AOPA Get Your Glass Sweepstakes Update -- An airplane with a history

March 25, 2013

Sweeps Update

Project Update: December 18, 2008

An airplane with a history

By Ian J. Twombly

The sweeps Archer and H. Lee Houseknecht, renter from Batavia, New York.

A fun aspect of owning an older airplane is piecing together its history. Finding out where in the country it’s been based, how many owners it’s had, and what sort of flying it’s done can be interesting and informative. Every year past owners of sweepstakes airplanes come forward, making our search that much easier.

The Piper Archer II that represents the 2008 Get Your Glass Sweepstakes was built in Piper’s Vero Beach, Fla., facility in late 1975. Piper called it a 1976 model, which is not uncommon. The serial number is 28-7690073, meaning the sweeps Archer was one of the early Archer IIs to come off the line. Back then, Piper called it 7658C.

The airplane went through a few owners in the first nine years. There was one the maintenance records indicate was presumably in Florida, and another in Oklahoma. Then, for no apparent reason other than it was available and probably cheap, a company called Zero Time bought the airplane. And this is where the story starts to become strangely close to me.

Zero Time was based at Capital City Airport in Harrisburg, Penn. It purchased the airplane and essentially did what we did, but mid-80’s style. Zero Time remade the interior, repainted the airplane, completely redid the panel with Narco radios, and put on a Lycoming factory reman engine. The company’s goal was to buy a bunch of Archers and resell them at a premium based on the work that was put in. What we now know as N208GG was the first airplane the company completed.

As AOPA is in Frederick, Md., less than an hour’s flight from Harrisburg, an “AOPA Pilot” editor went up to fly it. He described the process, which is a great historical record for what was done to the airplane before we purchased it. Including the major work packages above, Zero Time put on the gap seals, rerigged the controls, resealed the fuel tanks, and added all new engine accessories. The project was finished in April 1984, and by November, the story says, the airplane still hadn’t sold. Zero Timed offered this completely refurbished airplane for $58,835, almost $30,000 less than a new Archer at the time. Oh and that editor who wrote the story? That was Mark Twombly, my dad and an associate editor at the time.

N22ZT right after it was "Zero Timed," as it appeared in the January 1985 issue of Pilot.

Zero Time eventually sold the airplane to a state official in Pennsylvania. After that it went to Charleston, S.C., for a short time and then found a new home in western New York, where it went through a few owners. Dave, an owner from Batavia, N.Y., said he put on all the aftermarket lighting, such as the wing tip strobes and flashing landing lights. “With see and avoid, and no radar, I like lots of blinking lights. She looks like a 777 landing at night and that is what I wanted,” he told me in an e-mail earlier this year.

Batavia was also where the airplane received its only apparent damage. The rumor is that an owner or other pilot swung too close to a fence and scraped the underside of the wing. Western New York is also where the airplane apparently did its only flight school duty, and that was via a leaseback.

When we found her, the sweeps airplane was in Winterset, Iowa, and was owned by a flying club called ADCO Air. The members flew it a lot initially, but slacked off later. Here’s what one club member had to say after we bought it: “Most folks saw N22ZT as just another 30-year-old airplane a rivet or two shy of the scrap yard. But it was my plane, the only one I’ve ever really known, and it happily escorted me on every GA trip I’ve ever taken. I was saddened when the foundations of ADCO, yet another GA victim of escalating costs and waning interest, began to crumble and eventually collapse.”

Needless to say, N22ZT was ready for another rebirth. And the rest is recent history.

Next week: A final look back

E-mail the author at ian.twombly@aopa.org