Author: Jill Tallman (page 1 of 22)

Gary meets his airplane

We surprised Gary Walters pretty good last week when Mark Baker told him he is the winner of our Sweepstakes 172.

Unlike previous years, we didn’t have an airplane to show him. The 172 was tucked away in a hangar at Oshkosh, waiting for the start of AirVenture. There wasn’t time to fly the airplane from Tennessee (where it had its autopilot installation) to Las Vegas and then to Oshkosh.

So we didn’t give Gary an airplane, but we gave him a set of keys, a nice blown-up photo of the Sweepstakes 172 (exterior and panel), and two sets of Bose A20 headsets.

Gary was able to come to Oshkosh, and on Tuesday he finally got to set eyes on his airplane. If you thought he was excited in our AOPA Live video, you should have seen him at the show.

He says he’s still on cloud nine. And I believe him.

After AirVenture, the 172 goes to  Yingling Aviation so we can check out a newly released service bulletin on the engine. Gary plans to come to Wichita to get checked out in his airplane and fly it home to Henderson, Nevada.

This has been a fantastic sweepstakes project thanks to the hard work of Yingling Aviation and the generosity of our donors, who provided upgrades that make this one of the very best Cessna 172s around. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along. Remember that we’ve got another great sweepstakes project ahead–a Super Cub with floats, skis, and tundra tires.

Sweepstakes 172: Last stop before Oshkosh

Sailing along at 8,500 feet on Sunday, I had the benefit of not one but two Garmin G5s in the panel of the Sweepstakes 172.

The second G5, installed just last month, is configured as a horizontal situation indicator. Since both G5s run off the electrical system and include a back-up battery, Smart Avionics was able to remove the 172’s vacuum system. (The Sweepstakes 172 gained three pounds in its useful load!)

That hole in the instrument panel won’t remain empty for long. On Sunday I flew the Sweepstakes 172 from Frederick, Maryland, to Jackson, Tennessee’s McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport (MKL).

Here, at Tennessee Aircraft Services, the 172 is getting its final fantastic upgrade. Jeff Ley of The STC Group has flown in from California and is installing a Trio autopilot.

The STC Group announced at Sun ‘n Fun that it had obtained an STC for the kit to install theTrio Pro Pilot autopilot in Cessna 172s and 182s. The company hopes to announce at AirVenture complete STC and Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) to build and sell the entire system. The Pro Pilot was developed for the Experimental market.

The Sweepstakes 172 will be at AirVenture all week, so please stop by and see this wonderful airplane for yourself. From its humble beginnings as a trainer, trusted family aircraft, and hangar queen to its spinner-to-tail transformation at Yingling Aviation to its eye-catching paint schemes, the 172 is a special bird.

New paint, new G5

As you read this, the AOPA Sweepstakes 172 is getting a new Garmin G5 installed in its panel.

But wait, you say. Didn’t the 172 have a G5 installed in 2016? Yes it did—and it was one of the first certified airplanes to get one. If you were at AirVenture 2016 or our Camarillo fly-in in April, you may have seen the first G5 installed in the airplane’s panel.

So what gives? Garmin recently obtained an STC that enables the G5 to be installed as a replacement directional gyro or horizontal situation indicator. (The G5 was STC’d in 2016 for installation as a replacement attitude indicator.)

With two G5s—each operating off the electrical system, but each including a four-hour back-up battery—that means we can scrap the vacuum system on our Sweepstakes 172.

Smart Avionics at Donegal Springs Airpark Airport (N71) in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, is completing this latest upgrade for us. The shop was humming with activity on Monday as we dropped off the 172. Smart’s Ben Travis said several clients are getting panel upgrades that incorporate ADS-B equipage.

Check out that paint

In case you missed it, the AOPA Sweepstakes 172 was the lead story in the June 15 edition of AOPA Live This Week.

The final paint is complete, thanks to the speedy and highly skilled staff at KD Aviation. They turned the job around in about two weeks, in spite of the fact that the paint scheme covered more than 60 percent of the airplane.

Aerial photography of the AOPA 2018 Sweepstake Cessna 172 Ascend with the new paint job.
Frederick, MD USA

The final paint scheme is eye-catching, to say the least. Scheme Designers’ Craig Barnett said he was going for high visibility, given the sweepstakes 172’s metallic gray base coat, which, though stunning on the ground, could be tough to spot in flight.

We’re just a month out from EAA AirVenture and the announcement of the winner. Hope to see you there!

Aerial photography of the AOPA 2018 Sweepstake Cessna 172 Ascend with the new paint job.
Frederick, MD USA

Last chance for Sweepstakes 172 automatic entry


Take a last good look at the Sweepstakes 172 with her current livery, because the next time you see her she will be wearing new accent colors on top of that gorgeous base coat.

The Sweepstakes 172 is shown at KD Aviation’s shop at Stewart International Airport (SWF) in New York. Ken Reese and his brother, Don, offer superlative aircraft painting services at two locations: SWF and Trenton-Robbinsville Airport (N87), Robbinsville, New Jersey. On the day we arrived, the shop was completing work on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s helicopter.

May 31 is next week! Your AOPA membership must be current as of May 31 to be automatically entered to win. See the complete rules here. 


Your top questions about the Sweepstakes 172 at Sun ‘n Fun

The Sweepstakes 172 had a great week at Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, Florida, meeting folks and answering your questions.

Here are your top five questions about the airplane:

  1. Is this my airplane? This is AOPA’s 2017 sweepstakes airplane. Is it your airplane? That remains to be seen.
  2. Are you keeping the paint scheme? Yes and no. The base metallic coat will stay (AOPA members love that base coat!). The decals will come off. A final scheme, designed by Craig Barnett of Scheme Designers, will be applied.
  3. Will I get to pick the final design? No. But you’ll like the one we picked.
  4. When will you give it away? We’ll announce the winner at EAA AirVenture in July. And the Sweepstakes 172 will be there.
  5. How do I win? AOPA members whose membership is current as of May 31 are automatically entered to win. There’s no purchase necessary. See the complete rules here.

Left to right: Jill W. Tallman, Luz Beattie, Kay Sundarum

After Sun ‘n Fun, we took the 172 to Palomar, California, where Regional Ambassador Kay Sundaram will fly it in the weeks prior to our Camarillo Fly-In, April 28 through 29. Then it’s headed back to the East Coast. Follow me on Twitter (@jtallman1959) for all the developments.



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.

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