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Early Bonanzas to be Featured at EAA AirVenture 2022

A big milestone for a revolutionary airplane.

Early Bonanzas
Astronaut Gordon Cooper with his personal Bonanza. Photo: NASA

The beloved Beech Bonanza is officially turning 75 this year. Even though it first flew at the end of 1945, the Ralph Harmon-designed single received its type certificate on March 25, 1947, with production beginning the same year. Fun fact: Did you know the first few Bonanzas had fabric-covered ailerons and flaps?

To celebrate the anniversary, the EAA’s Vintage Aircraft Association and the American Bonanza Society are teaming up to feature pre-1970 Bonanzas at this year’s EAA AirVenture fly-in. Nearly 100 early Bonanzas were pre-registered for the event by March 31 and are considered by organizers to be in “addition to” the already-sizeable Bonanzas to Oshkosh annual mass arrival to AirVenture.

In January 1949, wartime ferry pilot turned chronic record-setter (and ill-fated racer) William P. Odom flew the fourth Model 35 built, N80040, from Honolulu’s Hickam Field to Oakland, California by way of Reno, Nevada, in an attempt to reach…wait for it…New Jersey. As for that penultimate waypoint over Reno and reversal to California, well, it was a weather diversion. Odom’s quote after that 22-hour flight: “Boy, am I tired.” Despite breaking the straight-line FAI distance record for his weight class, Odom had the Bonanza disassembled once more, loaded back onto a DC-4 and flown back to Hawaii for another effort, which was even more successful. On March 7, he landed at Teterboro after 36 hours and two minutes. N80040 and its giant tip tanks now rest in the Smithsonian.

More than 17,000 Bonanzas of all variants have been produced, and the American Bonanza Society will be hosting a raft of forums, lectures, and other events at its tent near the Theater in the Woods at AirVenture. The EAA’s Vintage Aircraft Association, founded in 1971, endeavors to preserve the history of vintage aircraft and to “keep aviation history alive.”

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