Caravan VIII, July 23, 2005
Caravan 2005 Participants
Jody Voss, Evelyn Drew, Bill Rabek, John Barthomolew, Pat Barthomolew, Joseph Voss Jr., Charles Beck, Hunter Voss, Ken Beaubien, Nancy Messineo, Forrest Bourke, Dana Bodine, Julia Bodine, Luke Bodine, Nicole Bodine, Susanna Fitsgerald, Andrea Drake, Margaret Bourke, Roger Bourke, Scott Cutler, Dianne Strube, Chris Shopperly, Keith Hoyte, Jonathan Paul, John Barthomolew, Peggy Born, Rick Senseney, Terry Drew, Don Gates, Bud Gates, Dennis Kane, Bob Jacobson, Mark Still, Waldo Born, Deanna Puls, Darwin Puls, Neil Rutherford, Ralph Mann, Dominick Buonocore, Chris Strube, Charles Yust, Rick Nutt, Jim Pelkie, Doug Bodine, Rod Jones, Susan Sitton, William Fitsgerald, Ernie Brock, Bob Drake, Bob Bristow, Richard Bristow, Suzanne Travis, Mark Travis, John Kalland, Steven Piehler, Dave Piehler, Dan Piehler, Paul Yust, Larry Newhart, Vincent Buonocore, Dale Brown, Adam Carney, James Oliphant, Linda Hartmann, Ed Hillary, David Angel, Len Hilary, Claude "Sandy" Thomas, Larry Brennan, Craig Burger, John Cheesbrough, Chris Holiday, Drew Holiday, Robert Angel, Phil Weins, Al Hartmann, Gene Reynolds, Donald DeShone, Zach Reynolds, Mark Gilliam, Eric Reynolds, Clifford Bluemlien (??), John Abbott, Dave Boerigter, Joel Ludwigson, Barbara Boerigter, Nick Micskey, Jeff Ingram, Tom Kristof, Jack Knight, Kevin Carey, Buddy hall, Judy Gantt, John Gantt, Jane Ingram
2005 Mooney Caravan, by Bill Rabek, Mooney Lead
Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day. HEY!! Wait just one second, it seems that life is not fair. OK, I already knew that. But still, not only did the rain not go away and allow our Mooney flight to depart on time from Madison, Wisconsin, it also cheated by also coming again another day, namely, the day of the BBQ. This may be the year we all remember Mother Nature more than even the arrival of Burt Rutan's SpaceShip-One with White Knight and his Global Flyer at AirVenture. After all, Sunday was hotter in Oshkosh than it was in the city of "Hot-Lanta" which is 695 nm or about 800 statute miles south of Oshkosh's latitude. (Atlanta, Georgia, that is, for those of you unfamiliar with the southeast United States) With temperatures in the upper 90s on Sunday, many of us spent a lot of time at the EAA museum admiring the incredible collection of noteworthy aircraft and, well, ya know, the air conditioning.
Saturday, July 23rd, the Mooney Caravan pilots were carefully listening to the mandatory briefing presented by Mooney Lead Bill Rabek at their staging airport in Madison when the airport operations personnel interrupted to say that a thunderstorm was approaching at 50 mph with strong winds and that all aircraft needed to be checked ASAP to ensure that they were tied down. A ten minute break was called while everyone ensured that tie down ropes were secured to the 48 Mooneys on the MSN ramp. One airplane in particular that needed to be tied down was the brand new, air conditioned, Bravo GX that the Mooney factory had graciously sent. It was positioned front and center on the ramp in preparation for the group photo which would follow the briefing and was not in a tie down spot. Our Mooney Tail, Jody Voss, had once again managed to join the Caravan in spite of not owning a Mooney and was flying this glass cockpit beauty. The preflight briefing was then resumed, although the deafening sound of heavy rain caused a couple of pauses, because even with the PA system, the amplified voice of Mooney Lead could not be heard over the disheartening sound of pouring rain on the tin roof of the hanger in which we were assembled. As the briefing concluded and the rain subsided, everyone moved quickly to have the 8th annual Mooney Caravan group photo taken for posterity. Luckily, the rain had quit and with big smiles on everyone's face, the camera captured the 2005 Caravan participants in style, many wearing their new, red 2005 Caravan shirts provided by apparel manager James Oliphant. Immediately after the photo, everyone split up to join with the 8 group leaders who guide the individual elements of six aircraft each during the Caravan flight for a close and personal discussion of the flight procedures. Again, Mother Nature decided to interrupt with an even stronger show of wind and rain than she had just displayed half an hour previously. Black clouds and gusting wind brought heavy rain to the ramp area where the aircraft side group briefings where taking place. The good news was that our Caravan pilots displayed the superior intellect to come in out of the rain. OK, maybe it was an obvious decision, but at this point, we were looking for any thing of a positive note. A quick look at the RADAR and a couple of phone calls to MSN and OSH tower made it obvious that we were looking at a departure delay of a minimum of an hour or two.
This rather large and powerful storm system had also caused problems for our friends in the Bonanzas to Oshkosh flight who were waiting in Rockford for the weather to clear. The EAA grounds personnel needed al least 30 minutes between the mass arrivals of our two group arrivals because of the parking logistics, and so we were constantly on the phone to each other and Oshkosh Tower to make certain we could all arrive into AirVenture after the weather but before the airport closed at 8 pm.
Waiting out a thunderstorm at Madison
The Mooney Caravan is a coordinated effort from several very dedicated volunteers who take a significant amount of time from their personal and professional obligations to carefully plan and execute a safe and fun gathering of pilots who share a common ownership of a great airplane. Bill Rabek works at Atlanta En route Air Traffic Control Center and with 24 year experience in the FAA, his talents are put to use as the Caravan liaison to both the FAA and EAA. His back ground as a Multi engine and instrument rated CFI helps him write the flight procedures and brief the Caravan pilots. Jonathan Paul spearheads the registration process and oversight of the Internet web site that provides a focal point for information. Look for big changes to our web site due to the skills of our new addition to the Caravan in the name of Nancy Messineo, a graphics professional who joined us for her first trip to AirVenture. Our treasurer and corporate sponsorship coordinator, Jody Voss along with Mooney flight alternate lead Dave Piehler discussed the weather delay alternatives with Jonathan Paul and Bill Rabek in order to consider the safest approach to complete our goal of the formation arrival of 48 Mooneys with pilots and passengers who desired to camp together at AirVenture, the greatest airshow in the world. The weather that dropped our temperatures with cold, heavy rain was moving quickly to the southeast and we pragmatically agreed that a departure time of 6 pm would allow our pilots time to regroup, preflight, load up and fly with good VFR conditions and stable winds at both the departure and arrival airports as well as provide the EAA grounds people time between the mass arrival of two large groups of model specific formation flights into AirVenture.
Our originally intended time and the extra minutes at Madison were quite comfortable, thanks to the efforts of our Ken Beaubien and the hospitality of Wisconsin Aviation. Ken coordinated our lunches, cold drinks and the facilities of an FBO, so we simply sat out the weather delay while keeping one eye on the clouds outside and the other on the real time NexRad display in pilot briefing lounge. The Caravan participants were all accounted for upon arrival by Deanna Puls with help from Pat Bartholomew, Linda Hartman and Judy Gantt during registration and except for a dead battery that would ground group leader John Gantt, everyone was anxious to kick their tires, light the fire and fly. Of course, none of us would even be at the airport without the safe transportation provided by Waldo and Peggy Born moving us between the hotel and the airport all day Friday and Saturday in a non stop circuit with the rented van. A big thanks for their extra effort for getting 42 of us to dinner at Pedro's restaurant for some tasty Mexican cooking Friday evening.
Bill Rabek, Mooney Lead, on the phone with Oshkosh tower coordinating our departure time
As our revised departure time approached, a final check with OSH tower and the B2OSH flight (Bonanzas to Oshkosh) confirmed that all systems were GO. MSN tower was updated and the group leaders Al Hartman, Chris Holliday, Darwin Puls, Doug Bodine, Joel Ludwigson, Richard Bristow and William Fitzgerald make certain the pilots within their groups were ready. One particular item that Mooney Lead and the Group Leaders discussed was the possibility of departing MSN with a crosswind and landing at OSH with a tailwind component in order to greatly simplify the Caravan route. The wind at MSN was relatively light and so a safe and comfortable decision was made for a runway 03 departure. Arrival into OSH was a different story. One last phone call to OSH tower indicated gusty winds that would demand utilizing runway 18. Everyone had been carefully briefed for this route and yet we knew that because it would require two additional 90 degree turns, it was less desirable than runway 36R & 36L. We would depart and check winds as we closed in on OSH with the option to make the final runway commitment as we approached 10 DME from the airport.
After the first propeller blade turned through it's arc, the increasing din of Lycomings and Continentals announced the start of the Mooney Caravan flight. I think everyone noticed that Justin Milan in the Bravo GX on loan from the Mooney factory was cranked long before the rest of us. I should remind everyone that Saturday was HOT, as in, the mid 90s hot. I should also remind you to remember the paragraph above that said this Mooney was air conditioned. Justin and Jody Voss were in it with the door closed. Need I say more? (I want one!!) The clearance from MSN tower was loud and clear, "Mooney Flight, cleared to taxi to runway 03 via delta and bravo, hold short of runway 36." After a two and a half hour weather delay, we were on our way. Our props and wheels were turning. The radios came alive with group leaders checking in with their pilots and the thunderstorms had all moved to the East. While the majority of the built in buffer between our scheduled departure and the Oshkosh airport closing time was behind us, there was still plenty of time remaining for setting up camp after our arrival. Life is good in the Mooney Caravan.
This year the entire Caravan moved onto Runway 03 and took their position before Mooney Lead would begin a takeoff roll. As we rounded the corner and began to fill the runway, one of our pilots announced on Mooney frequency (122.97) that he was aborting. Sad news. Shortly thereafter, we listened as John Gantt broadcast that he had been able to jump start his airplane and was now rejoining. As luck would have it, before we received our clearance for takeoff, even the airplane that had aborted during taxi was now rejoining. Man! It just keeps getting better. We now had all 48 Mooneys on Runway 03 in position and chopping at the bit for the flight to AirVenture. Mooney Tail confirmed that all aircraft were stationed on the runway and ready. The call to tower was made.
48 Planes on the runway at Madison in two lines
"Madison Tower, Mooney Flight is ready for departure on runway 03". The controller's reply brought a smile to my face. "Mooney Flight, cleared for takeoff, have fun in Oshkosh, I wish I was going with you". Now came the moment we had prepared and worked for. Throttles were advanced and brakes released with 4 second intervals sending one and then another and another and another airplane climbing to 2500 feet MSL, until the runway was empty again. Now, since this is reality and not a fairy tail, I regret to say that Gantt's alternator could not make up for the very dead battery and his prudent judgment concluded that his airplane was safer on the ground at this moment. He announced an abort to us and the tower and returned for maintenance in Madison. We had one less Mooney in our Caravan, but more importantly, he made a safe decision and would join us in time for the BBQ after recharging the battery.
Alpha Group is airborne. Bravo Group is on the roll
The en route phase seemed to go very smoothly, both literally and figuratively. The air was smooth with only a few widely scattered clouds from all the moisture that the storms had dropped on the green Wisconsin farm land below. I did not hear of any problems other than the usual fact that it appears that no two Mooney airspeed indicators seem to register the same and there still seems to be too many pilots looking at them rather than the airplanes outside for spacing and separation. I was pleased to know that the group leaders and all the Caravan pilots were limiting radio transmissions, which greatly improves the ability of the Group Leaders to pass along safety critical messages among the Caravan. As we approached Oshkosh, Mooney Lead checked in and the tower updated the surface winds. They were now 160 at 10. Most importantly, they were not gusting in velocity or variable in direction. I made a call to the group leaders to get a consensus and to relay the winds to all the pilots. As each group leader checked in, it was a unanimous decision for runway 36. This meant we had only one shallow turn to final and we would be landing on two separate runways. It also meant a shorter taxi with the majority of the distance on hard surfaces. With a two mile long runway, we had ample room for the tailwind component. An easy to see orange dot painted on runway 36L gave us a reference point of 2500 feet of runway remaining for any possible go around decision.
Unfortunately for Oshkosh tower, our ability to land on runway 36L and 36R did not help with the regular arrival of aircraft on the FAA NOTAM FISK arrival onto runway 09/27. Because of the very recent and heavy rain, many portions of the grass on which we normally would have been able to taxi were impassable and we had to use runway 09/27 as a taxiway to camping in the "North 40" area. This complication during both the B2OSH and Mooney arrivals shut off the flow of FISK arrivals for a period. The controllers at OSH tower had decided that this was the best and safest decision and as soon as we were clear they began to land the backlog of traffic eager to arrive into AirVenture. I spoke to OSH tower upon our arrival and their assessment of our performance was that they saw no problems other than the one caused by the wet grass shutting down runway 09/27. Once again, Mother Nature had let everyone know that we are at her mercy.
Taxiing onto our North 40 Parking area, pushing back and parking, a community effort
Everyone was briefed to help with the parking of our aircraft so the EAA grounds crew would cheerfully welcome us back in the coming years. I must say that we received a lot of praise from them on the performance of our group literally jumping out, ensuring that the Mags and Master switches were safely off and then pushing our arriving Mooneys into position, even before the pilot had exited the plane. As fast as they could pull in, we were already done and waiting for the next one to shut down. Bravo to all for showing everyone how helpful and considerate Mooney drivers are! As we were getting our tie downs fastened, a reporter from the EAA AirVenture Today news walked up and began interviewing a few of our people. I hope everyone saw the great article covering our flight in Monday's edition. It may still be on the web at www.airventure.org. Look for the July 25th link to the Mooney Caravan. Another highlight was the big welcome from Paul Poberezny and his wife Audrey driving down the rows of Mooneys in a new convertible Mustang and taking the time to say hello to everyone who walked over.
Paul and Audrey Poberezny pose with Bill Rabek shortly after our arrival
Time to set up camp and eat. But wait! First a big welcome and congratulations to your new neighbor for the week and maybe some refreshing beverage to share. The friendships, both old and new are what this Caravan is really all about. Darwin Puls really knows how to celebrate our arrival by flying in an iced down mini keg of his own delicious home brew beer to share. One good thing about that recent rain was that the tent stakes and tie downs went into the ground real easy. Of course another plus was that the temperatures were now quite pleasant during all the physical activity required to set up a comfortable camp site. As Saturday drew to a close, all I could think about was how great it is to fly into AirVenture this way. I like flying with well prepared and careful friends using our special FAA Letter Of Agreement routing, and all with the primary purpose of sharing the fun at a great convention of aviation enthusiasts.
The first order of business is getting the campsites set up as dusk falls on the Mooney camp
Monday, July 25th means it is opening day of the EAA AirVenture convention and also the Mooney Caravan twilight BBQ. Thanks to the planning of BBQ chairman John Bartholomew, the chairs, tables, ice, drinks, and the caterer were already set up while the afternoon airshow was in progress. Before the rest of us returned from the flight line and commercial venders with our new goodies that we HAD to have for our airplanes, several volunteers were helping with all the tasks and getting ready to take tickets, pour drinks and have the PA system set up. Thanks to Deanna and Darwin Puls, Al Hartman, Pat Bartholomew, and many others for giving up part of opening day. While the BBQ was scheduled to begin at 6:30, the ominous western sky made it appear that we should start as soon as possible. Tall, dark, cumulous clouds were advancing with the tell tail blow off of an anvil top. The food was ready and a lot of people had already gathered by 6:15 so I made the announcement that we would start the serving line. The conversation at my table was divided into only two subjects. We were fortunate to have the honor of sitting with Mooney Chief Executive Officer, Gretchen Jahn and she was willing to interrupt her dinner to answer any question and talk about her vision to continue the innovation started by Al Mooney and guide the company to prosperity. She was also proud of the newly designed Mooney web pages athttp://www.mooney.com. The other dominant subject was the weather. No, not that bland sort of "hot enough for you" or "It's not the heat, it's the humidity" banter. The western sky continued filling with black and ominous clouds. Lightning was occasionally seen in the distance. We were debating the speed and more importantly, the direction of the significant convective activity. A few of us had cell phones that featured the ability to display current color weather radar. Problem was, such a small screen was not good enough. I called the Oshkosh tower facility chief, Bill Casey for the big radar picture with intensity, distance and movement display. He said we had about 20 minutes before we were wet. He said it had level 4 rain. He said there was even stronger rain in a second line about 2 hours behind that. He said sorry for all the bad news as he added that the second line had 35-50 mph wind gusts in front of it. I jumped up and began a hurried and abbreviated program of welcoming everyone to the eighth annual Mooney Caravan. After thanking all the great volunteers that make this whole thing possible and asking for future volunteers to provide a depth of expertise to future years, I asked Jody Voss to introduce Alan Nitchman from the Mooney Factory. Alan spoke of the corporate policy to support the parts and service of Mooneys. He mentioned a program to help refurbish older models. As with our second speaker, he knew that only a few words were suitable in the face of the approaching weather. By the time I asked Jonathan Paul to introduce Carol Ann Garratt, a few drops were falling but almost everyone sat spellbound by her story of flying around the world in her Mooney. I am sorry that we could not enjoy her full story however please visit her web site athttp://www.kerrlake.com/mgarratt if you would like to know more. Jonathan then attempted and barely squeezed in a presentation of a number of trophies for longest and shortest distance flown, 8 year veterans, and others. The rain quickly picked up and changed in character to those very large and very cold drops that signal a bad storm dropping its load of moisture from 45,000 feet above. Frequent, nearby lightning was now a real safety factor since we were out in the middle of a field and holding up umbrellas as if to attract the bolts ever closer. We had tried to continue as long as possible, even covering the PA system with plastic, holding umbrellas for our guest speakers and using our own ponchos and umbrellas or anything else to block the rain. It was time to run for cover. Our BBQ had to be called because of rain and lightning.
The rain started just as we were finishing our meal at the BBQ
Thirty to forty minutes after the heavy rain began, it slowed and finally quit. A few hardy souls poked their head out and walked back to the BBQ area. The caterers had remained and quickly set up the serving line again. Any keg that was already tapped was on our invoice. The sodas were paid for and were awfully heavy if we have to haul them away. Free seconds, thirds or what ever it took to polish off all this food and beverage was offered to all those that returned to brave the remaining sprinkles of rain, sit on the wet chairs or walk up to the still hot serving line. Man! That hot buttered corn tasted even better now. I must have worked up an appetite running for cover. I know I had worked up a thirst. Yes, I believe I'll have seconds, please.
As more of the Caravan organizers gathered back around the BBQ site after the first rain storm, we talked about our situation. We knew we still had a problem. There was no answer that would make everyone happy. Is there ever? We did not get to give away any door prizes due to the "Act of God" as they say in the insurance industry. I know that there were many disappointed people because of this. We are proud to help promote good business relationships with the Mooney owners and the companies that serve them. We are grateful to have part of the BBQ expenses paid for by our sponsors, which lowers the cost we have to pass along with ticket sales. The price of the tickets does not completely offset our cost without sponsor donations. This year, even with the help of Lela and Trey Hughes at the MAPA hospitality tent, only 175 tickets were sold and we were in the red. We are absolutely thrilled to have great merchandise donated to the Mooney Caravan which we can give away. We can not guarantee what or even IF we will have door prizes since we are at the discretion of the generosity of our sponsors. In the past we have drawn for prizes for the Caravan participants and also for the entire BBQ crowd. This year the Mooney factory had donated a coupon for one case of oil for each of the Mooneys that flew in the Caravan. As soon as we check our records and confirm the names of our participants, we will email these people with the required information for this prize. Contact us if you have not received yours by the time this article is printed. We had planned to draw for other prizes at the BBQ. This was no longer possible. I considered the situation we were currently facing and two factors were paramount. We are first and foremost focused on advancing the tradition of the Mooney Caravan to Oshkosh by encouraging safe participation and promoting volunteers to help with the enormous effort each year to execute this event. Second was the inability to actually know who had purchased BBQ tickets and how could we contact all those nameless people? I apologize if there was any misunderstanding when BBQ tickets were purchased. I made the decision to use the list of Mooney Caravan participants for the drawing of prizes. We will email the entire Caravan list with a record of the lucky winners.
Before I close this post flight article of the 2005 Mooney Caravan, I want to thank the most important part of this event. You! Thanks to ALL the pilots and their passengers who make this such a fun endeavor. I think I can speak for all the working volunteers when I say that were it not for the joy of returning to rekindle past friendships and the pleasure of meeting new friends, we would not step up to the task with such delight. Some of us have been to Oshkosh 15 times or more and I know that the main reason I can't wait to return is the people. I am thrilled to view such milestones as the Global Flyer, SpaceShipOne and the P38, Glacier Girl at the flight line, but it is the people who make up aviation that give me the best memories. I hope everyone took the time to make at least one new friendship that will last a lifetime. I trust everyone benefited from their participation in the Mooney Caravan and the experience of the biggest and greatest air show in the world. I thank you all again and we'll see you next year at Madison.
Along with Global Flyer and the Glacier Girl, the hit of Oshkosh 2005 was Whiite Knight and Spaceship One