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Beechcraft fly home to celebrate milestone anniversaries

Concurrent anniversaries caused a surge of attendance at the American Bonanza Society convention in Wichita, Kansas, Sept. 21 through 24. The association's fiftieth anniversary aligns with the seventieth anniversary of the certification of the legendary Beech Bonanza. The combination led to the largest gathering of American Bonanza Society members and their Bonanzas and Barons in at least 25 years, according to the association's officials.

A formation flyover at Wichita's Col. James Jabara Airport showcased Beechcraft Barons and Bonanzas at the American Bonanza Society convention. Photo courtesy of Visual Media Group.

ABS, formed in 1967, is one of the largest and most influential type clubs in existence. About 800 of the 9,200 members flew some 240 Bonanzas and Barons "home" to near the factory where they were built in Wichita.

The three-day event at the Wichita Hyatt Regency Hotel & Convention Center featured dozens of seminars related to maintaining the Beechcraft fleet, how to fly them safely, and ways to use them more efficiently. More than 70 exhibitors set up shop to demonstrate wares. The highlight of the event was a Friday night hangar party at Col. James Jabara Airport, where a formation flight demonstration of Bonanzas and Barons showcased the product line. On display were a dozen models of Bonanzas and Barons, including a first-year 1947 Bonanza, its distinctive polished V-Tail reflecting a Kansas sunset as curious admirers looked the airplane over. Serial number D-190, the airplane has been in the Frank Heinisch family for more than 48 years. The airplane made its first flight test on May 6, 1947, according to signage provided by the family. The Bonanza has been in continuous production since 1947, the longest continually produced model of all time.

American Bonanza Society Executive Director Whit Hickman (left) and ABS Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Tom Turner (right) recognize the work of outgoing President Paul Damiano during the type club's fiftieth anniversary convention in Wichita. Photo courtesy of Visual Media Group.

The Model 35 V-tail, considered revolutionary at the time, continued in production until 1982. The Model 33, a straight-tail variant, was produced from 1959 to 1995. The stretched 36 model debuted in 1968 and continues today as the G36 Bonanza. More than 17,000 of the various types have been produced.

The last V-tail produced was at the ABS convention, looking as dapper as the day it left the Beechcraft factory 35 years ago.


At the convention closing banquet, ABS awarded its Air Safety Foundation Airmanship award to Inderpal Chhabra and David Tobachnik for their successful ditching of an A36 Bonanza into Long Island Sound after a catastrophic engine failure when the crankshaft split and the propeller departed the airplane. Tobachnik provided verbal guidance to Chhabra to steer the airplane away from bluffs along the coast, leading to Chhabra's successful landing in the water. The two safely scrambled up onto a rock in the water before the Bonanza sunk.

Meanwhile, Glenn Olsen won the Sam James Volunteerism award for his work leading a team to create a new digital library of content for the ABS website. The award is named for the founder of the organization's famed Beechcraft Pilot Proficiency Program.

The 1947 Bonanza Model 35 on display at the ABS hangar party. Photo by Thomas B. Haines.

In addition to a helpful monthly magazine, ABS offers one of the most comprehensive pilot training and maintenance programs of any type club. ABS-trained and -vetted maintenance technicians and flight instructors partner to keep the fleet healthy and active and its pilots safe. A robust website provides online flight training courses and decades of compiled maintenance tips and advice. A cadre of Bonanza experts are available to answer maintenance and service questions. The ABS Air Safety Foundation develops new training and safety materials and works with AOPA and other associations as well as the FAA and manufacturers to continue to improve and protect the models. Affiliated regional groups host fly-outs and conduct their own training events throughout the country, including formation training for the B2OSH Bonanzas to Oshkosh event, which is the largest type club mass arrival at EAA AirVenture. Some 140 Bonanzas and Barons landed within 90 minutes at AirVenture this year.

ABS regularly exhibits at AOPA Fly-Ins. See them at the upcoming Groton, Connecticut, Fly-In, presented by Columbia Aircraft Sales, Oct. 6 through 7.

Some 800 American Bonanza Society members gathered at Col. James Jabara Airport in Wichita, Kansas, to celebrate the type club's fiftieth anniversary and the seventieth anniversary of the certification and first delivery of the acclaimed Beechcraft Bonanza. Photo courtesy of Visual Media Group.
Thomas B. Haines

Thomas B Haines

Editor in Chief
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
Topics: Aircraft

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