One First-Rate Interior

What a pleasure it was to pick up the Debonair from Air Mod and fly it–with its new interior–to AOPA Summit’s static display at the Fort Worth-Meacham airport (FTW). The trip took five hours , 11 minutes, made possible by the airplane’s massive, 120-gallon fuel capacity and its wonderfully comfortable seats. That large Gatorade container also came in handy, if you know what I mean.

Air Mod’s Dennis Wolter is a fanatic about ergonomic design, and it shows with the seats. He’s fond of opining about the design merits of the concept of “the measure of man.” This term refers to the dimensions of a “standard” human, and it’s updated every ten years. Turns out, a standard human of the 1940s is much smaller than the overfed, overweight, beamier version of today. So it makes sense that design convention calls for re-evaluating average human heights, weights, and waistlines every few years.

Think this is baloney? Then you haven’t tried to move around inside a B-17 or other World War II-era airplane. People were comparatively tiny back then! In Rick Atkinson’s excellent three-volume series about World War II’s European theater (An Army at Dawn, The Day of Battle, and The Guns at Last Light), he notes that the average American recruit was five feet, seven inches tall and weighed 150 pounds! (130 pounds was the minimum weight).

How about today? Well, look around….

Me, I’m five feet 10 inches tall and weigh 205 pounds. The last time I was in a B-17 I gouged a pretty good, bloody ding in my skull trying to scramble around in there. But I fit today’s measure of man, which is a sad commentary I suppose.

Anyway, Wolter starts with the measure of man and then custom-tailors the seats of each airplane he overhauls to conform to the customer’s actual dimensions. So when it comes to comfort–and fatigue reduction at the end of those long flight–it’s quite like having your shoes custom-made, rather than buying them off the shelf and hoping they stand the test of time.

For those of you who couldn’t make it to Summit, here’s what you missed:

New front seats and sidewalls now join the Debonair's Aspen/Garmin-dominant panel

New front seats and sidewalls now join the Debonair’s Aspen/Garmin-dominant panel

In keeping with the sixties motif, the rear seats were kept in a bench configuration.

In keeping with the sixties motif, the rear seats were kept in a bench configuration.

 

Original Beech medallions adorn the front sidewalls, as well as gooseneck lamps.

Original Beech medallions adorn the front sidewalls, as well as gooseneck lamps.

Wolter took advantage of some unused space in the spar covers to make a huge cubby hole for storing charts, flashlights, and other pilot gear.

Wolter took advantage of some unused space in the spar covers to make a huge cubby hole for storing charts, flashlights, and other pilot gear.

 

The overhead panel was completely repaired. "Everything was broken," Wolter said. The fresh-air valve (silver handle at rear of panel) had to be completely rebuilt. It opens a cabin air intake door on the upper fuselage.

The overhead panel was completely repaired. “Everything was broken,” Wolter said. The fresh-air valve (silver handle at rear of panel) had to be completely rebuilt. It opens a cabin air intake door on the upper fuselage.

The front-seat headrests got "The Debonair Sweepstakes" logo embroidered on them. You like?

The front-seat headrests got “The Debonair Sweepstakes” logo embroidered on them. You like?

That’s it for today. Watch for another post later this week…..

19 Responses to “One First-Rate Interior”

  1. Dieter says:

    Beautiful! I can smell that new that leather. Big Thank You to all that have contributed their time, energy, parts, and money. Thank you Tom for managing all this and for flying the Debonair to the various shops (you lucky dog, especially with all new interior, paint and avionics). I was beginning to wonder what happen to you Tom, we haven’t heard from you in a while. What a beautiful “Classic” Airplane. All should feel proud. Shows what can be done to a Mature well built piece of Americana!

  2. Ron says:

    Great I’ll look for another later this week… oh that was last eek and it never happened :( Why don’t we have an intern keep up on this project with photos and regular updates??? Ship does look nice!

  3. Travis says:

    Will toe brakes on the copilot side be installed? It looks great great!

  4. tony says:

    i love my plane

  5. tony says:

    flying in style with my plane

  6. tony says:

    beartiful. I love it

  7. Dick says:

    Plane is just gorgeous! I echo Dieter’s comments: a job well done.

  8. JM says:

    I wish clicking on the photos would open larger versions.

  9. Mick says:

    Yes we crave more updates with higher resolution pictures!!! And co-pilot toe brakes! :D

  10. Dennis Crenshaw says:

    Wow. What a beautiful interior and awesome panel. I’ve been looking at a lot of Bonanzas and Debs lately on TAP and B’Stormers; but I’ve never been lucky enough to win anything. I hope AOPA doesn’t blow the final presentation with a swoopy paint job. In my opinion, the factory original paint schemes look best on classic airplanes. Can’t wait to see the finished product. You will make some lucky pilot’s day.

  11. Don says:

    I agree, most aircraft are inherently good looking and the paint should showcase and accent what already exists. Don’t let a swoopy or dry brushed faddish paint job hide a good looking airplane. One should not have to spend many long moments trying to read the shape under an ADD paint job.

  12. Tom from Bend, Oregon says:

    I just got a 47 Stinson 108-2, and it has most STC mods, but didn’t a shoulder harnesses. It does now have the 4 point restraint for the front seats and it’s a must. The crash of a 108-3 at Bruce Meadows airstrip June 2012 would have no injuries if the plane had the front seats with a 4 point restraint. Please put the shoulder harness in for the front two seats of this aircraft.

  13. I too love what you all have done with the interior and long for a rich looking classic paint scheme on my Deb. I know I am excited now, but cant imagine the excitement when my name is selected. Way Cool! Great Job by all!

  14. Bill says:

    Congratulations, you all. That is a beautiful airplane. It’s too bad AOPA couldn’t throw in some hangar space as well. It’d be a shame to keep that piece of artwork at a tiedown.

  15. Kay says:

    I would love for the costs of the mods to be published so that others could evaluate what a similar upgrade in their plane would cost. It looks amazing!

  16. BennytheBrewer says:

    Ok, I’m ready for new updates. It’s almost been two months! Got to feed the addiction, haha. But really. two months.

  17. Ron says:

    Will somebody please fire the person in charge of updating the progress of the beloved Debonair. This has been the worst re-do story of AOPA’s career!!

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