Meet Your New Sweepstakes Airplane

March 4, 2008

Sweeps Update

Project Update: April 3, 2008

Meet your new sweepstakes airplane

By Ian J. Twombly

It’s almost finished. In fact it practically looks finished. Your sweepstakes airplane is in the final throes of a complete makeover, accented with a new panel featuring some of the best liquid crystal (glass) displays the industry has to offer.

Next week marks the first public debut for N208GG, and she is looking good for her unveiling. The ’76 Piper Archer has been repainted, the interior has been completely refurbished, the engine has been overhauled, and the panel is on its way to completion. Sun ’n Fun is going to be a little bit brighter this year, thanks to a new glass-equipped airplane in front of AOPA’s Big Yellow Tent. We wanted to give you, the loyal sweepstakes followers, a sneak peek at what we have to offer next week at the show.

Slightly less than a month ago, Oxford Aviation finished N208GG’s complete cosmetic makeover. Working early mornings, late nights, and on weekends to meet its deadline, Oxford took a seen-better-days 1976 Archer II and made it look like a factory-new airplane. When you walk up to the airplane at the show, take note of the little things. There are many. Look at the tie-down rings, and the nav light retainers. Then notice the white basecoat. It’s not really white at all, but pearl. Look at the prop. American Propeller helped us again this year and designed and painted a custom scheme. It’s a great accent to a beautiful airplane.

When you peer inside, notice the custom work. It’s everywhere. Each seat is handcrafted and took around 50 hours to make. That means one man took a month just to make the seats! Notice the wood trim accents. They too are custom, as are the sidewalls and overhead duct work.

Then, of course, you have to look at the panel. Is it finished? It kind of looks like it’s finished. It’s not, but Penn Avionics has worked hard the last three weeks getting it quite close. Inside, you’ll find the two Garmin GNS430Ws, the Garmin GTX 327 transponder, the PS Engineering PMA8000B audio panel, the Avidyne EX500 multifunction display, and Aspen Avionics’ EFD1000 primary flight display. Yes, the world’s first installed certified EFD1000 PFD. The airplane will even be IFR certified, meaning we won’t have to take two weeks flying to the show and back while we wait out weather. Still to come is the final panel itself—flat metal and painted to match the interior scheme—and some additional systems, such as a JP Instruments EDM 800 engine analyzer.

In the tent

The sweepstakes fun won’t end at the airplane. Make sure to go inside AOPA’s Big Yellow Tent for some inside information on Aspen’s EFD1000 PFD. In a new feature we’re trying this year, Aspen’s PFD will be set within a mock-up of the finished Archer panel. It will be a functioning unit running on a looping simulation. Come by and try out the various features and see what the unit is capable of. Also, next to the panel mock-up will be a video showing the unit in action during AOPA’s exclusive demo flight at Albuquerque, N.M., in late February. It’s a chance to see the PFD on the big screen and experience even more of its features.

Road show

For those who can’t get enough of the sweepstakes airplane, come visit us in Naples, Fla., on Monday, April 14. We’ll be showing off the airplane in a more exclusive, close-up setting than you’ll be able to see at Sun ’n Fun. The event is being organized by AOPA member and local airport bum Christopher LeCroy. We’ll be there from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Naples Airport pilot lounge, located at 250 Airport Drive South.

So whether you see N208GG at Sun ’n Fun, Naples, or another show this year, please stop to say hello and give us your thoughts on the airplane. We hope you are as proud and excited as we are. See you there!

Next week: Sun ’n Fun update

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