November 11, 2009
Mar. 22 - Nestled in the back corner (the long project corner) of the J. A. Air Center in West Chicago, the 2001 AOPA Sweepstakes Bonanza continues to undergo a transformation. The roll and pitch servos for the S-Tec Series Fifty Five X autopilot have been installed and rigged, and a new set of navigation and communication antennas have been bonded and installed.
The rest of the instrument panel has been removed, and work is under way to remove all the extra wires, hardware, dirt, and bug's nests that have accumulated in the past 35 years. Whole pages could be written about what avionics shops find up under instrument panels when older airplanes undergo major avionics installations. Since the Sweepstakes Bonanza had only had two avionics upgrades in its lifetime, the accumulations were not out of line for an airplane of its age.
When AOPA bought N14422, it was equipped with a set of Osborne wing tip auxiliary fuel tanks. These tanks were installed as a Beech factory service kit (#35-668SM) in March 1974 and had been in place ever since. This direct feed system (it's being replaced by the more modern system) is characterized by a five-position fuel selector valve. This allowed the pilot to select one of four tanksï¿½left main, right main, left tip, or right tipï¿½to feed the engine. While this system is blessed with simplicity, the AOPA staff thought that the potential for fuel mismanagement would be higher than with the systems that transfer tip tank fuel into the main tanks. Based on AOPA's well-known penchant for safety, it was decided to remove the older system and install Osborne's transfer type tip tank system. The guiding thought in this decision was to reduce the likelihood of fuel system mismanagement.
Part of the upgrade process involves removing the left and right aluminum tip tanks, and shipping them to the J. L. Osborne Company in Victorville, California, for refurbishment. During the refurbishment process, the tanks will be upgraded to a more modern looking shape, the sump quick drains will be removed and replaced, and new quantity transducers will be installed. Installing a streamlined lens so that strobes and navigation lights are "buried" is also part of the refurbishment process.
While the tanks are being worked on, the crew at J. A. Air will be removing the old selector valve and rigid fuel lines, and installing new lines, transfer pumps, wiring, and selector valve. In addition, the single fuel quantity gauge, which was switched between the left and right tanks with a panel-mounted toggle switch, will be replaced with a newer style gauge that simultaneously shows quantities in both tanks, thus eliminating the toggle switch. Along with the gauge, there will be a small control panel with left and right annunciator lights and transfer pump on/off switches.
Operation of the Osborne tip tank system requires the pilot to burn fuel off the main fuel tanks for at least one hour before transferring fuel from the tip tanks into the mains. When the transfer pumps are turned on, this system pumps tip tank fuel into the main tanks at a calibrated flow rate designed to replace the fuel that is being burned off during normal engine operation. Should the pilot get distracted while transferring fuel, automatic flow switches will turn off the transfer pumps when the tip tank fuel runs dry.
Each Osborne tip tank has a capacity of 20 gallons. When the Osborne 40 gallons are added to the 74 gallons that are useable in the long range main fuel tanks, the total capacity is 114 gallons. With the numbers that have been seen during the initial flights of the Sweepstakes Bonanza, it's a cinch that nonstop legs as long as 1,250 nautical miles will be within reach, even with IFR reserves.
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