AMERICAN BONANZA SOCIETY, INC.
Founders – Created in 1967 by Dr. B.J. McClanahan and Henry Schlossberg, ABS has members in all 50 states and 39 countries. The Society’s significance and services have grown as a forum for problem-solving, brainstorming and camaraderie for Bonanza, Baron, Debonair and Travel Air enthusiasts. A board of directors was created in 1968, following an exciting first-year growth to nearly 700 members. Also in ’68, an advisory board of experienced pilots was formed to provide input on program development.
Communication – The first member service was a four-page monthly newsletter. Its successor, ABS Magazine, remains the centerpiece of membership services, an invaluable communication tool and an excellent source of technical information, knowledge, and expertise.
Elmira, NY – By the end of 1969, ABS had grown enough to need a business manager and headquarters. Ralph Haesloop took the job and set up an office in the terminal at the Chemung County Airport near Elmira, New York.
Convention – Also in 1969 the first ABS convention was held in Wichita. The conventions are held around the United States and serve as an important source of aircraft education, information and fun for members from around the world. In 1971, ABS instituted an aircraft insurance program as another membership service.
Advisors – Until 1977, volunteers provided the Society’s member advice service. Then ABS hired its first technical advisor – retired Beech Aircraft project service engineer Norm Colvin, who worked for the Society for 18 years. Norm retired in 1995. The following year ABS headquarters was named after him. Neil Pobanz then became the Society’s lead technical advisor, following a 32-year career as an aircraft maintenance manager for the military and Beech FBOs.
ABS Air Safety Foundation
Beechcraft Maintenance Evaluations (formerly Service Clinics) – ABS created the Air Safety Foundation (ABS-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, now called the Beechcraft Maintenance Evaluation, featuring visual inspections of members’ aircraft by expert mechanics. Well over 10,000 inspections have since been performed, with three technical advisors serving as clinic inspectors.
ASF Mission – is “to protect lives, and preserve the Beechcraft fleet.” The Foundation pursues this mission by supporting the members of the American Bonanza Society with industry-leading aircraft technical support, aircraft evaluation programs, and industry and regulatory advocacy; and by creating and delivering innovative, type-specific training for pilots, mechanics and flight instructors who fly, inspect and maintain, and teach the safe and efficient operation of Beechcraft Bonanzas, Debonairs, Barons and Travel Airs.
Beechcraft Pilot Proficiency Program (BPPP) – Since 1983 the ABS Air Safety Foundation has delivered “the best in Beechcraft flight training™” through classroom and now industry-leading distance education, combined with personalized flight instruction with Beech-expert flight instructors. BPPP has grown to include the innovative ABS Flight Instructor Academy, educating flight instructors everywhere on techniques for presenting transition and recurrent training in Beech aircraft; and the ABS AVIATOR program, which encourages ABS members to pursue lifelong learning opportunities and become even better and safer Beech pilots.
Maintenance Initiatives – ABS/ASF has built upon its technical services and aircraft evaluation programs in three ways: creating maintenance technical guides that add detail and ABS experience to supplement manufacturers’ maintenance manuals and the industry-leading ABS Maintenance Academy to teach practicing mechanics and aircraft inspectors the type-specific knowledge and skills they need to better care for ABS members’ airplanes.
Research – The Foundation conducts aviation safety research, safety programs, and regulatory advocacy on behalf of ABS members and in cooperation with other aviation organizations. Examples include ASF’s V-tail integrity confirmation study, the spar web investigation, and ongoing participation and expert consultation in aircraft accident investigations.
Wichita, KS – In 1982 the Society moved into its, then, newly constructed headquarters on Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita, Kansas, where it remained for 35 years. In 2017 the ABS headquarters moved across from Colonel James Jabarah Airport (KAAO) and expanded to its current size of 3,200 square feet.
Oshkosh/AirVenture – ABS began its participation in the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1983 – now called AirVenture. There, aircraft enthusiasts have enjoyed the Society’s hospitality tent and attended ABS-sponsored technical forums, “Tent Topics” and special events.
www.bonanza.org – ABS created www.bonanza.org in 1996. The site quickly gained value for easy access to e-mail advisory service; online registration for ABS events; connections to fellow members and other aviation sites; and merchandise at the ABS Store. Two valuable website sections are ABS Member Forum and Find a Mechanic feature. The Member Forum is a member-to-member discussion board for questions and tips and is also frequented by ABS’ technical experts. The Find a Mechanic is a searchable database of all Mechanics who have graduated from the in-person ABS Maintenance Academy.
CD-ROM – In 1997, a major information resource – the ABS CD-ROM Reference Library – was created. Updated every other year, the CD’s search engine provides access to selected topics in all ABS Magazines and Newsletters since 1967. Now, ABS members can view copies of all back issues, in a searchable format, in the magazine archives on www.bonanza.org.
Initiatives – In 2003, “Technical Initiative” was launched to address issues of the aging Beechcraft fleet. Another major proactive effort, begun in 2004, was an “Education Initiative.” A year later, the ABS Aviator program was created to promote and reward lifelong learning by members. Both the Technical and Education Initiatives are dedicated to the memory of long-time BPPP Administrator Sam James
Board/Staff/Advisors – ABS is operated by a nine-member Board of Directors and a six-member staff in Wichita, KS. It contracts with seven Technical Advisors and occasionally other subject matter experts to support members and their airplanes. ABS is consistently held up by FAA, AOPA, EAA, and others in the industry as the model of what an aircraft “type club” should be and do. ABS is a dynamic organization whose strengths come from the participation and enthusiasm of its membership. Our members have been introduced to several new value added services such as the free BPPP online ground school, the ABS Maintenance Academy to instruct IAs and A&Ps how to maintain our aircraft, a new video on general maintenance, and flight instructor training that has trained more than 200 flight instructors. Members are also able to participate by attending our conventions, fly-ins, collaborations with EAA Oshkosh, Sun ‘n Fun, AOPA weekend Fly-Ins, Beechcraft Maintenance Evaluations (formerly Service Clinics) and more.
Updating Technology - In late 2012, a group of ABS members/volunteers and staff began the planning and implementation of the new web platform that would get our members up to speed with latest in technology. Our goal was to build a very robust, searchable digital library that had 45 years of stored ABS intellectual property to connect our community with other ABS members and Beechcraft enthusiasts.
Our new website/digital library provides a clear message of who we are and the rich history of ABS information our members are seeking. The website also features a clean design and navigation system with improved menu functionality that directs you to the information most relevant to you.
ABS launched the new website in late October 2016 and it has been a valuable resource and wealth of knowledge for our members to research. We’ve introduced a range of new content to the website, including a member forum to ask technical questions to advisors and other members, fifty plus years of fully searchable magazines, aircraft index and maintenance documents, downloadable POH’s, inspection guides and much more.
Celebrating 50 years - In September 2017, ABS celebrated 50 years of operation and service to 9,400 ABS members all over the world. The celebration took place in Wichita, KS home of ABS and Beechcraft. Over 800 members celebrated and took part in the three-day festivities.
December 2017, ABS moved its office headquarters from Eisenhower Airport ICT to the east side of Wichita on Webb Road, across from Colonel James Jabara Airport KAAO. ABS had been on the ICT property for 35 years. The building began to deteriorate and was becoming harder and harder to take care of. The new building has essentially the same square footage of 3,200 sq. ft but is laid out much more economically and practical for ABS usage. It’s also very convenient for members to fly into Jabara -a very friendly GA airport. Jabara is also the home to the ABS/ASF A36 purchased from funds donated by the Richard Swenson Fund in honor of the late Sam James.
Today - In the year of 2023 our membership totals over 10,100 and we've seen 35% new members over the last three years. We continue to aiming to serve our members better.