EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration

 for Mon, July 28, 2008

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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 2 July 28, 2008     

Mooneys take caravan to AirVenture
By James Wynbrandt

John and Patricia Bartholomew assemble their tent after arriving in the Mooney mass arrival. Photo by Phil Weston

James Evanson readies his tent for erection after arriving with fellow Mooney owners to AirVenture. Photo by Phil Weston

They’re fast, fuel efficient, and punctual: Forty-five Mooneys participating in the 11th annual Mooney Caravan arrived at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 at precisely 4 p.m. Saturday, "right at the time the FAA gave us," flight leader Bill Rabek said.

Organizers were concerned the recent hike in fuel prices and downturn in the economy might limit turnout for the group flight, but the tally of Mooneys taking part was higher than originally anticipated.

The group took off from its annual staging point of Madison, Wisconsin, 61 nautical miles southwest of Oshkosh. A cookout the night before the flight kicked off the festivities. Following the final briefing the aircraft took off four seconds apart, and made the flight at an altitude of 2,500 feet and an airspeed of 125 knots.

The Caravan got its start in answer to Mooney owners who wanted to arrive and camp together. Organizers acknowledge the help they received from the Bonanzas to Oshkosh group in planning the event and establishing procedures.

"They’ve given us so much help over the years," Rabek, an air traffic controller who flies a 1981 M20J, the model also known as the 201, said of the Bonanza group.

The Mooneys, from across the United States and Canada, ranged from M20C models from the early 1970s to a brand new Ovation 3 from the Mooney Airplane Company, in Kerrville, Texas. What accounts for the aircraft’s enduring popularity?

"Speed and efficiency," Rabek said. "They’re very fast for their horsepower. Head winds don’t bother you."

Mooneys also have a reputation for being somewhat cramped, a contention that owners, including the rangy, 6-foot plus Rabek, dispute. "They’re kind of like a sports car," Rabek said. "They can be a little hard to get in and out of, but inside there’s plenty of room."

And as for the growing popularity of the Caravan: "It’s getting together with friends, more than anything," said Rabek. "It’s like old home week."

"This is the highlight of the year," said Ernie Brock of Sacramento, California, who flew in with his wife, Debbie, in their 1968 M20G, a model known as the Statesman. "I don’t know which is more fun, flying here or being here."

Brock, taking part in his fifth Caravan, usually flies from California in a flight of two with his friend and fellow Mooney owner Richard Bristow. "We practice formation flying during the year, to be ready for the formation flight," Brock said. This is Debbie’s first trip to Oshkosh.

"I’m near retirement and now I’m an empty nester, so now I have time," Debbie said.

Her impressions of AirVenture? "I’ve never seen so many airplanes," she said, even though it was two days before the air show officially began.

John Bartholamew of Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, who has been to every Caravan, came in his turbo-normalized 1982 M20J. Bartholamew is in charge of the cookout. "I think I complained to somebody who was preparing the food one year," he said, explaining how he got the commissary assignment.

Bill Runyon of Fort Worth, Texas, arrived in his turbocharged 1991 Bravo.

Over the past year the organization has redesigned its website (www.MooneyCaravan.com), enabling automated registration and, most impressively, creating a virtual flight from Madison to Wittman Field in Microsoft’s Virtual Earth program. Now surfers can see the entire Caravan route with all landmarks along the way, and even choose the departure and arrival runways for the journey. Scott Cuttler of Woodlands, Texas, who flies a 1983 M20J, is the group’s webmaster.

With their aircraft tied down, and camping gear going up, the travelers gathered for a toast: "To another successful and safe Mooney Caravan."

Anyone interested in learning more about Mooneys can meet some of the world’s friendliest boosters of the aircraft in Rows 539-540 in the North 40.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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