Author: Jill Tallman (page 1 of 22)


When I asked Tom Johnson, the former owner of our Sweepstakes 172, if he’d like to fly the airplane, he had a question of his own.

Tom Johnson (right) takes a photo of his son, Jeffrey, in front of their former Skyhawk.

“Will I be able to recognize any old parts?”

There wasn’t much for Tom to recognize of the former N739HW. But he had a great time flying N172WN.

Josh Cochran captures Tom Johnson getting acclimated to his former Skyhawk.

Tom brought his son, Jeffrey Johnson, along to check out their airplane. Jeffrey had a photo of himself as a 10-year-old standing in front of 739HW at EAA AirVenture.

Young Jeffrey Johnson with N739HW at EAA AirVenture.

That was one of N379HW’s last trips to Oshkosh. With a growing family, Tom acquired a Cessna 182 and says he flew it to AirVenture in 2004.

With Dave Hirschman in the right seat, Tom put the 172 through its paces. He was especially interested to see how the Micro Aerodynamics vortex generators would affect performance, and was pleased at the 172’s slow-flight and stall performance.

“It truly is an example of keeping older airframes flying by incorporating newer technologies to improve performance, safety, communications, and pilot situational awareness,” Johnson told me later.

We’re happy you like how it turned out, Tom. Thanks again for your wonderful donation.

Learn more about how you could win a Cessna 172 in the AOPA 172 Sweepstakes.

Painted or polished?

Some of you, noticing the new look of our Sweepstakes 172, want to know: Is the airplane sporting polished metal?

It looks like polished metal in Chris Rose’s photos. But what you see here is paint. Specifically, it’s Sherwin Williams Ice Silver Acryglo.

The base coat is a subtle metallic. In the hangar, it looks…well, almost battleship gray. (“Looks like a stealth airplane!” a member told me a few weeks ago.) In the sunlight, however, it’s a different story.

N172WN got the base coat at Cimarron Aircraft Corp. in El Reno, Oklahoma. She’ll wear the special decals designed by Scheme Designers through April. Then it’s off to KD Aviation for a final paint scheme. Ken Reese of KD Aviation has shepherded several of our sweepstakes airplanes through final paint, notably the Millenium Mooney and the Win-a-Twin-Comanche, so I’m confident he’ll bring that same level of excellence to our Sweepstakes 172.

Learn more about how you could win a Cessna 172 in the AOPA 172 Sweepstakes.

Learning the Garmin 650 will be easier

Whoever wins the AOPA Sweepstakes 172 will have to get to know the airplane’s Garmin 650 nav/com. And that just got a little easier.

Flight Training Apps has just released Flying the Garmin GTN650/750. Flight Training Apps owner/operator Dave Simpson is giving the winner of the Sweepstakes 172 a free copy of the app, retail value $39.99.

I’ve been going through the app in the last week, and I can tell you that, even if you have some familiarity with Garmin products, it’s a nice training tool. Concise video segments take you through the basics, and there’s a really useful tutorial on planning and executing a VFR flight from Gillespie Field (SEE) in San Diego to Catalina Airport (AVX). (And now I really want to land at Catalina.)

Thank you to Flight Training Apps and Dave Simpson for this fun and useful addition to our Sweepstakes 172.

Learn more about how you could win a Cessna 172 in the AOPA 172 Sweepstakes.


(Photo) mission accomplished

As you can see from the beautiful photo, the stars aligned this week and we were able to complete our planned air-to-air photo mission of the Sweepstakes 172.

One of the challenges of shooting air-to-air photography in the winter…in Maryland…is to find a background that isn’t gray-green-brown landscape. Maryland hasn’t had any snow this year, so we didn’t even have a winter wonderland to photograph. The ground shots we took last week positioned the airplane against a turbulent-looking gray sky.

But Senior Photographer Chris Rose is used to dealing with these kinds of issues. We headed northeast to Prettyboy Reservoir, which sits in a forested watershed in Baltimore County. It’s outside the Class B airspace that surrounds Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and it’s also outside the Special Flight Rules Area. The reservoir provided the lovely setting for the Sweepstakes 172.

PIC in the 172 for this trip was Mike Filucci, vice president of flight operations and the Pilot Information Center. Mike is a highly skilled formation pilot who owns a Van’s RV4.

Piloting the photo ship was Editor at Large Dave Hirschman. He owns an RV3, and I think he speaks formation flying as a second language.

Ferdi Mack, senior manager of the PIC, joined us on this mission as safety pilot. His job was to watch for traffic and transmit Chris’s position requests over the air-to-air frequency to Mike.

Though I’ll admit my heart still sometimes jumps up in my throat during photo shoots, Mike and Dave put safety at the front of every mission. Chris finds the best in every airplane he shoots. Look for more photos in an upcoming issue of AOPA Pilot. 

Learn more about how you could win a Cessna 172 in the AOPA 172 Sweepstakes.




Best-laid plans

C172-Ground-Final Color Output0000It can be hard to put together an aerial photo shoot in the winter when you’re based in a state that isn’t California, Florida, or Arizona.

Last week we thought we had a perfect weather day to shoot the AOPA Sweepstakes 172. The prospect of an unseasonably warm day in January was making Senior Photographer Chris Rose pretty happy, because he’s the one who has to fly hanging half out of the open door of the photo platform airplane, and it gets cold at 4,500 feet in January.

We lined up pilots for the photo platform and subject airplane–only to discover that we didn’t actually have a photo airplane. And the back-up photo platform, a Cessna 182, wasn’t available either. Mission scrubbed.

Luckily we do have a wonderful 3-D model of the Sweepstakes 172 as created by Craig Barnett of Scheme Designers. We’ll keep trying for a good weather day.

You might notice something else new on the airplane–the N number. N739HW is now N172WN (172 win). Of course, if you win 172WN, you can change the N number to whatever you like. But we hope you’ll stick with 172WN for a little while, anyway.

A fan (and former pilot) of our Sweepstakes 172 reaches out

Brad Sunshine with 739HWN739HW is at Yingling Aviation in Wichita, but she’s almost ready to come back to Maryland. I will be heading to Wichita next week to bring her back to the East Coast.

In the meantime, I had a lovely email from an AOPA member who used to fly 739HW in the mid-1990s when our sweepstakes 172  was a trainer based at Haysfield Airport.

Brad Sunshine has nothing but fond memories of those days. “The airport was special in its own right,” he said of the now-closed Haysfield. “The aircraft only enriched its charm.” N739HW occupied the sloped turf’s final parking spot, he recalled. Aside from the owner, Tom Johnson, “not many people flew the extremely reliable aircraft,” he said. “It was always available when I wanted to add another cross-country to my logbook.” The photo is Brad as an earnest-looking young man standing in front of 739HW.

Brad grew up in Maryland and soloed at Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK–AOPA’s home base). He took his private pilot and instrument checkrides here with our longtime DPE Annabelle Fera, who has since retired.

Brad now flies for a Fortune 50 corporate flight department and has called the Chicago area home for many years. He loves harking back to his aviation roots by reading about our Sweepstakes 172. “[A]ll these years later, the aircraft remains an enduring component of my flying passion and experiences,” he said. “As an AOPA member, I take comfort knowing that I at least have a shot (albeit a very small one) at reuniting with N739HW.”

Thank you to Brad for reaching out! I hope he’ll get a chance to see the airplane before we announce the winner in 2017.

Learn more about how you could win a Cessna 172 in the AOPA 172 Sweepstakes. 



Racing the clock to Battle Creek

The AOPA Sweepstakes 172 is getting its paint job. Photo by Mike Fizer.

The AOPA Sweepstakes 172 is getting its paint job. Photo by Mike Fizer.

The AOPA Sweepstakes 172 sat out our Bremerton, Washington, Regional Fly-In because she had a date with a paint shop.

In just more than a week, we’ll be putting on another fly-in—on Sept. 17 at W.K. Kellogg Airport (BKL) in Battle Creek, Michigan. And I really want the Sweepstakes 172 to be there.

The question is, will she? H739HW has received her base coat, but the painters made an unpleasant discovery: When reinstalled, some of the control surfaces wouldn’t balance. This meant removing those control surfaces to strip and repaint.

The airplane will return to Yingling Aviation the week of Sept. 12, and right around then I’m Wichita-bound to fly it to Battle Creek in time for the fly-in. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather between Wichita and Battle Creek!

Incidentally, the airplane’s paint job is not complete. What you’ll see (hopefully) at Battle Creek is the stage for a fantastic design forthcoming from Craig Barnett at Scheme Designers in Cresskill, New Jersey. You’ve probably heard of Scheme Designers, because Craig has created some beautiful paint schemes and vinyl designs for many of our previous sweepstakes airplanes, including 2011’s Crossover Classic 182, the 2012 Tougher than a Tornado Husky, the 2014 Beech Debonair, and most recently the You Can Fly Cessna 152.  (See all of the designs here. Which one was your favorite?)

Scheme Designers’ work is so sought after that, unfortunately, it sometimes is unlawfully copied. Dave Hirschman’s excellent article here explains the impact of copyright infringement on Scheme Designers.



Safe in the paint shop

AOPA’s Sweepstakes 172 turned a lot of heads at EAA AirVenture last month.

Parked front and center at the AOPA campus across from the Big Brown Arch, N739HW probably looked a little out of place among the gleaming airplanes normally on static display at AirVenture. It still has its 1970s-era paint, with new pieces of skin in different locations that yield a somewhat mottled look.

The paint–or lack of paint–endeared N379HW to many, who said they have flown (or are flying) Cessna 172s that look exactly like this.

As we told folks who came over to look at the airplane, N739HW had a date with a paint shop directly after AirVenture. And that’s where she is right now.

I flew the airplane back to Wichita, Kansas, the Monday after AirVenture. My mid-point fuel stop once again was the friendly airport in Ottumwa, Iowa (OTM), where the line folks remembered the airplane from our outbound trip and offered ice-cream sandwiches in their nicely appointed FBO. (When traveling cross-country, it doesn’t get much better than full-serve fuel, free ice cream, and a friendly face.) The weather display on the iPad mini helped me avoid some showers between Ottumwa and Wichita.

Less than a week later, N739HW was on its way to Cimarron Aircraft Corp. in El Reno, Oklahoma, and there it will stay for now. The airplane won’t be painted in time for this weekend’s AOPA Regional Fly-In at Bremerton, Washington, but we are aiming for the Battle Creek Regional Fly-In, Sept. 16-17.




The Sweepstakes 172 is at AirVenture

The AOPA Sweepstakes 172 will get a new paint job after spending the week in Oshkosh. Photo by Jim Moore.

The AOPA Sweepstakes 172 will get a new paint job after spending the week in Oshkosh. Photo by Jim Moore.

And boy, is it getting some attention!

From the outside, the 1978-vintage paint job and the mismatched doors are causing a lot of people to do double-takes. Once they come up to the airplane, I invite them to take a look at the gorgeous panel.

The avionics suite is all Garmin, all the time, with a GTN 650 taking center stage on the stack. But the standout is the G5 electronic flight instrument, which now resides where the attitude indicator once sat. We’ve got the first G5 approved for installation since Garmin announced on July 24 that it had received an STC to install the instrument in certified aircraft. You can read more about it in the September 2016 issue of AOPA Pilot. 

AOPA’s Yingling Ascend 172 is also on display so that folks can get a kind of before-and-after look at these remanufactured aircraft. Yingling Aviation brought a third Ascend 172 to AirVenture, and it is on display in  front of the Garmin exhibit,

If you’re at the show, stop by and check out the Sweepstakes 172 for yourself.




What are those things on the wings?

AOPA 2017 Sweeps Cessna Ascend 172When we bring the AOPA Sweepstakes 172 to AirVenture 2016, I expect we will get a lot of questions.

When can I pick it up? will rank among the top five.

There’ll be lots of questions about the panel (which you’ll have to see for yourself; I can’t divulge details just yet. Or wait for the upcoming feature in the September issue of AOPA Pilot).

And there’ll be questions about the nifty addition from our friends at Micro Aerodynamics: micro vortex generators.

AOPA 2017 Sweeps Cessna Ascend 172If you haven’t seen these before, they’re attached to the wings and the vertical and horizontal stabilizer. Their job is to enhance safety by creating a lower stall speed. They control airflow over the wing by creating vortices that energize the boundary layer, which in turn creates improved performance and control authority at low airspeeds and high angles of attack. Stall speed for the Cessna 172 is said to be decreased by 8 percent.

Micro Aerodynamics has micro VG kits for many makes and models, and the company will be at AirVenture (Hangar C, booth 3040), so they’ll be able to give you all the details.

If you’re not coming to AirVenture, check out this video from AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman, who put the micro VGs through a head-to-head test with the help of AOPA staff pilot Mark Evans.


Learn more about how you could win a Cessna 172 in the AOPA 172 Sweepstakes.

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