Archive for the ‘Crossover Classics’ Category

Debonair Sweeps: It’s Official:New N-number!

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

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?


The Crossover Classic at EAA AirVenture

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Judging by the response, I’d say that 2011’s sweepstakes Cessna 182 is perhaps the most popular of all the airplanes AOPA has given away. This opinion comes via my experience standing by the sweeps Skylane for nearly seven full days at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin–an event that took place from July 25-31. In that time, I can’t tell you how many members stopped by to ogle the airplane. All were stoked by the prospect of winning it.

So what were the most common remarks? The airplane’s max cruise speed (162 KTAS) of course. But Saircorp’s center console drew a lot of admiration, as did the custom leather interior fashioned by sweeps veteran contributor Air Mod. Saircorp wasn’t at Oshkosh, but they should have been. They could have sold dozens of their modular, multifunctional consoles. Go to to see the company’s full range of offerings. The paint scheme and paint job were big hits too. Especially for those who saw the bad old, oxidized-to-the-max original paint job at Sun N’ Fun back in April.

Anyway, setup went well, with the airplane off to the side of AOPA’s main tent. There were some rather large patches of bare dirt at our tiedown spot. It didn’t take a brainiac to figure out that any (inevitable) rain would turn all that into a mud pit, so it was off to Lowe’s to buy 14 bags of Cypress mulch. Didn’t think all that would fit in the trunk of my rental (a Ford Fusion) but it did–although we had a low-rider on the way back to the site, if you know what I mean.

Next stop: Walmart. This was the only store in town with a supply of “pool noodles.” Pool noodles are those long, floatable, flexible, cylindrical toys that you can, I don’t know, wrap around yourself when frolicking in a pool. I bought six. Hot pink. Anyway, at $2 a pop, they paid for themselves many times over. Here’s why: you slit the noodles from end to end, then jam the slits onto the wing trailing edges. Now you’ve got protection against people walking into the wings and suffering from head strikes. You know, those awkward hits that yield diamond-shaped imprints on your forehead. Anyone who’s been around Cessnas knows what I’m talking about. I saw several “saves” during the week.

The visitors came hot and heavy, and helping out with plane duty were Marsh, Dave Hirschman, Ian Twombly, Jill Tallman, and Mike Collins. As you might guess, the comments often showed patterns that focused on winning the plane. Here are the most common:

*Why don’t you just give me the keys right now and get it over with.

*Take care of “my” airplane.

*You don’t need to give it away. I’m going to win it.

*How much do I have to give you to make sure you draw my name?

*I’ve been a member for ____ (fill in the blank) years, and never won. This time I’ll get it.

*What’s the retail value of all the upgrades, with labor? Answer: Just north of $400,000.

*What will I pay in taxes if I win? Answer: Tough to tell. The plane is still a 1974 Cessna 182, and will most likely be valued at the high range in Vref/Bluebook terms–and with slim regard to the retail value of the add-ons. The IRS considers the sweepstakes airplane as either a gift or income, depending on who you listen to. In any event, the tax bill should correspond to your tax bracket. If you’re in the 30-percent bracket, then you’ll pay 30-percent of its determined value. Bottom line: get a tax expert to help you here.

And on and on. After you’ve heard the comments long enough they become a platform for some pretty good jokes, and much good humor. In all, it was a great week. We got to meet members and press the flesh. The members got to lay hands on The Object Of Their Desire. A gust front with 65-mph winds did its best to wreck one day, but the airplane survived in good shape. But with a nice coating of dirt.

When you work airshows and stand by a sweepstakes airplane you get to see some odd things. Some are disconcerting when you think about all the work and time that went into the project. To channel my angst, I created a “Rain-man”-style ‘injury book” to document the insults to our/your proud Crossover Classic. Here are some entries:

*People keep trying to force open the baggage door, even though it’s locked. Result: sprung door latch, and a sign taped over the latch saying Please Don’t Touch. I’ll try to get a new latch assembly, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

*One guy pulled the airworthiness certificate, registration, radio station license, and POH out of their pockets and began reading them over. “I wanted to see what year it was” he explained.

*Someone stepped on the left main gear leg fairing, causing a scratch and a crease. This will be fixed shortly.

*A couple visitors saw fit to put their kids in the pilot’s seat. The kids were way too young to know what was going on, and yes, one of them had an ice cream cone.

*Several kids stood on the left wheel fairing.

*One guy pulled the prop through

As far as I know, AOPA is the only exhibitor who lets visitors get so up close and personal with its airplanes. After all, it will be given away, and showing off the airplane is a big part of the popular involvement with the sweepstakes. We won’t change that policy, but jeez, go easy on the old bird! After all, the next stop in the airplane’s itinerary is Hartford, Connecticut, where N182CX will be given away to a lucky winner.

We’ll see you there, between September 22 and 24!

AmSafe’s air bag-seatbelts

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Just a quick note before we head out to EAA AirVenture tomorrow.

The AmSafe air bag-seatbelts have been installed, just in time for the big show! Here’s how the system breaks down:

The air bag portion of the assembly is in the lap belt. The G-sensor unit and the inflation bottles (one per seat) are mounted beneath the floor. Should the airplane experience a 9-G deceleration within 45 milliseconds or so, the sensor trips the bottles and their helium-argon gas charges are sent to the air bags. These inflate, causing the seams of the lap belt to break open, and releasing the air bags. The rectangular-shaped air bags then inflate to protect an area that extends from above the front-seat occupants’ heads to their waists. This way, the head and torso are prevented from striking the glareshield, instrument panel, control yokes, and other interior elements. The air bags remain inflated for three to five seconds, then gradually deflate (the bags are made of a porous material).

The AmSafe system runs approximately $3,800 for the Cessna 182. Installations in other airplanes vary–for example, the Cessna 172’s system runs $3,200. Installtion time is six to eight hours. As for maintenance, the system must be checked annually (using an on-board diagnostic test port); the EMA (electronic module assembly, or G-sensing unit) must be refurbished every seven years; the EMA’s life limit is 14 years; and there’s a 10-year life limit on the inflation bottles.

For more information–and a video of the air bags in action–go to

Here’s a shot of the belts just before they were installed:

The lap belts are to the left and right, with the shoulder harnesses and inflation hoses in the center.

New seat rails … vital, but …

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

The infamous Cessna “seat-slip” accidents of the 1970s and early 1980s prompted a recurring Airworthiness Directive to inspect the seat rails for wear. If the holes in those rails were elongated from wear, then disaster could strike.

The seat’s locking pins could slide out of the holes. This could produce fatal consequences on takeoff, when seats slid back as the airplane entered a climb attitude. What happened next is anybody’s guess. Most likely the pilot instinctively grabbed the control yoke in an attempt to pull himself forward. The result was a low-altitude stall.

The Crossover Classic was given new seat rails, thanks to McFarlane Aviation Products of Baldwin City, Kansas. That was a significant safety improvement. The new rails have nice, round holes that grip the seat locking pins firmly. And there are secondary seat stops farther aft on the rails, which serve as a backup.

In one blog I said that adding the new seat rails did away with the AD requiring inspections every 100 hours. I was wrong, McFarlane said. Though new seat rails may provide peace of mind, that 100-hour recurring inspection still stands. But I suspect that it will be quite some time before the freshly-installed rails will show any signs of wear.

In other news, the sweeps Skylane is being readied for its voyage to EAA AirVenture, which takes place from July 25-31 at Wittman Field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I’m planning on leaving the morning of Friday, July 22. Here’s hoping N182CX realizes its potential of  160-knot cruise speeds along the way! Those interested can check the ship’s progress on

Finishing touches, part deux

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

We’re still not done! Just when you thought that nothing more could possibly be added, still more tweaks and improvements have been made to the Crossover Classic. When will this end? Probably right up to the time we hand the keys over to the lucky winner.

Some of you may recall that the airplane’s full-fuel payload amounted to a mere 353 pounds–as of a weighing that took place in May. You can thank the extra 24 gallons (worth 144 pounds) in the tip tanks for taking such a big bite out of the payload.

To the rescue came Trolltunes, Inc.’s gross-weight increase supplemental type certificate (STC). By adding the Trolltune STC, max gross takeoff weight jumps 150 pounds–from the stock 182P’s 2,950 pounds to the latest and greatest MTOW of 3,100 pounds. Presto! With a little bit of paperwork the airplane is now graced with a 503-pound full-fuel payload. Now two people and bags can make full use of the airplane’s speed and range. For this, I’d suggest climbing to altitude, dialing back the power a tad, and perhaps using the Mountain High oxygen system to take advantage of tailwinds.

The Trolltune STC does come with some limitations. For example, with the Cobham/S-TEC System Fifty-Five X autopilot aft limits of the center of gravity envelope moves forward one inch. But I’ve done sample loading problems and find this isn’t a grave problem unless you’ve loaded the aft baggage compartment to the max.

The other limitation gives the airplane a maximum landing weight. That weight is 2,950 pounds–the max takeoff weight of the stock Cessna 182P. So if you take off weighing 3,100 pounds, you’d have to fly around long enough to burn off that extra 150 pounds in order to land. Land heavier than 2,950 pounds, and the STC requires an inspection of the landing gear. In all, those limitations are small prices to pay for the extra payload. Do you agree? I thought so.

In other news, AmSafe’s seat-belt airbags are being installed on the two front seats. Let there be no doubt: The AmSafe belts give the Crossover Classic a big safety advantage. Which, of course, we hope no one ever realizes. The AmSafe air bag is enclosed in the lap belt portion of the assembly. On-board sensors detect sudden decelerations, and then the bags inflate, preventing the front seat occupants’ heads, necks, and torsos  from striking the instrument panel and control yokes. The belts meet the 16-g deceleration protection standards set down in FAR Parts 25 and 121.

Air Mod, an AmSafe installation facility and interior shop located at Batavia, Ohio’s Clermont County Airport, will be installing the AmSafe gear–as well as H3R Aviation’s halon fire extinguisher.

PS Engineering has added to the excitement by offering its latest version of its very popular PMA8000BT audio panel. The new version has its function buttons clearly labelled, making their use highly intuitive. The function buttons let you and/or your passengers listen to ATC, music, or intercom transmissions in any combination–plus make telephone calls via the unit’s Bluetooth capability. You’ll be hearing more from us about the PMA8000BT in upcoming reports in AOPA Pilot.

Well, that’s it for now. After N182CX gets its third oil change–and its first with Aeroshell 15W50 semi-synthetic ashless dispersant engine oil–it’s off to Air Mod for those AmSafe belts. With some 45 hours under its belt, the new engine’s oil level has stabilized at the 10-quart level. The time to make the switch from mineral oil to ashless dispersant has arrived!

Many thanks to PS Engineering, Trolltune, AmSafe, and H3R Aviation for these late-breaking, excellent improvements.

Finishing Touches

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

I’ve been reading all the posts, and it seems that everybody is of the same mind. The unwavering thread is something to the effect that “It’s mine. Just send it to me at the KXYZ airport. I like/hate [take your pick] the paint job but will accept the Crossover Classic without any conditions.” It’s a refrain we hear each year, and which brings a smile to every AOPA staffer’s face. Hey, we’d keep it too, but the sweeps rules won’t let us!

But wait! No one can have it yet! That’s because we’re still making some final tweaks. For example, we’re performing a complete logbook review. All those STCs and other work must be documented properly–and we’re making sure that all is shipshape. We’ve learned from experience that a 20-, 30-, or 40-year-old airplane can have logbooks that leave a lot to be desired. And a lot to the imagination. (The worst is when an airframe or engine logbook is missing.) So this will take a few more days to complete.

Item number two: AmSafe’s seat belt/airbags have yet to be installed. This will take place at Air Mod, located at the Clermont County Airport in Batavia, Ohio (you know, where Sporty’s is located). The two front seats will get the AmSafe belts, and we’re glad about that. AmSafe’s belts are a great safety enhancement.

Item number three: The JP Instruments EDM-930 engine data monitor has been sent back to that company. JPI will change the EDM-930 default settings to show the airplane’s new N-number, plus load the 182’s total airframe and new-engine (the Continental IO-550 installed at Air Plains Services in Wellington, Kansas) times. Now any mechanic can push the 930’s buttons and up will come the correct TTAE (total time, airframe and engine) information.

The EDM-930 is also having its electrical gauges recalibrated. The airplane has a 60-ampere/hour alternator from Plane Power (thanks very much) but the 930 showed red load exceedances when the electrical load hit 32 amps. That threshold is being moved up to reflect the system’s current safe load capacity.

Item number four: Landmark Aviation at our home field–the Frederick Municipal Airport in Frederick, Maryland–has re-rigged the airplane.

Item number five: The leather seats will be cleaned. During an airshow, the seats pick up drool from the curious (just kidding) and grime that sifts out of the sky (not kidding)–and from hundreds of hands caressing the custom, leather-covered seats (thanks Garrett Leather). I was going to say “rich, Corinthian leather,” but that would be over the top. Hey wait, maybe it is Corinthian leather! Where’s Ricardo Montalban when you need him? Anyway, the seats will be cleaned.

So that’s the latest. All these changes will be completed before EAA AirVenture, so you can see them at Oshkosh–which runs from July 25-31. More news as it happens! And be sure to check out the July issue of AOPA Pilot. Your airplane will be on the cover, and the accompanying story will once more list all the project’s many fine contributors.

Vive la difference

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

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.

Let the painting begin!

Monday, April 25th, 2011

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

Stripped and mummified

Once more, we’ve chosen to go with Vantage Plane Plastics’ replacement plastic. Vantage, at, 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

All the hard work is done

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

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!

Sun ‘N Fun Aftermath – Blown Alternator CB!

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Thanks for all the notes about the Sweeps 182’s fate during the March 31 tornado event at Sun ‘N Fun. The airplane survived in fine shape–more than you can say about a lot of airplanes on the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport that day.

But there was a catch. On the last day of the show–as with all such large fly-ins–the exhibit airplanes are towed and/or pulled manually out of the exhibit area. The result is a traffic jam because everyone wants to get out of there asap. So there I was waiting for the airshow to finish and the red flag to descend–meaning that the field was now open, and taxiing for takeoff could begin. (All I wanted to do was cross the active, taxi over to the FBO, and get ready for a departure the next morning.)

The plane started fine, but then, uh oh. The 60-ampere Alternator circuit breaker popped! I was on battery, stuck in a conga line that wasn’t budging, and watching my battery indicator dropping through 11 volts. No way was I going to reset the CB and risk further problems.

Long story short: I made it to the other side, had AeroMech’s mechanics look at the charging system, and waited for the verdict.

“The voltage regulator was full of water,” said AeroMech’s Ken Willaford. “I took it out, shook it, and water came out. So I blew it and the rest of the engine compartment out with compressed air, started it up, and everything worked fine.”

The next day I took off–bound for the paint shop. Three hours and change later, I was at Boss Aircraft Refinishers at Salisbury, North Carolina’s Rowan County Airport (KRUQ). Bill Lucey took the keys, and I was outa there.

Anybody else out there been waterlogged like that?

So now, let the painting begin! And brother, does this airplane need a new paint job. Look for more updates on the stripping of the bad old paint and the application of the new paint job over the coming weeks.

Sweeps at Sun ‘N Fun, Cont’d

Friday, April 1st, 2011

The Sweeps plane the day after the supercell—no damage!

The claw held!

My post yesterday was rudely interrupted by the massive supercell thunderstorm complex that rolled through the Sun ‘N Fun grounds. As I was typing, a gust of wind blew open the back of AOPA’s tent–right behind me. Now I had an in-person view of the torrential rain and monumental winds. And a thorough soaking. Then a gust blew down a stack of water bottles, so I was surrounded by oh, maybe four dozen 24-packs of “Silver Springs” water. Then the power went out. So I disconnected and evacuated to the Florida Air Museum with other AOPA staff.

Now, back to the Crossover Classic’s fate. The good news is: NO DAMAGE! (There is no bad news). I watched the airplane from the tent for a while, and it rocked a good bit, but the tiedowns held. Those tiedowns–known as “The Claw”–are held into the ground by three angled pins. And they worked. Many other airplanes on the field didn’t fare as well, as I’m sure you’ve seen in the coverage on AOPA’s website. So bravo for The Claw. And good luck played a big part, too, I’m sure.

The inside of the sweeps plane.

I also credit our good fate to the strength of our new tent, and the blocking effect it–and Pilot Mall store behind us–exerted on the damaging wind flows from the west. All’s well that ends well!

I’m sending along some iPhone snapshots of the 182’s interior–and one of The Claw tiedown points–because several of you asked to get a glimpse. Sorry about the quality. Better photography will follow!
For the record, the Lakeland Linder Airport experienced a confirmed EF-1 tornado. The “EF” stands for “enhanced Fujita,” and the “1” is a damage designator. According to the EF scale, an EF-1 tornado will cause “moderate damage. Rooves can be snapped, mobile homes overturned, exterior doors lost, and windows and other glass broken.” The National Weather Service might also add, “tied-down airplanes flipped, torn loose of their moorings, and light airplanes crushed.” Storm winds in an EF-1 tornado run from 86-110 mph. The NWS recorded a downburst gust yesterday at 75 mph. Well above takeoff speed for most of the airplanes on display here.

Sweep's Seat!