stayed at 2000', just under the increasing cloud ceiling and for a while, I was ok as co-pilot and photographer.

About 20 minutes into the 45 minute flight, the temperature in the cockpit had risen substantially and the 93% humidity was wreaking havoc with my natural evaporative cooling system. Our clothes were drenched and for me, it was all I could do to focus on the horizon and keep my belly under control. Mark, with his eyes fixed on MJ was riding the turbulence and detouring around the precipitation under her lead and I was impressed. I know he must have been concerned about what he'd find in his lunch pail when we landed!

The first 3 bolts of lightening I saw got my attention, but the last one, a half mile from N35M was the one that scared me most. Seeing the edge of the storm and understanding that we were close to leaving it behind was comforting. I was going to be happier on the ground, sipping wine and eating pizza, for sure.

I wasn't the only one with concerns about the weather and what is normally radio silence or close to it, was more like weather related chatter (and a bit about conflicting traffic, of course). With weather that changed significantly between element 1 and 60, it came as no surprise that varying deviations during flight had caused some spacing issues... Which translated themselves into landing issues. Everyone landed safely, but only because there were a small handful of go-rounds too.

Seriously... EVERYONE was pleased to be on the ground and just thrilled to be taxiing those bumpy 2 miles to the field known as the North 40! Setting up camp was a quick event and once the bare basics of a tent were up, there was a hasty arrival at "the big tent" for pizza and margaritas.

The big tent was essentially B2OSH Headquarters at the North 40. A place to mix and mingle, drink and eat. To wear matching shirts and discuss ... You guessed it.... More airplane parts!

Bonanzas to Oshkosh, Here We Come! B2OSH 2015

We were Rockford, Illinois bound!

Thursday July 17th dawned bright and clear, the airplane was already packed, fueled and ready, thanks to Mark. We were borrowing N35M for this adventure... A big thanks to Dave Friis for his generosity - without which the trip would be more of an armchair adventure!

I flew the first leg to Wayne, NE. It was uneventful to say the least, but then again, I was enjoying flying by autopilot and I'm sure Mark was enjoying the fact that we remained on course and at the correct altitude even when I distracted myself with a story or two.

On the ground in Wayne we fueled with 100LL at a price that makes a pilot's heart swell with appreciation and were treated to sandwiches by the local FBO. Yep... Not a more pilot-friendly airport have I ever been to. Free sub-sandwiches by the dozen and cold drinks too! Heaven.

The staff were still trying to convince us to take more food with us as we walked across the ramp and took off to the east. Next stop Rockford.

20 miles out and the inbound Bonanza radio calls started choking the radio. Our poor controller was having a few difficulties determining if it was several single ships deviating around clouds and converging on him or if there were elements of 2 and 3 ships on the way . It was going to be a busy afternoon for him!

He did a stellar job and 10 minutes later we were short final behind the Bonanza and with a Bonanza behind us. All the little pigeons were coming home to roost! The emotions from B2OSH 2012 came flooding back and it felt great to be here... And taxiing in a line of V-tails to a ramp that was fast filling up with Beechcraft. We were ready to be welcomed, to meet and greet and relax with a drink.

Friday night was just that. Everyone met at the Emery hangar so generously provided. There were drinks and snacks, then a fabulous dinner too. Pilots, co-pilots, families and friends mixed and mingled. Talk of airplanes (and airplane parts), camping, aviation adventures and suggestions filled the air. The B2OSH group is nothing if not the most supportive, fun, generous of spirit (and airplane parts) group I have the privilege of being hugged by. It was especially lovely to see familiar faces.

It was a hot and humid evening and gradually, folks spilled out onto the ramp to feel a bit of breeze in the air. From here, the Beech Nuts provided formation flight entertainment - inspiring pilots, children and photographers alike. It's not a stretch to count myself in all of these categories here.

What exactly is the average age of the B2OSH pilot? Not sure, but happy to tell you that there are a number of younger pilots out there and a whole generation of kids who are having the time of their lives at this event and other aviation related gatherings, vacations and adventures.

I ended the evening with ice cream (perfect!) then Mark and I boarded the shuttle to the Radisson and allowed the long day to get the better of us. For about an hour we delighted in using every towel and accoutrement provided. We filled the jetted tub and wallowed in it, played with the TV inside the bathroom mirror and charged devices using outlets mounted in furniture. Then we crashed. I don't remember the lights going out... But I do remember the bed being comfortable and that delightful smell of clean sheets as I drifted off.

There was plenty more planning, flying (and airplane parts!) to discuss in the morning...
Tomorrow the Bonanzas were going to Oshkosh!