Subjects Archive

Debonair Sweeps: Panel Sneak-Peek

Friday, November 30th, 2012

N232L Radio Panel

N232L Radio Panel – click to see bigger image.

Ok, so the last Debonair post was a tad troubling…I mean, will that torn-up old instrument panel really make the leap to state-of-the-art?

Fear not! Santa Fe Aero Services has come up with a plan. And a drawing that shows their vision of the Deb’s panel-to-be. Click on the accompanying image and it will enlarge.

Take a look at the illustration and see if you like what’s planned. It’s a display-rich panel with a clean look and a load of new avionics. Again, check for subsequent posts–and the sweepstakes article in the January issue of AOPA Pilot magazine–for updates.

But for now I just wanted to give you a peek into the very near future. What do you think?

What Aviation Items Would You Buy If You Won Tonight’s PowerBall Drawing?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

I am among the millions who bought a PowerBall lottery ticket as the jackpot hit $500 million.  On my drive into Frederick this morning, I daydreamed about all the aviation-related things I would do with the money.  My list included: an Embraer Phenom 300; an effort with AOPA to boost the number of minority pilots;  and major donations to the Delta Heritage Museum and Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum.

So I decided to put the same question to AOPA members via our Facebook page and Twitter account.  Below are some of my favorites. Enjoy!

FACEBOOK

  • Saving that money after seeing how this economy is going! lol. BUT were just dreaming so Id say C190, C180, C320, Cessna Mustang, King Air 300, Stearman PT 17. hehehehe TO START WITH!
  • Cessna 182. Simple as that.
  •  I suppose I’d have some cool jet in which to travel afar, but after I get that Mustang I’ve wanted since I was 6, I’d be hankerin’ for (relatively) slow, radial engined aircraft like a Beaver, C195, Twin Beech or Staggerwing.
  • I’m going with a Skyraider AD-5 (I think)….the big one…..to carry the family and dog…..a nice helo, and a Mustang of course. Then I’m going to donate money to a certain individual to get a B-17 done and I want naming rights and to fly it!!!
  •  I would have to add that I would love to make donations to the Wounded Warrior Project, Honor Flight, National Naval Aviation Museum, AOPA Air Safety, T.I.G.H.A.R., Sun ‘N Fun, The Commemorative Air Force, The 99′s, to W.A.S.P. Museums, and make scholarships available to those who have the desire and dedication, but who are struggling to afford being able to solve their dream.
  • BBJ for business jet, PC-12 for daily driver, Extra 300 for fun, Husky for more fun, and then take $20 MIL of it and fund my Welcome Sky Aviation Scholarship program to issue full-ride flight training grants to the best and brightest 16-21 year olds I could find.
  • An AOPA LIFE Membership for me and 100 people and a shiny brand new Cessna 182 JT A.
  • Im gonna finish getting my PPL, Then get every other pilot certification. Then I’m buying a Corvalis TTX, a Cirrus SR-22GTS, and a Citation Ten. I’ll of course buy a few Bose headsets for me and my Pax. I’d use the remaining money for fuel, maintenance, etc.
  • An HA-420, and a Quest Kodiak, The former Mary Talbot airstrip in Vinalhaven, Maine, a few bose headsets, attend aviation mechanic school, get ratings for those planes, and maybe buy all the abandoned salvagable airstrips around Maine.

TWITTER

  • P-51, J-3, Corvalis TTx, Citation Mustang. In that order.
  •  I think I will keep is lower key with a Cessna Mustang.
  • TBM 850, Carbon Cub…pay off debt…Build churches all over the world and keep working :)
  • Me? #Mooney factory, Kerrville TX.
  • With my $500 million #Powerballwinnings :-) I’ll first buy a @Terrafugia then work with @google (and @IBM) to make it self-flying ;-)
  • Five T-6Bs or Super Tucanos. And start an airshow team.
  • I would get a Cessna 210 and completely re-do it nose to tail. Oh, also, one of those little jets like the Cirrus or Piper.

 

Debonair Sweeps: No Turning Back!

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

 

The Debonair Sweeps' gutted panel

Yikes! The Debonair Sweeps’ gutted panel

 

I’ve shepherded three AOPA Sweepstakes airplanes through their restorations, and there’s something that shocks me each time.

What is it? It’s seeing a photo like one posted here! Yep, this is the stage where all the old avionics have been yanked, and then unceremoniously tossed or traded in to the avionics shop for credit (what little that might represent) against their labor.

But look at it…chaos incarnate. NO WAY the old panel is ever coming back! The point of no return has passed!

Even though you may intellectually grasp the idea, at this stage of a panel restoration the mind cannot fathom the concept of a full-on upgrade. How can any normally-endowed person have the ability to put things right after seeing such a mess of wires and gaping holes? You or I couldn’t, of course. So take a look, ladies and gentlemen: The Humpty-Dumpty metaphor, made manifest!

Good thing that Santa Fe Aero Services has been there, done that. Many times over. Before long, we’ll see a three-screen Aspen Avionics installation, along with Garmin’s GTN 750 and GTN 650 navigators, an Alpha Systems angle of attack indicator, an R.C. Allen backup attitude indicator, a PS Engineering PMA8000BT audio panel, a CO Guardian carbon monixide detector, a JP Instruments EDM 900 engine and systems monitor, and much, much, much more. Like a panel-mounted iPad Mini, USB charging ports, and new annuciators.

Check out the January 2013 issue of AOPA Pilot for more information about the Debonair Sweeps’ panel transformation.

And don’t worry. The gutted-panel look may prompt despair, but that will fade as the new panel springs, Phoenix-like, into the 21st century.

The $50 Cherokee

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Darrin Carlson took a 1964 Cherokee 140 from this…

One of the great joys of writing for AOPA Pilot is when I hear from members after an article is published (no, really!). They often write to remark on some aspect of my article, and then let slip some fascinating detail about their airplane or themselves.

In Darrin Carlson’s case, he asked a specific question about the seatbelt installation I described in the December 2012 issue of AOPA Pilot (“Ownership: Buckle Up). In a follow-up email, he added, “When I purchased my 50-dollar Cherokee, it was abandoned and in very poor shape. I started on small simple projects and worked my way up to overhauling the engine. This allowed me to get the experience to get my A&P/IA, then once it was airworthy it helped with my private and IFR rating now I am working on my commercial and CFI ratings.”

It turns out Darrin wasn’t joking about that $50 airplane. He really did buy a $50 Cherokee and rebuild it himself, step by painstaking step. He attached photos (which you see here) and a copy of an article that originally ran in the Nov.  27, 2007, issue of the Clay Center Dispatch. (Clay Center is in Kansas, which is where Darrin lives.) He bought the ’64 Cherokee 140 in 1993 after noticing it sitting in a scrap area near the Air Museum at Forbes Field in Topeka. He wrote the owner (who at the time was working in El Salvador) with an offer to buy it and sent him a check for $50 to cover the cost of processing the paperwork. The owner sent him a sales receipt, and a $50 airplane was his.

…to this. He replaced practically everything over four years.

It took four years, but he redid everything–not just the engine and the avionics but also the wiring. He even did the paint job, and it’s prettyspectacular. Don’t you agree?

Well, but an airplane owner is always looking ahead to that next project, and Darren’s considering installing shoulder harnesses. Not knowing the story behind his extra-special Cherokee, I told him I didn’t think he’d have a problem doing it himself. Turns out I was more than right!—Jill W. Tallman

AOPA members weigh in on GA prospects under second Obama term

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

As one of the administrators of the AOPA Facebook page, I thought it would be interesting this morning to ask members the following question:  “so, the election is over. What do you think the prospects for general aviation will be in a second Obama term? And please — let’s just stick to the GA issue.”  We’ve already had 58 comments this morning.  Below are some of them.

“It’s not ideal for GA growth, but I’m not convinced user fees are inevitable either. I fly for a living, but also for pleasure thanks to a flying club at half the rates of a FBO. With over 10k pilots retiring from US carriers in the next 8 years, something is going to have to give. The pilot shortage finally coming to fruition should have a positive affect. Support AOPA and similar organizations. They are our voice.”

“General aviation will suffer… we pilots won’t have the money to fly! And it’ll be regulated to the point where it’s pointless to fly anyhow.”

“I don’t think the political climate is what GA needs.. what GA needs is a much lower cost of entry to new participants (Next generation training) and new certified airplanes that are capable of at least some useful load which don’t cost $300K new (I’m looking straight at you, Cessna and Piper).”

“Not good. Good thing I have a professional pilot job, because I can’t attract a single student as a part-time CFI due to the overwhelming cost of learning to fly.”

“$20 per Gal AVGAS.”

“It will be the same. Administration proposes user fees, GA rallies its membership with advocacy efforts, and Congress dispenses with user fees.”

“Costs have got to come down. This includes everything from hangar rent, insurance, to aircraft purchases. The days are gone of flour drops and pancake flyins at local airports. Those days need to come back. Also, airports need to be public friendly and appear inviting, not restricting. The FAA needs to push back expensive equipment installs (ADS-B appliances) timeframes and increase training for controllers to handle “flight following requests.”

“ I feel for those who are in aircraft manufacturing…. No reason to expect Obama will stop demonizing business GA aviation.”

“ In my opinion, the US economy is in such bad shape that either candidate would have had difficulty coping with it. I’m not a fan of user fees – particularly since it already costs so much to fly. However money for economic recovery has to come from somewhere.”

“Hopefully people will start buying airplanes again and get down to the great business of flying again. Lets hope our leader stops criticizing business jets as well!”

“ User taxes, higher gas taxes, greater penalty for being successful enough to buy an airplane.”

“ It’ll be just fine. Obama is not one dimensional and he sees the economic benefits GA provides. The time for politics is over and we just need to work together for the greater good.”

 

Debonair Sweeps: Flying D’Shannon’s tip tanks

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Time for an update on the Debonair Sweeps’ progress–and the news is big! After buying the airplane at Hartford’s Brainard Airport, I flew it to AOPA headquarters at the Frederick, Maryland Municipal Airport–a flight of two hours. From there, I flew it another five and a half hours to Buffalo, Minnesota (stops were made at the Muncie, Indiana and LaCrosse, Wisconsin airports). Buffalo is D’Shannon Aviation’s home office. At Buffalo, D’Shannon went to town, installing its 20-gallon tip tanks, a new “Speed Slope” windshield, tinted side windows, and aileron and flap gap seals.

For those who may not know, D’Shannon is all about fixing up Bonanzas, Barons, and Debonairs. They have Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs)–98 of them!–that run the gamut. If you want your Debonair, Bonanza, or Baron to look better and go faster, then D’Shannon’s the place. Scott Erickson is D’Shannon’s president, and he’s your point person. He’s at 800-291-7616.

D’Shannon’s more aerodynamically-shaped windshield replaces the stock windshield, which has a kind of bubble shape. But the main advantages of new windshields and side windows have to do with visibility and noise reduction. The old windshield and side windows were scratched and milky. Believe me when I say that flying into the sun made forward visibility a challenge. The new windshield and windows are also thicker than the originals–3/8-inch thick versus the original 1/4-inch thick glass. So there is also a noise reduction factor.

The tip tanks come with two methods of determining fuel level. First, there’s a clear slot in the side of the tanks, so you can directly observe the fuel level. There are fuel quantity markings–1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and full–and each corresponds to five gallons’ worth of fuel. In the cockpit there are digital fuel gauges that give both numerical and graphic fuel quantity indications. The gauges are on the same small panel that contains the transfer pump switches. To use tip fuel, you burn down the main tanks first, to make room. Then you turn on the transfer pumps to move the fuel from the tips to the mains. It’s an in-flight fill-up!

I first got a chance to check out the tip tanks on a flight from Buffalo to Wichita’s Jabara Airport. The takeoff from Buffalo was definitely sporty, with direct crosswinds out of the west gusting to 27 mph. And the turbulence on  climbout was a solid moderate–if aviation had a Richter scale, it would have rated a seven I’d think.

I hear you asking about the effects of all that weight out on the wingtips. Yes, I was busy in the turbulence, and even with just five gallons in each tip tank, there was a noticeable moment-arm from those 30 pounds sloshing around out there. How would it be with the full, 120-pounds-worth of fuel in each tank? I’ll find out one of these days, and I hope it will be in smoother air!

The tip tanks certainly have benefits: seven- to eight-hour endurances, for example. And the tip tanks come with a 200-pound hike in max gross takeoff weight. It’s now a 3,200-pound airplane, which helps in the useful load department.

The Debonair’s empty weight now stands at 2,028 pounds; useful load is a decent 1,172 pounds. But fill up all the tanks and useful load shrinks to 488 pounds. So for two people and light bags, the Debonair Sweeps is ideal for long trips or tankering lower-cost fuel. Of course, the airplane’s weight will change during the refurbishment process, and  by “change” I mean increase in weight. So the winner will probably need to modify the fuel load on typical flights.

That’s it for now, with some 20 hours logged on an airplane that has yet to experience its biggest work packages.

In the next post I’ll show you a photo and a drawing that’ll give you a fair idea of the goings-on at the Debonair’s current stop–at Santa Fe Aero Services, where its avionics will get a complete do-over. Stay tuned!

The Sweeps Debonair: Sign of a Trend?

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Now that AOPA’s Debonair sweepstakes is under way, I’ve been thinking about the previous owners of this very special 1963 airplane. Our/your Debonair was previously owned by two partners. One was 90 years old. The other wanted a newer airplane–an A36 Bonanza, I understand. The 90-year-old is still flying, by the way, and the day I checked out the Debonair I watched him taxi out in a Skyhawk with an instructor. For him, the Debonair was too much expense for too little flying. For the past five years he averaged just 20 hours per year in the Debonair. Keeping it made no sense.

This sounds a lot like the previous owner of the 2011 sweepstakes airplane–a 1974 Cessna 182 we dubbed the “Crossover Classic.” The owner was in his late 70s and only flew his Skylane 10 hours per year. Though he couldn’t justify keeping the Skylane he, too, kept flying. He purchased a Piper J-3 Cub, restored it with a partner, and now flies it under Light Sport Aircraft rules.

Let’s go back further, to AOPA’s 2004 “Win-A-Twin” sweepstakes airplane–a 1965 Piper Twin Comanche. Same deal: an ex-airline pilot rarely flew the airplane. He was getting out of the twin because, you guessed it, he didn’t fly so much any more.

It strikes me that these pilots represent a groundswell in sales of older general aviation airplanes. All three owners were deeply involved in GA flying, and emotional about parting with their beloved airplanes. In each case it took years for the owners to come to the decision to sell. And in those years, I might add, each deferred essential maintenance. They became inured to their airplanes’ signs of wear and tear.

I’ll bet that there are hundreds, maybe thousands of owners and airplanes out there in the same situations. And guess what. Those owners and airplanes were part of GA’s glory years, which ran roughly from the early 1950s to the late 1970s. That’s when more GA pilots were trained, and airplanes built, than ever before–or since. It was the apex of GA’s bell-shaped activity curve.

Now many of those older owners are getting out of “conventional” GA and into light-sport flying. Others are simply walking away. No surprise here, but my point is that there aren’t enough younger pilots entering GA to compensate for the older ones leaving. That’s why AOPA’s many initiatives designed to promote growth of the pilot base–our flying club iniative being the latest–will be so essential in the years to come.

Wisconsin’s Winnebago Flying Club Uses Fall Foliage Footage to Tout GA

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

The first two general aviation flights I ever took were both trips to view fall foliage, one in Burlington, Vt., and one in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.  AOPA recently created the AOPA Flying Club Network Facebook group, and one of the members – Sam Wiltzius (@wiredforflight) – sent in a comment that turned into this post.

The Winnebago Flying Club has been around since 1978, after the merger of two other clubs.  It currently has 28 active members and flies a 1972 Cessna 172L that’s been upgraded with GPS, said Wiltzius.  “We keep our aircraft up to date.  We believe in having a quality aircraft and keeping things  simple,” he said.  “Our membership ranges from people in college up right up to our president, who is retired. We have three CFIs and one designated examiner.”

The club wanted to do something in the area of new member recruitment and show people what they can do with a pilot certificate, said Wiltzius. “My friend Tom and his wife wanted to do a fun flight somewhere. His wife has early onset dementia, so we wanted to do something where she’d enjoy it and get something out of it,” he recalled.

They had many memories in Door County, Wis., which has beautiful foliage, said Wiltzius.  “So I came up with the idea to fly over the foliage and do a video for Tom and our club,” he said.

The results were amazing, both for the passenger and the club. “Tom’s wife was nearly in tears being able to see her old stomping grounds by air. She was thrilled and excited to see the area from a different angle,” said Wiltzius. “It brought back so many good memories for her and the colors were amazing. It was a magical time.”

Once the video was ready, Wiltzius used social media to get the word out. “Twitter and Facebook are our primary means, but we did do an email blast to our members as well,” he said. “I’m a big fan of social networking. Our membership is aging and social media is a great way to attract new and younger members and get them excited about GA.”

The club wants to show the beauty and magic of aviation in a social and non-negative way, said Wiltzius, and that’s not limited to Winnebago County.  “If I can get someone in Chicago to get excited about flying, that’s great.  They don’t have to join our club,” he stated.  “We just want them to become advocates for GA or even become a pilot. It’s all about joining the family that is aviation.”

You can view the Winnebago Flying Club’s video below. 

AOPA Flying Club Network Facebook Group Takes Off

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Last week at the AOPA Aviation Summit, our new Center to Advance the Pilot Community announced it was creating a network of flying clubs as part of a long-term initiative to facilitate flying club growth, which, in turn, will help grow the pilot population.  Center Senior Vice President Adam Smith did a PowerPoint presentation, “Special Interest Education: AOPA Flying Club Network,” to show benefits including the ability to share information and resources.

A mere week after starting the AOPA Flying Club Network Facebook group, we’re already at 639 (sorry, make that 644) members and growing.  The group was created to start a conversation among flying clubs and those who want to start or join a flying club, and what a conversation it’s been so far.  Topics already covered include:

  • Templates/models to create a club;
  • Aircraft used by flying clubs
  • Financing and insurance;
  • Setting club dues;
  • Attracting new members;
  • What members expect from clubs; and
  • Finding the time to fly.

So join the Facebook group, pass along your Twitter handle for our flying clubs list, and go here to join our email list to be updated on the latest news and events within AOPA’s Flying Club initiative.

Wish lists and budget buys

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Super Decathalon

My dream aircraft!

On my commercial flight to AOPA Aviation Summit, I started daydreaming about the products that would be on display in the exhibit hall. If my purse had no limit, I thought, what would I buy? Immediately, I thought of a new pair of headsets. I’ve been borrowing a pair for almost a year now after my signature blue Sigtronics that I’ve had for 12 years started to interfere with communication. Then, I started making a wish list of everything else. List in hand, I set out in the exhibit hall with two budgets in mind: unlimited and a more realistic $500 limit.

Product

Unlimited budget

$500 budget

Airplane

I’ve been weak in the knees ever since I saw 5G Aviation’s fire-engine red Super Decathlon in the Parade of Planes on Oct. 10. So, I headed straight to the exhibitor outside the Palm Springs Convention Center to inquire. For $175,000, the base airplane would be mine; plus, I’d purchase two $1,995 training sessions from them to finish off my tailwheel endorsement and take an unusual attitude recovery class.

I’d buy a Cirrus SR22 for my distance-flying machine. That costs $449,900.

Subscription to Trade-A-Plane. I’m on a 10-year savings plan to buy a used aircraft, so Trade-A-Plane will help educate me on the market. A one-year subscription costs $9.95.

Headsets

Headsets are very personal items. I tried out David Clark, Lightspeed, Bose, and Clarity Aloft headsets in the exhibit hall. The Clarity Aloft headsets interested me because they wrap around the back of my head and fit inside my ears. Traditional headsets typically start hurting the top of my head after about two hours of flying. If I had an unlimited budget, I’d buy one from each headset manufacturer, fly around with them, and then pick my favorite.

I’d buy the tried and true David Clark H10-30 headset with passive noise attenuation for $270. David Clark will repair anything that breaks or goes wrong with the headsets—for free, no questions asked. Even though they don’t have active noise canceling, they are comfortably quiet.

Navigation

Garmin aera 796 portable GPS—oh, the luxury of not folding and unfolding a sectional a million different ways. The aera 796 costs $2,499.

I would enter every raffle exhibitors at Summit were offering to win a free iPad. Then I’d wait a few weeks for AOPA’s FlyQ EFB to be released and buy the VFR plus IFR subscription for $119.

Aviation adventure

Air Race Classic 2013—four days of flying over 2,133 nautical miles. The adventure costs $6,000 per team.

I’d live vicariously through The Aviators. I can buy a season on DVD for $20.

Sunglasses

Scheyden talked me into trying on their Albatross line, which costs $209. I have an older pair of Scheydens that have served me well. They’ve lasted three years so far, a remarkable feat for someone who has stepped on and rolled a nosewheel over sunglasses before.

Hazebuster exhibited some stylish sunglasses at Summit that range in price from $38 to $115.