So far, the sweepstakes Debonair goes by N232L. That’s OK, but we needed to put a little more spark in the registration number. Something that would resonate with the notion of a sweepstakes. AOPA has done this with each of its past sweepstakes airplanes, so last December yours truly searched for a catchy N-number.
This entails going on the FAA’s registry website and plugging in the N-number(s) you wish you could have. And I tried a bunch. In all, I spent perhaps two hours thinking up cool N-numbers, submitting the requests, then almost immediately receiving the bad news: “N-number already in use.” When I reached burnout on this seemingly dead-end task, I asked the rest of the staff to take a whack at it.
Al Marsh rolled the dice and came up a winner. He picked a great N-number, and it wasn’t taken!
So I applied, paid the $10 registration fee, and the deed was done. When the airplane reaches the paint-job stage, it will have its paperwork changed and the new N-number will grace the fuselage. It will be N232L no more.
It will be N75YR
What’s the significance? Well, the Debonair will be given away at AOPA Summit in Palm Springs in 2014. That year happens to be AOPA’s 75th anniversary, hence “75YR.” Pretty cool, no?
A new paint job makes all the difference. That goes double for an airplane with an original paint job as deteriorated as the Crossover Classic’s was. Earlier this week, I picked up the newly-painted sweepstakes Skylane from BOSS Aircraft Refinishers. I know some of you have criticised the “swoopy” paint scheme, but the final product looks great. You can look at a paint scheme on a piece of paper, but that’s certainly no match for seeing a new paint job in the flesh.
After a two-hour flight from BOSS’ shop at Salisbury, North Carolina’s Rowan County Airport, the airplane is now hangared at AOPA’s home base at the Frederick, Maryland Municipal Airport. There are a couple more stops on its journey to completion, but for the most part the restoration is finished. Look for more coverage and more photos in the July issue of AOPA Pilot magazine. And the airplane will be on the cover (we did the air-air photography last night, and the photos do it justice). Oh, and there are more blogs in the pipeline as well.
Now I have to go clean bugs off the leading edges. I’ll be baaack, as Arnold would say.
OK, I have been reading all your comments (thanks so much for following along, hope you like it), and while I can’t guarantee that any one of you will win “your” airplane, I can say this: Elvis–er, the Crossover Classic–has left the building. The Air Mod building that is. The interior has been completed, and photos and more coverage of this excellent effort will soon be posted–and published in AOPA Pilot.
A couple of items need to be mentioned. Everyone dwells on the major components of an interior overhaul, but don’t forget the detail items that may not be immediately apparent. For example, beat-up, faded plastic parts. Would yellowed plastic panels on the doors or A-, B-, and C-pillars show up against the backdrop of a brand-new leather interior? You bet they would! Like a sore thumb! That’s why anyone considering an interior renovation should yank out the old plastic (and there are a LOT of interior plastic parts) and replace it with new components.
Stripped and mummified
Once more, we’ve chosen to go with Vantage Plane Plastics’ replacement plastic. Vantage, at www.planeplastics.com, makes interior plastic kits for a wide range of GA airplanes. It’s their specialty. We’ve used Vantage’s plastic parts in our 2004 Twin Comanche “Win-A-Twin” sweepstakes airplane, as well as our 2006 Cherokee Six “Win A Six in ’06″ sweeps project airplane.
Another neat detail-that’s-a-big deal is Saircorp’s rudder pedal extensions. These fit over the stock rudder pedals and give you more rudder authority–especially when your legs are on the short side and you’re facing a sporty crosswind landing. You can check them out at www.saircorp.com.
All the hard work is done
And now, in breaking news, I can report that the airplane is now at Boss Aircraft Refinishers at Salibury, North Carolina’s Rowan County Airport–and its nasty old paint job has been stripped off! I am personally elated. Any of you who have seen the plane in person can testify to the deteriorated condition of the original paint job. Well, it’s gone.
Bill Lucey, head of Boss Aircraft Refinishers, said that the stripping did pose some challenges. The old lacquer-based paint doesn’t exactly slough off like newer polyurethane paints. “With polyurethane, the day after you hit the plane with the stripping agent you can hear the paint coming off,” he said. “It’s like ‘splat, splat, splat’–you can hear it from the next room.”
Down to the bare frame
But with lacquer, it’s a different story. Lacquer does slide off a little bit, Lucey says. But mainly it turns into a goo that resembles “burnt cheese.” (I’m still trying to imagine what that looks like). Anyway, the burnt cheese needs to be hit repeatedly with stipper, blown off with a high-pressure sprayer, scrubbed with Scotchbrite, and washed and rewashed in order to coax all that goo off the airplane.
Now, the red goo is no more. In its place is a bare, all-aluminum exterior. And while the ship is far from its final coat of paint, its appearance is greatly improved. It sure looks a whae of a lot better than before!
Next up: Application of the white base coat, the masking of the paint scheme, the application of the paint scheme, and the clearcoat finish. Stay tuned!
After three days on display at Sun ‘N Fun, we’ve had a chance to sample the opinions voiced by visitors to the Crossover Classic. Most of the comments seem to dwell on the issue of the paint job–the current paint job, that is. People are tactful and polite, so the questions are always carefully posed. Maybe they don’t want to offend.
Anyway, a common question will come as an oblique reference. For example, people will say “Is this the paint scheme you’ll be using?” Or “Do you like the original paint scheme?” There is universal relief when they’re told that the airplane’s next stop is Boss Aircraft Refinishers of Salisbury, North Carolina, where a new paint job awaits.
The current paint issues–vast areas of cracking, flaking, and major-league fading–have to do with the lacquer-based paints used by Cessna in the early 1970s. In short, lacquer paint jobs don’t age well. But the new Sherwin-Williams paint that we’ll be using at Boss Aircraft Refinishers will be much more durable of course.
Some have remarked on the difference between the current N-number on the airplane and the N-number being shown on the paint scheme rendition. Why the discrepancy? Because we’ll be renaming the airplane to N182CX when it is painted. The “CX” is our way of conveying the “Crossover” concept. And yes, I tried to obtain N-numbers from the FAA that ended in “CC” or “XC,” but no cigar. Those were all taken. So N182CX it will be.
There’s a lot of gawking at the panel and interior, completed by Advantage Avionics and Air Mod, respectively. But the Saircorp/Flight Boss Ltd. center console came in for its share of interest. Several visitors wrote down the company name, and a few took the time to go to the company’s website on their smartphones. Looks like a few sales might well be in the offing.
Sometimes, people checking out a sweepstakes airplane do quirky things. I can’t tell you how many times people have squeezed the leather seats, or rubbed their hands over the new carpeting. The leather was provided by the Garrett Leather Company of Buffalo, New York (www.garrettleather.com) and the carpeting came thanks to Aircraft Interior Products of Wichita, Kansas (www.aipsource.com)
And now for a little reportage. As I write this, I’m in the back of the AOPA tent at Sun ‘N Fun, and the convective weather preditions for today are coming true. The skies have lowered, darkened ominously, and surface winds have been gusting well past 35 knots. On my “Radarscope” iPhone app, I can see that steeply-contoured precipitation returns are overhead. The winds are so strong that the sides of the tent are blowing back and forth, so much so that a stack of bottled water has fallen over, landing right behind me.
….. Paint job number three! By an overwhelming margin, with more than 1,200 votes, you chose a swoopy, white-on-red design over the other three choices. Readers’ comments were, um, interesting, as you can see by checking into your responses to our blog postings. Some of the more amusing involved the tree on the vertical stabilizer in paint concept choice #1, and the stars on the tail of #2.
Since the clear winner was #3, so be it. Even though some have likened it to–of all things–a fishing lure, we’re going ahead with it. Thanks again to Scheme Designers for all their work coming up with a multitude of paint schemes, some of them wilder than you can imagine.
And just a quick note about the interior progress. Right now, Air Mod is sewing the leather seat coverings to the seat frames, installing the leather sidewalls and carpet, and embroidering the Crossover Classic logo on the front seat backs. We’re posting a couple of photos showing the quality of Air Mod’s embroidery, as well as a glimpse of the sidewalls’ red accent trim. What you can’t see, however, are the Bubinga wood inserts that will grace the side panels and armrest areas. More on that later!