Archive for the ‘Refurbishments’ 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?


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!

Sun ‘N Fun Feedback

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

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 ( and the carpeting came thanks to Aircraft Interior Products of Wichita, Kansas (

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.

The Crossover Classic arrives at Sun ‘N Fun

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

It was quite a pleasure to fly the Sweeps 182–fresh from its interior completion at Air Mod–to Sun ‘N Fun. The seats are super comfortable, and noise levels are low thanks to Skandia’s soundproofing package. My route took me from Air Mod (at Ohio’s Clermont County Airport) back to home base at Frederick, Maryland for the first leg. The first portion of the leg was marginal VFR, but by the time I was over West Virginia IFR had setttled in over the entire Mid-Atlantic, thanks to a persistent area of low pressure.

Now’s when a cockpit like the Crossover Classic’s really shows its worth. The Cobham/S-TEC System Fifty-Five X took care of the flying while I got set up for the ILS approach to runway 23 at the Frederick Municipal Airport. The center console, from Saircorp/Flight Boss Ltd., had enough compartments to hold all my charts and approach plates, and its clipboard kept the plate for the ILS close at hand. (The console’s lower compartment holds the airplane’s Mountain High oxygen bottle and regulator). Oh, and there’s a nice armrest, too–which flips up to allow access to a large storage compartment capable of holding larger items, like an Air Charts low altitude enroute chart book.

The ceiling was 800 feet, the visibility one-and-a-half miles, but it was no sweat really. The Garmin G500 showed the way–and the synthetic vision showed the virtual runway dead ahead. The G500’s flight path marker also backs up your nav visual cues by showing exactly where the airplane is flying. So, stay on the ILS and the flight path marker will remain planted on the virtual runway’s touchdown zone. Nice.

After a second,  five-hour flight I was descending into the Lakeland airport traffic pattern with AOPA Live’s Warren Morningstar aboard. We were Sun ‘N Fun bound, and having the airplane’s GTS-800 traffic advisory system (TAS) aboard made a big difference. Targets began to appear on the G500’s PFD (primary flight display) , the dedicated TAS page on the MFD (multifunction display), and on the ship’s two GNS 430 navigators. Talk about situational awareness!

The Crossover Classic is now on display at AOPA’s tent at Sun ‘N Fun, so stop by and  check out the new interior if you;re in the area. More from Sun ‘N Fun to come!

And the paint job contest winner is …..

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

….. 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!

Interior progress: Rounding third

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Crowded Hangar

The Air Mod crew is busy stitching the leather seats, making up the new sidewalls, and putting down carpet–so we’re coming close to the final stages of interior work on the Crossover Classic.  But wait, other work packages are also in the works. It’s all part of Air Mod’s high standards for its restoration projects, and it involves more than just interior work. Here’s a quick rundown.

Aircraft Spruce & Specialty generously kicked in with a new glareshield and Gill G35 battery for the airplane. For those who think Aircraft Spruce is just for homebuilders or experimental aircraft, think again. Like the glareshield, the company stocks a huge variety of aircraft parts. Want to do a restoration? Check with Aircraft Spruce. As for the battery, we went for a new one because the original battery was taking forever–OK, two hours of flight time–to regain its charge after an engine start. I know some pilots who change their batteries every three or so years, no matter its condition. This, as a precaution to make sure you won’t get stuck in the boonies, unable to start. I figure that the battery that came with our 182 was tapped out anyway, but didn’t really know its age. All the more reason to spring for a new battery.

As for the Cobham/S-TEC System Fifty-Five X autopilot, it’s being tweaked so that those minor oscillations in pitch (when in altitude hold mode) go away. Cincinnati Avionics–an avionics shop at the Clermont County Airport (I69, just east of Cincinnati)–has already done some preliminary work. But Cincinnati Avionics’ Scott Cole will need to ride with me to make any final, final corrections. Not that the altitude hold was bad in the first place……out of the box it held altitude within a few feet.

Skandia’s insulation is basically completely installed now, save for some panels that need to be inserted behind the firewall. The entire soundproofing package surrounds the cabin interior and helps radically reduce noise. You can see the insulation in many of the photographs featured under the “Media” button on the Crossover Classic sweepstakes homepage.

And hey, the 37-year-old nosewheel assembly wasn’t as tight as Air Mod would like it, so new bushings were installed and now everything is like-new. A new, two-piece nosewheel has also been installed, thanks to a contribution from Van Bortel Aircraft of Arlington, Texas. Want Cessna parts–even obscure ones?–try Van Bortel. Their number is 1-800-SKYHAWKS, of course.

Another improvement came via a contribution from the Avion Research Group of Cupertino, California. Avion’s Trevor Hoy donated a $1,200 set of brand-new control yokes to the project, they’ve arrived at Air Mod, and will soon be installed. New yokes make all the difference, believe me. In the “Win-A-Twin” Twin Comanche sweepstakes of 2004, we installed new, Seneca V yokes and yanked out the original “square pretzel” style yokes. The new yokes made the 1965 PA-30 look like new. Remember, the first thing most pilots focus on when they check out a panel is the yokes. After all, that’s the center of much of our attention. The Avion yokes will also let us install the switches–pitch trim, autopilot disconnect, control wheel steering, microphone transmit–within the yoke itself. Before, those switches were mounted on metal tabs that protruded from the pilot control yoke’s center section. That solution works, but it looks unsanitary, somehow.

As always, stay tuned for more reports–and more photos. A new batch should be posted later this week.

Attention to detail

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
Interior front door, cleaned and ready for chromating.

All cleaned up.

Air Mod–located at Ohio’s Clermont County Airport–has built a reputation on its attention to detail. Sure, it’s best known as an exemplary interior refurbishment shop. But when you drop your airplane off at Air Mod, the team goes far beyond what you might expect. That’s because Air Mod will check out your airplane with a thoroughness that’s hard to find these days.

It all starts with an inspection and cleaning of the interior airframe. Then a cleanup of any corrosion, dirt, debris, mouse nests, etc., follows and then there’s a zinc chromate treatment  to prevent any further corrosion. “Yikes!” one reader commented after seeing Air Mod’s documentation of trouble spots and corrective actions. “It makes you wonder what your own airplane looks like down deep.” Yikes, indeed. A whole lot of general aviation airplanes were built in the 1970s, a whole lot of them are still flying, and a whole lot of them are beginning to wear out, corrode, and otherwise fall apart. BUT, you can’t see a lot of this damage unless to strip the airplane down and take a really good look.

Light corrosion at location where old seat rails were installed

Light corrosion at location where old seat rails were installed

At this point, several work projects have been completed at Air Mod–projects that go beyond interior design. For example, the old seat rails have been replaced by new ones from McFarlane Aviation Products (, and the corrosion beneath the old seats rails has been cleaned up and restored. This means 1) No more corrosion in that area, 2) No more fears of a seat-slip accident when flying at nose-high attitudes, and 3) No more AD requiring 100-hour inspections of the seat rails for dangerous wear patterns.

Also completed is the installation of the Knots2U wheel pants, along with the installation of exterior fiberglass components for the wing and horizontal stabilizer tips. Another important step was the removal of the old, recessed, standard-issue fuel caps–dubbed “killer caps” because they can trap water and allow it to enter the fuel tanks. Now, Hartwig Fuel Cell Repair’s Monarch fuel caps grace the Crossover Classic. These screw down and ratchet into the locked position. Their crowns prevent any water from entering the tanks–and they look great, too.

Check out some of the in-progress shots provided by Air Mod. Some serious work is afoot here, folks. Agree?

New Monarch fuel caps

New Monarch fuel caps

Cabin area completely zinc chromated

Cabin area completely zinc chromated

Drilling the new McFarlane seat rails prior to installation

Pattern drilling the new McFarlane seat rails.