Weather Wreaks Havoc on Oshkosh Mass Arrivals

Record-breaking Bonanza group was forced to scatter due to unexpected IFR conditions at Wittman Regional Airport.

oshkosh airventure weather
The Mooney Caravan was forced to stay on the ground in Madison on Saturday due to low ceilings, but made a successful arrival at Oshkosh on Sunday.Pia Bergqvist

Marginal VFR conditions and constantly changing forecasts on Saturday had mass arrival lead pilots scratching their heads as they tried to make a decision whether to bring dozens of airplanes toward Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for the annual migration to the EAA AirVenture fly-in. The Cherokee group (Cherokees to Oshkosh - CtO), which consists of mostly PA-28 and PA-32 airplanes, successfully arrived as planned on Saturday morning when the weather north of Oshkosh was nice. CtO gathered at the Waupaca Municipal Airport (PCZ), about 30 nm northwest of Oshkosh.

The Bonanza group, B2OSH, departed from its rendezvous point at Chicago/Rockford International Airport (RFD), 110 nm south. Despite favorable forecasts, Oshkosh suddenly turned IFR just as the biggest mass arrival group came in for its last segment in the early afternoon. Things got interesting as a record number of 149 airplanes had to break up into two-ship elements while flying in an area saturated with airplanes attempting to fly in on the VFR FISK arrival. Watch this video to see how the group scattered here as the lead pilot for each element was forced to turn the transponder on and consider there were two airplanes for each new traffic target.

The Bonanzas landed at various airports in the vicinity. Later in the day, those airplanes flew into Wittman Field in smaller groups.

Right before the field closed on Saturday, the Cessnas 2 Oshkosh (C2O) group also made it in from its departure point – Juneau. While the ceilings were marginal, the group had a successful and safe flight. It was the biggest Cessna group ever with around 90 airplanes.

Meanwhile, the Mooney Caravan had about 65 airplanes, also a record for the group, on the ground in Madison, 60 nm southwest of Oshkosh, with a planned late Saturday morning departure. Low ceilings in Madison prevented the morning departure when the weather in Oshkosh was decent. And the forecasts kept changing. The TAFs were looking favorable for an afternoon departure and the ceilings in Madison lifted. But the weather in Oshkosh that prevented the Bonanzas from landing prompted a decision for the Mooneys to scrub the mission and reschedule for Sunday, when the group landed under nearly clear skies in the late afternoon.