Archive for the ‘Crossover Classics’ Category

Avionics countdown

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Here I am at Advantage Avionics, where the Crossover Classic’s panel is getting its final touches. Barring the unforeseen–and the weather–the plan is for me to leave the airport here at Chino, California on Friday January 28. The route? Still noodling with that. Direct Albuquerque, then direct Wichita sounds doable. More on the final plans later, when the winds and weather are better defined.

As for the panel, it’s a knockout. I can’t wait to see it at work…..which will be tomorrow, if today’s predicted Santa Ana winds kick up. Right now, the installation staff is plugging in the 182’s V-speeds, aligning the AHRS (attitude and heading reference system), and plugging some pitot-static leaks. Seems the last pitot-static inspection left a lot to be desired. The leaks in the pitot-static system reached a level worth 1,400-fpm!

Tomorrow will also be activation day for the XM WX datalink weather, and during the test flights I’ll have a chance to check out the G500’s electronic charts. These include Garmin’s SafeTaxi airport diagrams, plus their ChartView arrival, approach, and departure charts. Garmin’s GTS 800 traffic advisory system will also no doubt be given a workout in the airspace around Chino.

There are always potential glitches in the best of plans, and in this case it’s the airplane’s heavy right wing. A re-rigging sounds definitely in order, and I certainly hope it doesn’t take long to perform. In any event, there’s plenty to see at Chino. There’s a Paris Jet in the Advantage hangar, getting its new G600, an F33 Bonanza getting the GTS800, an F90 King Air getting a dual G600 installation, and a new Robinson R44 being fitted with Garmin’s G500H–the helicopter version of the straight G500. Hmmm, this is news! I’m told this is the first-ever, testbed installation of a G500H. Does this mean it will be featured at the upcoming Helicopter Association International show in Orlando, from March 5-8? We’ll soon find out.

Then there’s the Planes of Fame museum on the field. If I have a chance, I’ll swing by for a look.

Check back tomorrow for a rundown of the flight checks. That’s all for today!

The Mark Krueger story

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Mark Krueger heads up Advantage Avionics, and as I’ve said before his shop came highly recommended. By both Garmin and previous customers. So what’s the key to Krueger’s success? Enthusiasm and motivation top the list.

Back in 1992, Krueger began working in a business you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with a career track in avionics. He installed car stereos and alarm systems. He knew nothing about airplanes back then, but the bug bit when the owner of a Piper Cherokee came by the shop. He wanted to know if Krueger would install a stereo in his airplane. That job got him hanging around airports, and he developed an interest in learning to fly. By 1999 he’d earned his private pilot certificate, then came his multi-engine rating.

He walked away from the car business and developed his avionics acumen by working at several avionics shops in southern California, and in April 2003 he opened up Advantage Avionics. Now he installs 15 to 20 full-blown panel overhauls per year–many of them involving G500s. He has six full-time employees, three of which specialize in installations.

He also has a 1965 Cherokee Six–which looks a great deal like the “Win-A-Six” Cherokee Six that AOPA gave away in our 2006 sweepstakes. Needlesss to say, his has a top-notch panel and a brand-new interior that features video screens in the headrests. Kruger’s Six is parked in Advantage’s large service hanger, and if you stand outside you can see some of the Chino Airport’s unique attractions. These include warbird restoration specialists Aero Trader and Allied Fighters, plus the Planes of Fame museum.

When asked to elaborate on his success, Krueger came right to the point. “I have a marketing background, so I know how to promote the business on our website and other ways, plus I’m very energetic and enthusiastic. A lot of avionics shops don’t make the extra effort to get business, and in this downturn a lot of them just burned out. But I just keep on plugging away,” he said. In a refurbishment project like the Crossover Classic, it’s nice to have Krueger and his team aboard. Two more weeks and the panel will be finished for all to see!

Avionics on track

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

The sweeps 182 is now into its fourth week at Advantage Avionics, a shop located at the Chino, California airport. While almost all of the new avionics components are at Advantage, the panel still is in its gutted stage. The work these days is focused on installing the many antennas and airframe-mounted components that will serve the Garmin G500, the Garmin GTS800 traffic advisory system, the Cobham/S-TEC System Fifty-Five X autopilot and flight control system, and the new comm radios.

“The panel work comes last,” says Advantage’s Mark Krueger. “We have a lot of boxes still to install,  but we’re closing in on the last of them.”

The accompanying photo shows two of those boxes. The photo is of the interior, aft of where the rear seats would be. The large box on the left is the GTS800’s processor unit–the one that detects nearby transponder returns and generates warning symbology on the G500. To its right is the Garmin GDL69A datalink receiver, which handles inbound signals for depicting XM WX satellite weather information.

But there’s something else about this photo. I want you to look at the interior of that tailcone. It is as bright and corrosion-free as the day it left the factory, back in 1974. This is a quite remarkable state of preservation. And, frankly, it’s the main reason we purchased N52832.  When we bought it, the panel was ancient, the paint was shot, the interior was dreadful, and the engine had seen better days.
New Avionics

But in restoration projects like the ones AOPA performs for its sweepstakes airplanes, none of that matters. All those items can be replaced or otherwise improved upon. But corrosion? That’s a deal-killer. Repairing corrosion–or even worse, replacing corroded parts–is too costly and time-consuming for a 10-month upgrade project. Then there’s the ugly fact that’s the title of a Neil Young album: Rust Never Sleeps. You may think you’ve fixed corrosion, but chances are it’ll be back.

We sure didn’t want that. So a sight like that tailcone interior was a green light to go ahead and buy N52832.

“Canoe” wheel pants out, K2U pants in

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Several of you have remarked on the Crossover Classic’s wheel pants. These pants, sometimes called “canoe” pants, were installed on older Cessna 182s–but midway through the 1974 model year Cessna replaced them with more modern-looking designs. Obviously, our sweepstakes 182 came out early in the 1974 production run, because it has the early-style wheel fairings.

Seems that you either love ’em or hate ’em. I’ve heard people say they look sleek. I’ve heard people say they look aerodynamic. And I’ve also heard people say they date the airplane, or just plain look weird. Most of the chatter around the office–and on the street–seems to line up behind the “dated and weird” opinions. Moreover, I’ve heard Cessna experts say that while the old fairings may look sleek, they actually aren’t. The more bulbous designs of recent years, on the other hand, actually are aerodynamically efficient. To the tune of adding a couple knots to cruise speeds.

Enter Knots2U (“K2U”) of Burlington, Wisconsin. Knots2U has been in the business of providing speed-enhancing aftermarket wheel fairings and many other fiberglass parts for years. You can check them out at . Knots2U’s John Bailey kindly offered a set of his STC’d gear fairings for the sweeps 182, and we’re hoping to pick up a few knots as a result. The fairings look good, too, and have some important advantages. One is an access door that lets you air up the tires without removing the fairings. Ditto access to the brake assemblies. Even if you do have to remove the fairings, it’s easy. That’s because the fairings are assembled in two pieces. This means you don’t have to jack up the plane or remove the tires in order to remove the fairings.

K2U is also providing new wing strut fairings. These will replace the cracked and worn fairings at the wing strut attach points.

Other badly-needed replacements fiberglass parts will come from Willy Stene of Stene Aviation (, who is supplying wing root, stabilizer tip, elevator tip, and dorsal fin fairings, along with a new tailcone and vertical fin cap. It’s also providing a new landing gear-to-fuselage strut fairing. This is a fairing that’s subjected to a lot of stress, and prone to cracking.

So who says fairings aren’t important to a restoration? You can fix everything else up, but even a casual glance will zero in on discolored, cracked, or otherwise beat-up fairings. Thanks to K2U and Stene for joining the Crossover Classic rejuvenation.

Gut, then Modernize

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

I always get unnerved by those in-progress photos you see of instrument panel restorations. I mean, there are wires everywhere, none of the old instruments in sight, and the appearance is one of total chaos. Will they ever be able to put the panel back together again? Or will the technicians throw up their hands one day and take a long lunch?

Old spaghetti gone! The panel awaits the G500, and much more

Not to worry. Advantage Avionics of Chino, California has things under control–although the accompanying photos make you wonder. Advantage has done more than 25 Garmin G500 installations, and that makes them the most experienced G500-retrofit shop in the nation. Annually, Advantage does more than 40 complete panel restorations of all kinds. So the Crossover Classic is in good hands.

This restoration, though, will be one of Advantage’s bigger projects, and it will be late January-early February before the job is done.

A close-up of the now-empty center stack. This is where the GNS 430s will be located.

Here’s why. The list of components to be installed is a lengthy one. Here goes: The two-tube G500 and its wing-mounted magnetometer, dual Garmin GNS 430s with WAAS capability (these feed navigation, terrain, and obstacle data to the G500), Garmin’s GTS800 active traffic advisory system, the Garmin GDL69A datalink receiver (for datalink weather from XM WX), Garmin’s GTX330 transponder, plus all the racks, antennas, and wiring to go along with all that gear. Then there’s the L-3 Trilogy ESI-1000 Standby Instrument System and the PS Engineering PMA8000B-T audio panel with Bluetooth capability. Am I forgetting anything? Oh yes, the Cobham/S-TEC System Fifty-Five X autopilot and flight control system. And a CO Guardian AERO 553 carbon monoxide detector.

Oh, and all the old wires will be chucked in the trash. It makes no sense to install the latest avionics, then hook them up to 40-year-old wiring.

All the components are of exemplary quality. The GTS800 deserves mention because it can report traffic conflicts anywhere. It’s a self-contained unit that reads nearby transponders for advisories. It doesn’t need ADS-B or TIS-B to do its job, so you’re not reliant on ADS-B-equipped aircraft or uplinked approach control radar for traffic information.

Stand by for more progress reports from Advantage Avionics. So far, all components have arrived at the shop–save the autopilot and the AERO 553. I’m working on getting new control yokes so that the autopilot and trim controls can be located within the yokes–rather than mounted on tabs, so wish me luck. Looks like we’ll have to buy a new set from Cessna or Van Bortel Aircraft at this point.

It will be slow going for a while, what with the holidays coming up, but as you can see, the work has begun. Let’s hang in there.

First flights flawless

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Air Plains Services, the engine conversion experts who installed the 300-hp IO-550 in our 2011 Crossover Classic sweepstakes airplane, has reached a milestone.

The engine’s first five flight hours have been logged, and the engine and EDM-930 engine data management unit both worked flawlessly. Now the airplane is cleared for the trip to AOPA Summit’s static display at the Long Beach/Daugherty Airport (LGB).

Yours truly will be at the helm. Accompanying me will be AOPA Pilot’s senior photographer Mike Fizer–and his 150 pounds of camera gear.

My checkout comes on Friday, November 5. Check back to see how that went, and when I launch early Saturday morning, November 6 check back for position reports along the “southern route” from Wellington, Kansas to the LA basin. I’ll be trying out the tracking function of my SPOT unit.

First engine run!

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Today’s a milestone—the key will turn on our 2011 Sweepstakes 182, and our new Continental IO-550’s 300 horses will come to life for the first time. Air Plains’ policy is to then fly the airplane five hours. In this time frame, there will be checks for any leaks or other squawks. At the same time, the airplane’s new JP Instruments EDM-930 engine data monitor will be checked thoroughly. With all the electrical lead feeding into the 930, that’s a lot of work. The 930 replaces the original engine gauges, and I’ll be glad to see them gone. The 930’s large, color screen shows much more than the stock airplane’s rather primitive instruments. This includes all engine parameters, plus fuel quantities in all four tanks, electrical system voltage and load, and propeller rpm.

After the five hours, the oil is drained and the oil filter removed. The oil is sent out for analysis–to check for trace metals that could indicate abnormal internal wear. The filter is cut open and its element stretched out and inspected for additional metal or other solid contaminants. The engine will run on mineral oil during the break-in period–about 25 hours of flying.

I’m set to show up at Air Plains on November 4, when I get a checkout in the rejuvenated airplane, and the next day is scheduled for my departure for Long Beach, California. That’s where the Crossover Classic (can I just say “CC” from now on?) will be at the airport’s static display. We’ll have the top cowling off so you can see the IO-550 in all its glory, so check it out.

By the way, I’ll be blogging all the way during the trip from Air Plains (at the Wellington, Kansas airport–KEGT) to Long Beach (LGB). So check back for progress reports. No way is the airplane set up for (legal) IFR flying, so I’m hoping for good wx all the way. So far, the wx forecast models are encouraging–as is the Farmer’s Almanac (just kidding–but I did look it over).

We’ll be using the southern route. That typically means passing by El Paso (ELP), then V94 to the Phoenix area, then V16 past the Blythe (BLH) and Palm Springs (PSP) VORs, then on to the Seal Beach (SLI) VOR for the arrival into LGB.

Though the CC is not suited for IFR, I will, however, ask for flight following–er, VFR Advisories–so the flight may well show up on as N52832. I’m also hoping to use my SPOT locator to mark our progress.

It won’t be a non-stop flight. I’ll be running the IO-550 hard, to help seat the piston rings and get a good break-in. That means a high fuel burn, so even with the full, 103 gallons aboard making it non-stop would be a challenge. Besides, I want to stop somewhere enroute to check on the engine, look at its oil consumption, and verify the EDM-930’s information.

So stay tuned for more blog updates!

Air Plains adds power, with speed!

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Air Plains Services of Wellington, Kansas has been hard at work installing the Crossover Classic’s new Continental IO-550 engine, its accessories, and the Flint Aero tip tanks. Those tanks each hold 12 gallons of fuel. Add that to the airplane’s existing, 79-gallon long range tanks and we’ll have a 103-gallon Cessna 182. At 75-percent power, the IO-550 burns about 16-17 gallons per hour, so that makes it an airplane with at least a six-hour endurance. We don’t know the airplane’s ultimate, post-conversion true airspeeds yet, but let’s assume 150 knots. Six hours at 150 knots equals an 800-plus nautical mile airplane.

Assuming it’s flown at lean-of-peak mixture settings, that fuel burn can drop to 12.5 to 13 gph. There’s a slight speed penalty, but on the other hand there’s the opportunity for even greater range.

But hey, we’re getting ahead of ourselves! As we speak, the engine installation is being performed. The old engine is a thing of the past and the shiny, new, gold-colored Continental is being fitted with its new accessories, baffles, ductwork, GAMIjector fuel injectors, and wiring harness.

And man, is Air Plains a fast-working shop, or what?! I mean, those guys are really after that airplane! Take a look at this video to see the Air Plains shop, and their super-fast workers prep the engine for the final install. The prop is next, so stay tuned.