Dream machine: Passionate aviator lets his airplane do the talking

November 21st, 2013 by Dan Pimentel

From those very first days when we hung on an airport fence staring at strange but wonderful machines flying overhead, we aviators have allowed our passion for flying to manifest in many ways. This enthusiasm we share is sometimes shown as spectacular accomplishments on the national stage.

But while some have done something big to try and make our aviation family experience a tighter brand of camaraderie, someone else has done something that provides great satisfaction on more a personal level.

N1950B waiting for a flight at Eugene, Oregon's Mahlon Sweet Field

N1950B waiting for a flight at Eugene, Oregon’s Mahlon Sweet Field

What we ultimately do as aviators usually can be boiled down to one thing: People who have obtained the skills to aviate and have earned the privilege of being able to pilot airplanes above these Fruited Plains are an abundantly lucky sort of human. We are ecstatic for having achieved our dream to fly, and we are going to show everyone we meet just how cool our world has become now that we get to chase clouds across the sky.

And if passion and enthusiasm for aviation could be measured on some sort of gauge, I believe that tool would blow a fuse as it attempts to calculate the way Bob Walwyn of Eugene, Oregon feels about flying. But no such tool exists, so instead we must look inside Walwyn’s hangar to find the perfect specimen of an airplane that leaves zero doubt that this pilot is crazy in love with everything that our flying machines represent.

Yes, you need look no further than N1950B, Walwyn’s immaculate 1950 “B” model Beechcraft Bonanza, to see how off the charts one man’s ambitious quest for perfection can go when renovating a vintage airplane. We’ve all seen nice airplanes with nice paint jobs, a decent panel, and newer seats. We call them 10/10 ships, meaning both exterior and interior deliver maximum eye-popability. And using that scale, Walwyn’s ’50B has to come in around 25/25. It is that clean. It is a show plane. And it would take a long journey to find another 63-year-old V-tail that is more of a show-stopper than this beauty.

But the reasons Walwyn choose to pump so much new life into this very capable airframe is best described by Norris Wynn, his partner on the ‘Bo.

Bob Walwyn

“Bob is one of the most passionate aviators I’ve known in the GA community,” explains Wynn. “I joined him in N1950B after the renovation was completed, and the beauty of this airplane doesn’t stop with the avionics suite. During the renovation, Bob really did his homework with major decisions about powerplant, auxiliary fuel tanks, interior, paint, etc. Due to the Bonanza’s long production life, owners face a lot of options and STC’s. Bob was very methodical in looking at options and selecting what I believe to be the best ones for this particular vintage of the airplane. I flew professionally for 39 years as a military, corporate and airline pilot, but my beginning was in GA at 15 years old. My association with Bob and ‘50B has been one of the real pleasures in my retirement. It’s part of what makes being an aviator so special.”

Walwyn became a pilot in 1974 after receiving a most unusual birthday gift from his wife…a note that said “Start taking flying lessons” inside a box with 100 $1 bills. “That was the beginning,” he said, “and now, 40 years and five airplanes later, I have what I consider the “dream machine”.

Extensive does not begin to describe the renovation that has been completed on ’50B. The chain of events that began this project started with a minor prop strike on a maintenance flight by a previous partner in the airplane. “After my partner “touched” the runway with the propeller by retracting the gear early,” Walwyn said, “an engine teardown was mandated. We elected to replace the E225 engine with an IO-470N series engine to gain fuel injection and more horsepower. When this work was completed, both of my partners elected to sell me their interest and pursue other activities. This left me with the sole authority to determine work to be done on the airplane.”

After a health setback, Walwyn – who is known in the engineering world as “Techno Bob” –  set out to build his vision of what a well-equipped and safe IFR-certified 1950 Bonanza should look like, and he left no detail ignored in this renovation. The renovation was performed by Aviation Research Systems of Sandy, Oregon. SunQuest Air Specialties did the paint based on a design coordinated with Craig Barnett at Scheme Designers, and the interior was done by Cannon Aircraft Interiors. The front bench seat was replaced with individually adjustable bucket seats, BAS 3-point restraint seat belts and shoulder harnesses were installed, and the overhead air system from a V35B was modified and installed. The seats are fitted with Comfor-Foam®, which is really nice on longer trips.

The exterior, interior and engine compartment are all done to show quality standards. But the fact that ’50B has been parked in a position of importance outside the Aspen Avionics Hospitality Tent in the North 40 at Oshkosh for four years is a testament to the panel on this airplane, which is as beautiful as it is functional.

With more glass than a Swarovski Crystal store, switching the avionics masters in '50B to "On" results in a sea of checklists

With more glass than a Swarovski Crystal store, switching the avionics masters to “On” in ’50B results in a sea of checklists. It would be hard though to get lost in this airplane.

The foundation of the installation is the glass retrofit for certified aircraft from Aspen Avionics, but the wow factor really never ends as you study ’50B’s panel. It’s hard to get lost in this airplane with two Garmin GPS units – the GNS 530W and the GNS 430W, both steering the S-TEC 55X with altitude pre-select. Other equipment includes a virtual catalog of Garmin gear like a GTX 330 transponder, GMA 347 audio panel, GMX 200 multi-function moving map display and a pair of GI 106A ILS indicators. Oh, and let’s not forget the Radar Altimeter, AuRACLE Engine Management System and Guardian 553 Carbon monoxide monitor.

The engineering behind this panel installation is appreciated by Wynn, who has flown plenty of large, fast airplanes as a professional. “In selecting the avionics suite for the airplane,” Wynn says, “[Walwyn] had a keen eye for a well-integrated system. It’s easy to pick individual units that have nice features, but this airplane’s avionics work well together, much as we saw when we moved from “steam gauges” to “glass panels” in the airline equipment. All of the individual components “talk” to each other, passing data back and forth to give us a complete system. We fly quite a bit in the IFR environment, and ‘50B makes it a real pleasure.”

Bob Walwyn is a passionate pilot, a prime example of a man who has enjoyed building the machine of his dreams. Sure, he has the impressive checkbook to make this project a reality, but even on first meeting, it is clear he is one of us…the kind of person you find out at the airport and instantly become best friends. He is not boastful about this creampuff of a Bonanza he and Wynn are lucky enough to fly around in, because he doesn’t have to be.

“I think ’50B speaks to my passion for aviation better than anything I could say,” Walwyn says with a grin. And after one look at this airplane, you know that is true.

Dan Pimentel

Dan Pimentel has worked in journalism and graphic design since 1979, and is the president and art director of Celeste/Daniels Advertising and Design Inc. He's an instrument-rated private pilot and owns a Piper Cherokee 235. He has been blogging as Av8rdan since 2005 and writes the Airplanista Aviation Blog.

The opinions expressed by the bloggers do not reflect AOPA’s position on any topic.