Debonair Sweeps: A Bigger, Better Alternator


National AirParts’ new 70-amp alternator (right) next to the old 55-amp unit


I’m told that the first Debonairs–the 1960 models–came with 35-ampere/hour Bendix generators. That’s not much of a power output.  There are stories out there telling of lights dimming at idle power, and ammeters showing discharges when all electrical equipment is turned on. So next up was a 55-amp generator. That still didn’t provide a large enough volume of steady electrical power.

Our/your Debonair began life with the 35-amp generator, but that was swapped out for a 55-amp Alcor alternator according to the logbooks. That was a start in the right direction.

But 55 amps isn’t nearly enough for the basically all-electric panel being installed at Santa Fe Aero Services. “We need 70 amps,” said V-P and General Manager Pat Horgan.

Thus began my search for a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) holder that could provide us/you with this sort of power rating.

National AirParts, of Deland, Florida (  filled the bill with its popular STC that allows us to move up to 70-amp-land. National’s Al Petrone says he can even fix you up with a 100-amp alternator if need be. Thanks very much, Al.

National has a lot of alternator STCs covering a wide range of airplanes. Check their website for details and plenty of info.

And remember that bad old alternator bracket–the one that broke, and that I reported on last time? Well, Wentworth Aircraft’s replacement bracket (see my previous blog) fit the new alternator, and the whole works will soon be installed. Along with beefier wiring and a circuit breaker designed to the new limits.

  • tony


  • tony

    please give it to me

    • thorne

      Yours! …. if you’re lucky!

  • http://justGooglemeanaddprebuy Don Sebastian

    Don, alternator bracket brakes! After nearly a half century of use. Searched the various FAA reporting services and did find three reports of trouble, during the prebuy They were in the FAA SDR’s (Service Difficulty Reports) , but not related to this part or system. Unusual failure of parts that have been dependable for a long time, is due to other reasons. Vibration is the main suspect. Sometimes very hard to detect. The seat of my pants is not a perfect method. So I carry on board a Starbucks, well any half filled coffee cup will do. After versus flight tests in make and model, one mite notice a different in vibration patterns of the liquid. Most common cause for slight vibrations is the prop out of balance. Did this happen after the three bladed prop was installed? Different vibrations? Then the unusual, engine mounts and rotating group, airframe irregularities. It is a good idea, to sake hands with the Alternator belt during preflights. A predictable movement of that belt is very reassuring.

    • thorne

      Yes Don, I’ve heard other reports of these brackets cracking. You can bet I’ll be watching it on upcoming flights.

  • Blane

    Where can we see more information and notes on restoring a 1960 Beechcraft. I still fly a 1960 Beechcraft, and do the maintenance so I will be interested to see what you find/change. If you happen to get better deals buying parts, interiors avionics and installation by buying 2 instead of one let me know. My airplane can be at KSAF within 1/2 hour.

    • thorne

      As far as I know, this is probably the mosyt comprehensive restoration of an early 60s Debonair, so stay tuned.
      As for the parts deals, those might be hard to come by.

  • Blane

    Just a quick toward Dave Vanu from an earlier post, I like the small windows, they add class

    And a question: In an earlier post you talked about the gear retracting well on fuel stops between Wichita and Santa Fe. How many times did you stop, that should have been an easy non-stop without the tip tanks.

    • thorne

      Stopped once, at Tucumcari. We had bad headwinds and were down on fuel so I stopped to gas up before crossing the mountains with night coming…and I like the small window too!

  • http://comcast Pat Kelly

    Why such a problem finding and alternator bracket? I think any machinist worth his salt could make one without any trouble. Surely the FAA has the specs for it.

    • thorne

      50 years is a long time Pat….and Beech doesn’t make them any more

  • Jim

    When I ordered my 70 amp alternator from National AirParts for my ’60 Deb, I specified the engine make/model & got a perfect bracket as part of the package.

  • Dorian Christopher

    With my expanding business, that would make such a relief to those 8+ hour drives we make every weekend. Can’t wait to get me hands on those keys! Thanks guys!

  • Ed Kaufman

    When are we going to start seeing videos of the Debonair transformation??

    • thorne

      They will be coming along. Check the website for the slide shows in the meantime. They’re under “Sweeps Home”

  • Bryan Timar

    Now that is going to be a beautiful plane ;^)

  • Justin

    Can’t wait to see more as the project moves along! This should be a good one

  • Franklin Smith

    That Plane is made for me. Go ahead and send the keys to me.

    • thorne

      Franklin, you’ll have to wait. Besides, you don’t want it in the shape it’s in now!

  • Denver

    The alternator is rated at 35 amperes, not amp/hour.

  • Denver

    The generator was rated at 35 amperes, not amp/hour.

    • thorne


    • thorne


  • Geoff Lukes

    For all of you who would like this free Debonair, but don’t win it , I have a ’62 that has been gone through over the last 5 years and is for sale. Only interior and wind shield left to do. Look at N1482G on I love the plane but no one flys with me. I will miss it. Nice IFR plane.

  • Barry Wood

    I am sure the winner of this plane will be a happy little camper, AOPA always finds the finest people to do these restorations and the plane comes out better than new, I enjoy seeing the photos of the progress and upgrades. Maybe next year AOPA will restore a DHC2, now that would be something to wish for. To whom ever wins this one, Congratulations!

    • thorne

      Yes, we have a great team helping us with the upgrades……..a DHC2–why not? But this is a 2-year project, so that wouldn’t happen until 2015. Thanks for the compliments

      • Joanna


        Why is this one a 2-year project? Don’t they usually take about a year?? Is it because of so much customization and refurbishing?

        Also, back on the crossover classic you were able to increase the useable load to allow for more passengers/luggage through modifications and reclassifying. Do you think you will be able to do the same for the Deb?

        As it is her useable load is only going to shrink with all the addons plus tip tanks. What’s the point in having all these great mod’s if only one person plus luggage can fly in her?

        • thorne

          Yes Joanna these projects do typically take a year. But that means five monster work packages with time out for all the shows. Many in the business marveled at those one-year projects (I did three of them!), likening them to “Mission Impossible.” And that’s what it felt like for those working on the project!! So two years will give us time to make the upgrades without as much tension, and more time to locate parts, etc. There are also some savings of course, which is also important in projects of this magnitude.

          Now, to your question about increased useful load. First of all, the Debonair is not a load-hauler like a Cessna 206, or a Cessna 182. But with the addition of D’Shannon’s wingtip fuel tanks we add an extra 200 pounds to the airplane’s MGTOW. So now it’s 3,200 lbs. Before it was 3,000 pounds. Depending on the Debonair’s final empty weight, full fuel useful load should come in around 550 lbs. So yes, with full fuel this will be a two-person airplane for longer trips. Leave out the tip tank fuel and you pick up another 240 lbs of useful load and now you have a three-person-plus-bags airplane with about a four-hour endurance. Not bad. Let’s see just how much extra weight the other upgrades will add……so stay tuned.

          • Joanna Smith

            Thank you for replying, personally I’m happy with the two year time frame — gives me more time to submit my entry forms!

  • AlternatorMan

    Looks like there might be a company I can refer my pilot customers to. I don’t sell alts for airplane use for liability reasons.

  • Mark Keneston

    You have to “Believe it to See it”

  • Joanna Smith

    Will you be installing a new engine? Even with new tubes and support parts there’s still a lot of strain, wear and tear on an engine built back in 1963! How you can get maximum potential performance, even with new resources such as electronics and alternators if the main component is out dated and exhausted!

    Also, will there be a fuel injection system installed? The old airplanes had carbirator’s and icing issues with high humidity.

    Just curious, thank you!

    • thorne

      Hello again Joanna–

      An engine upgrade may happen, but for now we’re sticking with the stock 225-hp Continental IO-470 engine, which is fuel-injected.

      The engine had a major overhaul from Penn Yan in 2007. There are currently about 100 hours on that overhaul, so the engine is strong.

  • Joanna Smith

    2007-100hrs? That is awesome! Those are break-in hours– if something is going to go wrong it will usually happen within the first 100 hours– Personally I love the year 2007– my airplane that I trained on was a 2007 Cessna 172 SP with G1000 glass cockpit. Such wonderful memories– flew her to Boston MA from Huntsville AL and had my first solo trip after achieving my pilot’s license in the smokies of Ashville, NC. By the way, I have a “Never Again” story from that trip– let’s just say I learned to appreciate the value of “density altitude” and the effect it has on an airplane in late July, late evening, in the mountains.

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