2008 Get Your Glass Sweepstakes Project Update: Inside the machine

February 21, 2008

Sweeps Update

Project Update: February 21, 2008

Inside the machine

By Ian J. Twombly

As the skilled technicians at Oxford Aviation work this week to rebuild the interior of AOPA’s Get Your Glass Sweepstakes Archer, let’s look at some of the interior appointments yet to come, and recap what’s been done to the inside of the airplane.

Our sweepstakes contributor Oxford Aviation in Oxford, Maine, is perhaps best known for its exterior paint work. The interior craftsmanship we’ve seen so far deserves equal praise. With full in-house design capabilities, Oxford has been a one-stop shop, starting with the design, and soon, ending with delivery.

I’ve mentioned before that a great advantage of using the same shop for both paint and interior is that the design can remain cohesive. An outside design agency would have some nice perks, but there’s been a great asset in having the people who design the interior on site and toiling with the airplane every day. It means simple questions are answered quickly, and if a certain level of trust is involved, those decisions can even be deferred to the shop.

One such example occurred recently. While trying to decide if newer, more advanced materials like carbon fiber would look good on the armrests and other choice places, Oxford’s interior designer Louise Horowitz (owner Jim Horowitz’s wife) decided to go out on a limb and try wood trim instead. The result was so striking that we subsequently deferred the decision on where to put the trim straight to Horowitz herself. Quick and easy. And we believe the results will be a key design component of the interior.

Of course, Oxford isn’t just redoing the armrests and adding wood trim to other spots. I’m not sure the phrase “new interior” sufficiently describes what’s being done to the Archer. Almost every piece inside the airplane will be new. Starting at the top, that means new headliner, plastic trim, windows, sidewalls, soundproofing, seatbelts, seats, and carpets.

And getting to this point hasn’t been easy. In the course of the project, the folks at Oxford have had to literally rip apart the inside of the airplane and rebuild it. That means taking out each seat, tearing it down to the frame, refurbishing the frame, replacing necessary parts, rebuilding the foam seat and seatback, and finally covering it with leather. And that’s for one seat!

The refurb details

For a preview of what’s to come, here are some details on what Get Your Glass means to the inside of the Archer.

Most pilots don’t give it a thought, but the seat is one of the most important parts in the airplane. It has to be adjusted properly to fly safely, and a properly constructed seat can reduce fatigue. Since this year’s sweepstakes is all about new technology and advanced designs, the folks at Oxford thought black seats would look great. I have to admit that we were skeptical. But then the shop built us a mini version of the seat, and we were sold. It will be covered in black Sinneybeck leather with a perforated leather insert. Oxford will also be installing four headrests that were donated by Central Airmotive.

We also replaced the windows with a nice gray-tinted version donated by LP Aero. The black seats are likely to retain a little extra summer heat, but we’re banking on the tinted windows to offer some relief. And of course, you can’t redo a PA-28 without putting in a one-piece windshield. LP supplied the plastic, and STC-holder Kosola and Associates supplied us with the hardware.

To complement the new lightweight soundproofing, we’re adding a door seal on both the baggage door and main cabin door, thanks to Aircraft Door Seals. The seal is a brand-new STC from the company that is a seal-on-seal arrangement, instead of the standard single seal.

For comfort, we’re adding inertial reel shoulder harnesses from BAS, Inc. This is a simple mod that converts the uncomfortable stock seat belt system to a very unobtrusive four-point harness. It’s a quick and inexpensive way to add a lot of comfort.

Other changes include 12-volt receptacles for all occupants, the new baggage door strut from Knots 2U, and almost all new plastic, thanks to Piper. In a few weeks, the Get Your Glass Archer will not only be a great-looking airplane, but a comfortable and capable one as well.

Next week: Building up the interior

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Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly | "Flight Training" Editor

AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.