March 25, 2013
By Ian J. Twombly
Of all the news from general aviation in 2008, nothing was more important to the future of the industry than the advance of electronic flight information displays, or glass cockpits. And as 2008 also was the year of the Get Your Glass Sweepstakes, the winner of the Piper Archer will have the latest and greatest technology available to an airplane of this vintage.
We began the project late in 2007 after purchasing N22ZT in Iowa in mid-November. Then, right around Thanksgiving, we flew the airplane with its outdated panel, peeling paint, and powder-blue interior to Oxford Aviation in Oxford, Maine, for its cosmetic makeover.
The skilled craftsmen at Oxford did an amazing job of making an old airplane new again. The paint is new, fresh, and exciting. It incorporates metallic, a fade, and a pearl white basecoat. But if the paint is the great first impression, the interior is the satisfying full story. What Oxford did to the interior amazed all of us. Sure, the seats are leather. That’s become commonplace for retrofits. But the hand-carved rosewood accents, new overhead plastic, custom sidewalls, and many more details make the interior one of a kind.
As Oxford worked hard on the look of the airplane, Penn Yan Aero was busy overhauling the engine. The small shop in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York turned the engine around quickly to meet our deadline. With the overhaul, we received all new accessories, including fuel pump, carburetor, starter, magnetos, and more. Penn Yan Aero even painted the engine graphite gray to match the paint scheme. It’s a great-performing, beautiful engine.
Finally, when Oxford had worked its magic, we flew the airplane to Penn Avionics in West Chester, Penn. Penn had the difficult task of making the Get Your Glass Sweepstakes come to life. Since this project was supposed to focus on the panel from the beginning we spent a lot of time carefully planning what equipment would go in the panel and where it would go. After only a few weeks of work, Penn had completely transformed the airplane into something that rivals modern airliners.
Two Garmin GNS430Ws drive the Avidyne EX500 with charts, datalink weather, Sirius satellite radio, and an L-3 Communications Avionics Systems WX500, and the Aspen Avionics EFD1000 primary flight display. The Aspen is the cornerstone of the panel and what makes the airplane a glass machine. It’s a fantastically capable piece of equipment for a very nice price. And if all that weren’t enough, we added an S-Tec Fifty Five X autopilot, a JP Instruments EDM800, and a PS Engineering PMA8000-MP3 audio panel.
Needless to say, this is one loaded Archer. It’s easy to fly, but it feels like a corporate aircraft when you look inside. What could be better than that?
We couldn’t finish out the year and give this airplane away without saying thanks to the all the contributors listed on this Web page. These companies make the projects possible. But most of all, thank you to those who have followed along all year on the Web, in the magazine, and at the shows. I feel like the luckiest person in the world for the opportunity to work on this project and meet everyone through e-mail and in person at the shows. Well, maybe the winner will feel luckier than me.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we choose the winner and then give away a great airplane. I can’t wait! In the meantime, check out the video of the sweepstakes airplane if you haven’t seen it yet. So long.
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