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Wanted: Tips on making a group flight to AirVenture

Posted By:
Shannon Miller
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#1 Posted: 2/10/2010 13:07:04

Some friends are I are planning to fly to AirVenture this year from Oregon. We'll be taking three airplanes: a C-172, a C-182, and a BE-33 Bonanza (Debonair). Since the BE-33 goes some 50% faster than the C-172, the guys in the C-172 plan to leave earlier (probably a day earlier!). We may rendezvous at some mid-point for the night or maybe not -- we haven't worked that out yet (if we did, the C-172 would again have to leave much earlier than the Debonair the following morning, since the Deb pilots have no interest in flying a long distance at 110 knots).

Only one of us has a little experience in formation flying, and the others do not, nor are they interested, so an arrival in anything tighter than an extremely loose formation (such as distances from other traffic we might fly in a busy traffic pattern) is out of the question. However, we want to park and camp together at Oshkosh if at all possible.

Does anyone on this forum have any tips or considerations to help facilitate that goal? The only ideas I have so far is that we rendezvous at some airport 50 or 100 NM away from KOSH, then fly in trail and hope we're not zippered in with too many other arriving aircraft so that the three of us can park/camp together. I imagine we're not the only ones making a "non-formation" group flight to AirVenture in different types of aircraft and want to park/camp together. How is it best done?

Other ideas/suggestions welcome. Thanks in advance!


Jeff Point
Vintage Aircraft Association MemberYoung Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
#2 Posted: 2/11/2010 00:41:15

You don't mention in your post when you were planning to arrive.  That makes a difference, as it is busier some days that others.  If I were you, I would plan to do the following: Make your rendevous at an airport 50-100 miles from Oshkosh.  Plan to make an early morning departure (as in wheels up by 7AM at the latest) and fly to Oshkosh.  Get yourselves into a single file line, half mile or so spacing, and enter the Fisk arrival.  At that early hour, even on the busiest arrival days (Sunday and Monday) the pattern will be pretty quiet.  Chances are pretty good that you will all sail right on in and land in the same order.  Make sure you all have your "GAC" signs in the window to show the flagmen where you want to go, and they should marshall you right in.

They keys to this plan are three.  1) Arrive early, you want to be hitting Fisk no later than 7:30AM.  If you can do it earlier, all the better.  2) Practice the 90 knot half mile trail routine before you fly to Oshkosh so you've got it down, and 3) Make sure your ground procedures (ie. signs in the window) are up to snuff.  You should have no trouble   OK, a fourth point- study the arrival NOTAM and know it cold before you fly in.

If you follow these steps, you should have no trouble pulling it off.  Good luck.

Bill Kight
#3 Posted: 2/13/2010 07:11:03

The best advice I can give you is to forget about a formation flight.  You have suggested a loose "in-trail" formation flight.  That's about as hard a way to fly formation as one can pick because the station keeping references are hard to discern, especially for someone with no formation experience.  To an inexperienced eye, it seems easy, but it's not.  Even if you pull off an in-trail formation to Ripon, there's no guarantee you can maintain your group from there to landing or keep it together once on the ground.

I suggest you each plan your flights to arrive over Ripon in a five minute window, fly the arrival and then move the airplanes together once you arrive at the campground.

If you decide to pursue the in-trail formation option, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!  Try to replicate at home in familiar airspace what you're going to attempt to do at Oshkosh and then refine your techniques from lessons learned.  Do not attempt to do this cold turkey in very busy airspace!

Steve Fabiszak
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
#4 Posted: 2/13/2010 13:15:20

We did a flight of four into OSH last year. The flight was composed of a veteran C182, a vet RV-9A, a newbie RV4, and a  newbie RV6. We traveled from Utah and spent the night in Fairmont MN. Next morning we put the Cessna as #1, the 2 new RVs as #2 and #3 with me riding sweep in the RV9A. We flew a loose trail formation into the Ripon-Fisk-OSH pattern. The RVs have no problem flying with the 182's cruise speed of 125kts and the slower approach speed. It was early enough and traffic was light enough on Sunday morning for the lead to announce "flight of four, Cessna and 3 RVs" after his wing rock. ATC had no problem working with us.

HELPFUL HINT #1: Practice flying together a couple of times BEFORE showing up at OSH. Fly that loose trail at various airspeeds, particularly the slow RIpon-Fisk-OSH airspeed. Practice flying even slower as a group in case your group is following a Cub.

HINT #2: Other arrivals in the Ripon area have no way of knowing your group is trying to maintain a loose trail formation. So close it up before reaching Ripon. Be prepared for other airplanes to break in to your "formation". It seems every plane has to do a turn around around a point over the Ripon GPS coordinate no matter the direction from which they came.


Jeff Point
Vintage Aircraft Association MemberYoung Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
#5 Posted: 2/14/2010 01:57:10 Modified: 2/14/2010 01:59:14

@Bill Kight- I agree with a lot of your points, but I strongly disagree with your overall message.  Flying the Fisk arrival at 1/2 mile spacing in trail is not formation flying, far from it.  It is the same procedure followed by everyone who flies the Fisk arrival, and I certainly wouldn't call it a formation arrival.  If you don't have a level of proficiency to be able to fly 1/2 mile behind another aircraft at 90 kts and 1800 feet, you either need to get up to that level, or you should not attempt to fly into Oshkosh until you do.

I agree strongly with your most important point- PRACTICE!  Like taking a checkride, you should have this whole manuver down cold, so that doing it for real is not such a big deal.  Practice will also tell you a lot about whether your group's level of expertise is up to the task.

As far as others cutting you off, and remaining together on the ground- that is the reason I suggest you arrive very early.  You won't have to deal with all that traffic at an early hour, and should have smooth sailing. 

Good luck.