Ultimate Arrow

It's Ready!

December 1, 1997

The Ultimate Arrow takes flight

Sitting in the left seat of N97UA at 8,000 feet over southern Virginia, bound for Punta Gorda, Florida, I'm astonished at how different this flight is from my first flight in what is now known as the Ultimate Arrow. Throughout the year we've been detailing the step-by-step refurbishment of AOPA's 1997 sweepstakes prize, the Ultimate Arrow. We hope that you have come away with a better knowledge of what is involved in refurbishing an airplane, as well as some of the products that are currently available to make your aircraft a safer, more comfortable, and faster machine.

On the heels of a nice tailwind almost a year ago to the day, I brought N6383C from Bartow, Florida, to its new home at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, in five hours. The squawk list was already a few items long, and the wish list to create the Ultimate Arrow was well under way.

Today, as the second hour of this nonstop, six-hour flight ticks by, I can honestly say that N97UA is the ultimate Piper Arrow. While sitting in a leather seat reclined a couple of notches for the long trip, I'm looking at a panel packed with capability and redundancy. One reason that I'm able to jot down these thoughts is the fact that S-Tec's System 55 autopilot is faithfully tracking the precise course laid out by the Bendix/King KLN 89B IFR GPS.

At about 65-percent power, the airplane is humming along at a consistent true airspeed of 140 knots, thanks to speed mods provided by LoPresti and Knots 2U. Under LoPresti's stylish new cowling, the factory-remanufactured Lycoming IO-360 installed last January has racked up about 60 hours. It's fully broken in and burns about a quart of oil every 12 hours. It's swinging a smooth new three-blade Hartzell propeller. The Insight Strike Finder's showing no dots for 200 miles and ATC has cleared me GPS direct to the Craig VOR — some 500 miles ahead — so it looks as if I'm in for a nice, relaxing flight.

No fuelin'

When Piper installed the double-taper wing on the Arrow III in 1977, it created a more flexible and sharper-looking airplane than the Arrow II. The new wing had a longer wingspan, which allowed for an improved climb rate; higher service ceiling; and a whopping 72 gallons of fuel capacity — more than seven hours of usable fuel at typical power settings. With its faster 140-knot cruise speed (up from the stock airplane's 134 knots), the Ultimate Arrow can take you, a friend, and some baggage from Philadelphia to Miami nonstop with IFR reserves. By comparison, the same trip in a stock Beech Bonanza at 170 knots would be only about 30 minutes shorter because of the required fuel stop.

As any pilot knows, flying trips to the limits of an airplane's range requires precise calculations. My first trip in the Arrow last year was an anxiety-ridden flight in which fuel calculations were made about 25 times on various scraps of paper. Were the fuel quantity gauges accurate? Was the fuel flow gauge accurate? In the back of my mind I knew that 72 gallons for the five-hour trip should have been more than enough, but the gauges were telling me a different story. Was there a leak? After I landed, there was more than 25 gallons in the tanks despite the gauges' saying that there was considerably less.

To solve this problem for the future owner of the Arrow, we installed new fuel quantity indicators from Rochester Gauges that were specifically calibrated to the airplane's fuel system while still using the existing sending units. And, to be extra sure that the pilot of the Ultimate Arrow doesn't run out of fuel, low-fuel annunciator lights were added at the top of the panel. They illuminate when the respective tank contains less than five gallons of usable fuel. Keeping an accurate track of the fuel burn in the Ultimate Arrow is a Shadin fuel computer that works in tandem with the KLN 89B GPS.

The intercommunication between the avionics is mind numbing to those of us who are used to flying behind older equipment. It was obvious to me that the Shadin was taking GPS information to make its calculations; however, I was not aware that the KLN 89B was also calculating fuel information from the Shadin's transducer. The 89B also allows you to set a fuel reserve so that it will provide its own warning in the event of impending fuel exhaustion. In the Arrow, it's currently set to 10 gallons, or roughly one hour's worth of fuel. With all of this automation, a flight to the limit of this airplane's range is no longer a puckering affair — in fact, the satisfaction of confidently using an airplane to its potential is quite pleasant.

After spending some time with the KLN 89B, I've realized what a capable and smart unit it is. Need a frequency? It's there. Shoot a GPS approach? You got it. Want to know your true airspeed? No problem. Retrieving the information stored in the 89B's database — which must be updated every 28 days to remain current for IFR approaches — makes for a cockpit that is noticeably uncluttered, with little need for chart consultation, whiz-wheels, calculators, and other paraphernalia. Purists who thought that they could never make an IFR flight without reaching for the chart bag may be surprised after a trip in the Ultimate Arrow.

Redundancy counts

Like many pilots who are not accustomed to flying such lavishly equipped airplanes, for added situational awareness I still like to rely on NDBs, VORs, DME, and the information they display on their respective indicators. However, with GPS navigating the airplane most of the time, the HSI gets tied up showing GPS track information. The redesigned Bendix/King KX 155A navcoms solve this CDI dilemma nicely. If you push the Mode button, the nav side of the unit's display will give you its own CDI with a bearing selector. Including those on the navcoms, the Ultimate Arrow has four CDIs that can simultaneously display position information. If desired, the navcoms can also display a numeric bearing-to or radial-from indication. With all of these nav sources at hand and the huge Arnav moving map displaying the airplane's GPS-derived position, it should be very difficult for the pilot of the Ultimate Arrow to get disoriented or lost.

Besides navigational redundancies, the Arrow provides backup sources of engine monitoring. Standard single-point EGT and CHT readings are provided by Rochester gauges while the Arnav MFD's engine monitoring function watches EGT and CHT on every cylinder. Further enhancing safety, Rochester's oil pressure gauge and Aerosonic's fuel pressure gauge are all- electric, which keeps "wet" oil and fuel lines out of the cockpit.

Another good safety enhancement is a standby vacuum system. Like most pilots flying single-engine airplanes, I'm always concerned about vacuum-pump failure in IMC conditions. To solve that problem we installed Precise Flight's standby vacuum system, which taps the low-pressure air inside the engine's intake manifold to provide the necessary vacuum to continue spinning the vacuum instruments. Because recognizing a pump failure can be tricky, we installed Sigma-Tek's flagged attitude indicator. Rather than waiting for the attitude gyro to tumble after vacuum is lost, a flag simply pops into view letting the pilot know what has happened.

One smart box

The concept of a multifunction display has been used in airliners for many years. For general aviation, however, this technology has been slow in coming. Thankfully, it has finally arrived. Arnav's MFD 5200 displays a GPS-derived moving map in a large, easy-to-read format. Its engine-monitoring capabilities, in addition to displaying the aforementioned EGT and CHT for all cylinders, consist of manifold pressure, rpm, outside air temperature, volts, amps, and many other parameters that can be customized by the user. Furthering the engine-monitoring functions, the MFD has the capability to advise the pilot of an impending problem, much like the engine information and crew advisory systems (EICAS) found in today's airliners. Oil pressure falling below limits? Up pops the engine-monitoring page with its graphic oil-pressure instrument and a flashing red message warning of the problem. It can then take you one step further by pulling up the required emergency checklist for the specific problem at hand. These early warnings, whether for a loss of EGT on one cylinder or a gradual loss of fuel pressure, will probably buy the pilot of the Ultimate Arrow ample time to get the airplane on the ground before a full-blown emergency takes place.

Arnav is also in the process of activating its datalink network to allow MFD users all over the country to have weather products brought right to the cockpit via VHF radio transmission. When the datalink network is installed, the Arrow's pilot can call up a radar picture and lay it over the route to see how the current flight path will be affected. The radar report is generally less than 20 minutes old. What's the forecast? Simply request the TAF for the destination. Using Jeppesen geographical data, the Arnav unit will also provide terrain clearance information to provide GA pilots with a poor-man's ground proximity warning system (GPWS). The glass cockpit age is coming for GA — and not a moment too soon, in our opinion.

A Slick system

Today's destination, Punta Gorda, Florida, is the home of Mod Works, the company that rebuilt the instrument panel and interior and sprayed a custom new paint job on the Arrow. Upon arrival, Todd Dailing from Unison Industries (maker of Slick magnetos) and Mod Works will team up to connect the LASAR electronic ignition system. This system electronically varies the timing of two special magnetos installed on the Ultimate Arrow for the maximum efficiency in all modes of flight. As we gain more experience with this system we'll report on its benefits to the Arrow.

See and be seen

Not by accident, I planned for a few hours of my trip to be flown at night. Exterior lighting of the Ultimate Arrow has been greatly improved since the addition of lighting products from RMD, Whelen, and Knots 2U. This 1978 Piper came out of the factory with one landing light mounted in the cowling. RMD's wing tips with built-in landing and taxi lights greatly enhance the forward view at night and provide necessary redundancy for nighttime operations.

Not only do the new lights enhance visibility for the pilot — they also improve how well others see the Ultimate Arrow. Coupled to a Precise Flight Pulselite system, the RMD wingtip lights are sequentially dimmed and brightened for extra conspicuity. Flying in busy Tampa Class B airspace, I was called as traffic to a multitude of airplanes, and every response was "got him in sight." As I arrived in the pattern at Punta Gorda, another pilot in an airplane approaching from the south commented that the once-humble little Arrow looked like an approaching airliner.

But what about visibility from the rear? Being slower than many airplanes in the sky, GA airplanes need rearward protection too. To solve this, on each wing tip we installed new position light assemblies from Whelen that combine forward and aft-facing navigation lights with the company's Comet-Flash strobes. Also showing its joules to the rear is Knots 2U's Slimline fin cap and beacon light replacement. This clever unit replaces the obtuse beacon light installed atop the vertical stabilizer in some Arrows with a smaller multiflash strobe light. Not only does the unit look neat and clean, but its red lens tones down the strobe brightness for ground recognition purposes.

Inside, the cockpit lighting has been improved, as well. Every flight instrument and gauge was replaced by an internally lighted version. Now there are no post lights and no need for an overhead floodlight in normal operations. To provide flood lighting, Mod Works' Steve Ryan crafted a band of lights to fit underneath the new Dennis Ashby glareshield. The Arrow originally had, mounted on the overhead panel, a red-filtered floodlight that barely managed to provide panel lighting. What we have now is a nice, evenly lit panel full of new instruments and gauges that are supplemented by flood lights with plenty of power to light up the entire cockpit area. Both systems are wired through individual rheostats to allow for unlimited combinations of brightness from either source. The Arrow's original overhead light remains as a redundant source of either red or white floodlighting, and there is also a dome light to provide light to the rear cabin area. In addition, Ryan crafted new yoke-mounted map lights.

Patience and time

As anybody who has restored an airplane knows, it takes a lot of time, patience, care, and money to create your dream airplane. This unique sweepstakes project was not meant to inspire someone to tackle such an extensive renovation of his own airplane. It was intended to provide owners with the necessary information on what is involved in refurbishing an aging aircraft and to make operators aware of the new products and services available to help complete the job.

Not only is a project like the Ultimate Arrow prohibitively expensive, but you would be without the use of your airplane for the majority of a year. Mod Works' Steve Ryan summarized the Arrow project nicely when he said, "It's like taking Danny DeVito and turning him into Arnold Schwarzenegger." A job like this takes a lot of time and tons of patience and cooperation. Most owners would normally go after items one by one as needed in order to spread the costs of refurbishment over a longer period of time.

Now, with the bugs worked out of it and boxes communicating nicely with each other, what has emerged is perhaps the most sophisticated of Piper Arrows. Packed with capability, redundancy, and safety features, this airplane has become a serious IFR machine with the latest technology. The winner of the AOPA Sweepstakes will find out next month. Hmmmm — who will it be?


AOPA would like to thank the following companies that donated or discounted their products, services, and time to create the Ultimate Arrow.

Aileron trim
Aero-Trim Incorporated, 1130 102nd Street, Bay Harbor, Florida, 33154; 305/864-3336.

Altimeter, IVSI, airspeed indicator, manifold pressure/fuel pressure gauge
Aerosonic Corporation, 1212 North Hercules Avenue, Clearwater, Florida 34625; 813/461-3000.

Altitude alerter/clock
Electronics International, Incorporated, 12620 Southwest 231st Place, Hillsboro, Oregon 97123; 503/628-9113.

Alternator (100 amp)
National Airparts, Incorporated, 1140 Flightline Boulevard, DeLand, Florida 32724; 904/734-3365.

Antennas (GPS/com and com)
Comant Industries, 12920 Park Street, Santa Fe Springs, California 90670; 800/525-5239 or 562/946-6694.

Autopilot
S-Tec Corporation, 1 S-Tec Way, Municipal Airport, Mineral Wells, Texas 76067; 817/325-9406.

AvBlend oil additive
Tecni Flyte Corporation, 6800 West 73rd Street, Bedford Park, Illinois 60638-6024; 800/209-0083 or 708/728-0210.

Avionics: IFR GPS, HSI, 2 nav/coms, ADF, DME, transponder, audio panel with intercom
Bendix/King Division of AlliedSignal General Aviation Avionics, 400 North Rogers Road, Olathe, Kansas 66062; 913/768-3000.

Barry Mount engine mounts, silicone hoses, SCAT tubing, engine baffle seals
Herber Aircraft Service, Incorporated, 1401 East Franklin Avenue, El Segundo, California 90245; 800/544-0050 or 310/322-9575.

Cowling, flap gap seals, gear fairings, flap-hinge fairings
LoPresti Speed Merchants, 2620 Airport North Drive, Vero Beach, Florida 32960; 800/859-4757 or 561/562-4757.

Cowl Plugs
Ground Tech, Incorporated, 2210 West Zion Road, Salisbury, Maryland 21801; 410/749-6693.

Engine installation, annual inspection, initial airframe repair
Safe Flight Incorporated, 200 Airport Road, Stevensville, Maryland 21666; 410/643-7728.

Engine gauges (analog)
Rochester Gauges, 11616 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75229; 972/241-2161.

Exhaust system
Wall Colmonoy Corporation, 4700 South East 59th Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73135; 405/672-1361.

Factory-remanufactured engine
Textron-Lycoming, 652 Oliver Street, Williamsport, Pennsylvania 17701; 717/327-7278.

Replacement fiberglass parts
Globe Fiberglass, 4033 Holden Road, Lakeland, Florida 33811; 800/899-2707 or 941/644-2178.

Fuel computer
Shadin Company, Incorporated, 6831 Oxford Street, St. Louis Park, Minnesota 55426; 800/328-0584 or 612/927-6500.

Glareshield
Dennis Ashby, 1201 Skyway Drive, Bakersfield, California 93308; 800/945-7668 or 909/982-3793.

GPS annunciator unit
Mid-Continent Instruments, 7706 East Osie, Wichita, Kansas 67207; 800/821-1212 or 316/683-5619.

Gust lock
York Associates, LLC, 7100 Northwest 63rd, Hangar 505, Bethany, Oklahoma 73008; 405/495-8946.

LASAR electronic ignition
Unison Industries, 530 Blackhawk Park Avenue, Rockford, Illinois 61104; 815/965-4700.

Leather products
Perrone/Townsend Leather, 48-50 South Main Street, Gloversville, New York 12078; 800/222-6341 or 518/725-9144.

Lighting (position/strobe lights)
Whelen Engineering Company, Incorporated, Route 145, Winthrop Road, Chester, Connecticut 06412; 860/526-9504.

Logo decal
Moody Aero-Graphics, Post Office Box 1450, Belleview, Florida 34421; 800/749-2462 or 352/347-3330.

Maintenance-free battery
Concorde Battery Corporation, 2009 San Bernardino Road, West Covina, California 91790; 800/515-0303 or 626/813-1234.

Medeco security locks
Midwest Vending Security, 3350 Secor Road, Toledo, Ohio 43606; 419/534-6886.

Metal instrument panel, systems integration, leather interior, and paint application
Mod Works, Incorporated, 8250 Skylane Way, Punta Gorda, Florida 33982; 800/252-0231 or 941/637-6770.

Multifunction display
Arnav Systems, Incorporated, Pierce County Airport, 16923 Meridian East, Puyallup, Washington 98373; 206/848-6060.

Paint, Norstar cleaning products
Alpha Coatings, Incorporated, Post Office Box 131, Washington, Missouri 63090; 800/875-3903 or 314/390-3903.

Preheater (multi-probe)
Tanis Aircraft Services, Post Office Box 117, Glenwood, Minnesota 56334; 800/443-2136 or 320/634-4772.

Propeller
Hartzell Propeller, Incorporated, One Propeller Place, Piqua, Ohio 45356; 513/778-4200.

Seat belts
Aircraft Belts, Incorporated, 2020 Anders Lane, Kemah, Texas 77565; 800/847-5651 or 281/538-1284.

Slimline beacon light, wing root fairings, stabilator seal
Knots 2U, 3106 Bieneman Road, Burlington, Wisconsin 53105; 414/763-6152.

Soundproofing/insulation material
Unlimited Quality Products, 710 West Broadway Road #508, Mesa, Arizona 85210; 800/528-8219 or 602/461-5235.

Standby vacuum system, Pulselites
Precise Flight Incorporated, 63120 Powell Butte Road, Bend, Oregon 97701; 800/547-2558 or 541/382-8684.

Strikefinder
Insight Avionics, Incorporated, Post Office Box 194, Buffalo, New York 14205; 716/852-3217.

Sun visors
Rosen Product Development, 4678 Isabelle Street, Eugene, Oregon 97402; 800/284-7677 or 541/342-3802.

Tachometer
Penny & Giles Aerospace, Incorporated, 209 West Main, Valley Center, Kansas 67147; 316/755-1223.

Vacuum pump, flaggable attitude gyro
Sigma-Tek, Incorporated, 1001 Industrial Road, Augusta, Kansas 67010; 316/775-6373.

Windows
LP Aero Plastics, RD #1 Box 201B, Jeannette, Pennsylvania 15644; 412/744-4448.

Wing tips with landing/taxi lights
RMD Aircraft Lighting, Incorporated, 3648 Southeast Roanoke Court, Hillsboro, Oregon 97123; 503/628-6056.


E-mail the author at pete.bedell@aopa.org.