Archive for the ‘Interior’ Category

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.

An interior’s exploratory surgery

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Original Interior arriving at Air Mod

It took Air Mod (based at the Clermont County Airport [I69] in Batavia, Ohio) just a few days to tear out the Crossover Classic’s nasty old interior, pull up the floorboards, yank out the seats and side panels, and take a really good look at the aluminum and other structures that have been covered up for 33-odd years. This is a hold-your-breath time. So far, all interior inspections have shown the airplane free of corrosion–but none of them involved disassembling the airplane to this degree. Sure, the easily visible parts of the airframe may not have any corrosion, but what’s under the rug?

Stripping seats

You can say that Air Mod, our chosen interior shop for several of AOPA’s annual sweepstakes airplanes, is fanatical about hunting down and treating corrosion. And for good reason. You can fix up an airplane to a fare-thee-well, but if the airframe harbors corrosion it may be the end of the line for the airplane’s economically useful life. It can cost thousands to rescue a badly corroded airframe; depending on the location of that corrosion–say, at the wing spar box or wing attach points–then you’re looking at a major restoration. Or a writeoff.

Removing the Windshield

Luckily, our 1974 Cessna 182P showed no corrosion at first. But then Air Mod pulled up the seat rails and looked behind the sidewalls forward of the door posts. And voila! Corrosion. Luckily, this can be treated and restored. As for the seat rails, they need to be replaced anyway. The seat-latch holes are slightly elongated, which means the front seats may not stay latched in takeoffs or steep climbs. So in lieu of yet another 100-hour inspection, it’s out with the old rails, and in with a new set.

Corrosion under lead vinyl damping panel

Corrosion is one thing. Plain old wear, tear, and rot is another. Air Mod’s procedure is to photograph and inventory all the worn items, and so we’ve included some of Air Mod’s photos in this post, as well as in the sweeps website’s “media” section. Of course, all of this precedes a zinc chromate treatment, followed by the design and installation of the new interior.

Dry-rotted fuel line coupling hose (evidence of fuel leak)

Other work is also scheduled to be performed at Air Mod–installation of the Monarch fuel caps, Knots2U wheel pants, and much more. Check back for more updates in the near future.