First Meeting
The ABS Board of Directors held its first formal meeting June 27-29, 1968 at the Ramada Inn in Wichita, Kansas. They are shown here on a tour of the Beechcraft facilities.

Since its creation in 1967, the American Bonanza Society (ABS) has had over 44,000 members. After 37+ years, nearly a quarter still belong, and the average length of membership is 10 years. That longevity is a testament to the value of ABS service to Bonanza, Baron and Travel Air enthusiasts.

Founded by Dr. B. J. “Mac” McClanahan and Henry Schlossberg, ABS grew to nearly 700 members in its first year. ABoard of Directors was created in 1968, as was an advisory board of experienced pilots to provide input on program development.

A four-page monthly newsletter was the first membership service. Its successor, the ABS Magazine, now often contains as many as 100 pages of useful information and resources each month. It is considered the centerpiece of membership services, an invaluable communication tool and source of technical information, knowledge and expertise.

Surveys indicate that the magazine and technical advice are the two primary reasons people join the Society. Until 1977, member volunteers provided the advisory service. Then ABS hired its first technical consultant – retired Beech Aircraft project service engineer Norm Colvin, who worked for the Society for 18 years.

Ground Breaking
On January 19, 1982 ground was broken for construction of the ABS Headquarters at 1922 Midfield Road, Wichita, Kansas.

By the end of 1969, ABS had grown enough to need a business manager and headquarters. Ralph Haesloop took the job and set up office in the terminal at the Chemung County Airport near Elmira, New York.

Also that year the first annual convention was held in Wichita, Kansas, home of Beech Aircraft. The conventions are held around the United States and serve as important sources of aircraft education, information and fun for members from around the world.

In 1971, ABS instituted an aircraft insurance program as another membership service. Falcon Insurance Agency, Inc. has been the agent of record for 10 years. A key benefit is that Falcon is not “captive” to a specific insurance carrier, instead searching the marketplace on behalf of ABS members.

The American Bonanza Society was founded on the principle of members sharing technical and safety information with fellow members. The primary tool for fulfilling this mission has been the Society’s publication. What started out as a small newsletter has grown into a large information-packed monthly magazine.

ABS created the Air Safety Foundation (ASF) in 1979 to develop educational and safety programs and materials through tax-deductible donations. One of its first ventures was the highly regarded “Service Clinic” program featuring visual inspections of members’ aircraft by expert mechanics. More than 5,000 aircraft have thus far benefited from this service.

ASF is also responsible for research and investigative projects for ABS and in cooperation with other aviation organizations. For instance, ABS/ASF has been involved in NTSB accident investigations and worked with the FAA in addressing the controversial tail-vibration issue.

In October 1982, the Society moved into its newly constructed headquarters on Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita. In 1988, the building was expanded to its current size of 3,200 square feet.

ABS began its participation in the Experimental Aircraft Association’s huge annual event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1983. There, aircraft enthusiasts have enjoyed the Society’s hospitality tent and attended ABS-sponsored technical forums and “Tent Topics.”

In 1983, ABS/ASF created the Beechcraft Pilot Proficiency Program (BPPP), which provides recurrent training in the classroom and through certified flight instruction. Thousands have taken advantage of the scheduled clinics around the country.

Norm Colvin retired in 1995; the following year ABS headquarters was named after him for his nearly two decades of service. Neil Pobanz became the Society’s lead technical expert, following a 32-year career as an aircraft maintenance manager for the military.

A cadre of technical consultants assists the Society, with each of them having decades of aviation operations and maintenance experience. These consultants are used for member advice, Service Clinic inspections, involvement in accident/incident investigations and other technical projects for ABS. In recent years, a full-time staff position was created to coordinate all ABS technical activities, including the development of new member services and educational programs.

ABS created a website at <www.bonanza.org> in 1996. The site quickly gained value for easy access to e-mail advisory service; on-line registration to the annual convention, Service Clinics and BPPPs; connections to fellow members and other aviation sites; and the purchase of books, videos and logoed clothing through the ABS Company Store.

2004 is the 25th year of the ABS/ASF Service Clinic program. As primary inspector, Bob Olson, (left) teaches Beech owners valuable maintenance information.

In 1997, a major model-relevant information resource-the ABS CD-ROM Reference Librarywas created. Updated every other year, the CD’s search engine provides almost instantaneous location of selected topics in all ABS Magazines and newsletters since 1967, plus other invaluable aviation databases.

Another service, added in 2001, was an economical rental program for certain hard-to-find, expensive tools. The first tools were ruddervator travel boards for both older and more recent Bonanza models, followed by an aileron travel board.

Last year, a “Technical Initiative” was launched to address issues of the aging Beechcraft fleet. Among projects under way is the development of a frequently asked questions database for the ABS website. Another project will be a book of procedures, processes and checklists for aircraft maintenance projects.

In 2004, yet another major proactive effort was begun in the form of an “Education Initiative.” First up was the development of education “tracks” for the convention. Still in its infancy, this effort will aim at sourcing and creating innovative programs for ABS members.

The 1987 ABS Convention in Wichita,Kansas, drew a record 776 Bonanzas, Barons and Travel Airs.

Both the Technical and Education Initiatives are dedicated to the memory of long-time BPPP Administrator Sam James. At this writing, an Education Committee of ABS members has begun plans for expanded educational offerings at the annual convention, through the website and other venues.

In its current structure, ABS is operated by a nine-member Board of Directors and a seven-member staff, with Nancy Johnson as executive director.

ABS is a dynamic organization whose strength comes from the participation and enthusiasm of its members. Its services came about because Bonanza, Baron and Travel Air owners got involved, working together to identify and address common issues and needs. That dedication has resulted in a truly fine source of model-specific education, information and friendship.

The American Bonanza Society