Get Your Glass Sweepstakes: This Glass Is For You

The work is finished, and the Archer is ready for its new owner-could it be you?

January 1, 2009

General aviation is in the midst of an avionics revolution. Like it or not, electronic flight displays are here to stay, although conventional instruments continue to serve dutifully as strong supporters. The proliferation of glass and its availability as a retrofit option are why we chose Get Your Glass as the 2008 AOPA sweepstakes theme.

2008 Sweeps Archer Click the image for the video.

The sweepstakes Piper Archer was built in late 1975, but its renaissance came about throughout 2008, culminating with a glass panel mid-year. But as the photos on these pages prove, the panel is just the beginning of the story. As in years past, the sweepstakes airplane features a gorgeous new leather interior, new paint, a newly overhauled engine, and some new airframe modifications. It took many people many hundreds of hours of work to create the finished product. It’s a product we hope you’ll agree is one of the most beautiful, most capable, most inspiring sweepstakes projects AOPA has ever done.

From the beginning…

The airplane we now know as N208GG was one of more than 15,000 airplanes built in 1975. It began life as N7658C in Piper’s Vero Beach, Florida, factory. After a few owners and some nine years later, the sweepstakes Archer went through its first transition. A company called Zero Time bought the airplane and completely refurbished it with a new engine, avionics, paint, and interior. The company even rebranded the Archer N22ZT, for zero time. It was the first Archer the company turned over, and much of the work it did was still evident when we purchased the airplane so many years later.

We purchased N22ZT after it had gone through a number of new owners, from Pennsylvania and western New York (where it got a battle wound in the form of a scrape on the underside of the left wing) and finally to Winterset, Iowa, where we discovered it. At the time, a flying club owned the airplane, and it was being flown less and less. The members decided to sell it, and we were lucky to buy a nice airframe that needed a little tender loving care.

In November 2007, we dropped off the Archer at Oxford Aviation in Oxford, Maine. The staff at Oxford Aviation went all out. They created something that more closely resembles a luxury car than an airplane. The list of custom features inside the cabin is extensive—sidewalls; wood accents on the parking brake, flap handle, door handle, and armrests; overhead vents; overhead lamp; and finally, the seats. Oh, those seats. By incorporating more than 20 pieces of foam and leather, the skilled craftsmen at Oxford created a modern, comfortable, beautiful seat unlike any you’re likely to find in another general aviation airplane. Most striking of all, they’re black.

Oxford Aviation also designed and executed the distinctive paint scheme on the Archer. We wanted the airplane to have a modern look to go with the glass theme, and Oxford nailed it. The airplane has a pearl white basecoat with a metallic silver fade and metallic black accent stripes. Although the photographs are nice, you have to see it in person to fully appreciate the depth and character of the paint job.

While Oxford was repainting the Archer and rebuilding its interior, Penn Yan Aero in New York, was overhauling the engine. One of the reasons we chose an Archer for this project was its simplicity and everyman appeal. The Lycoming O-360-A4M illustrates those ideals well. It’s one of the most popular aircraft engines in use today, and Penn Yan Aero did a fantastic job of making it “new” again. As is standard with a Penn Yan overhaul, the accessories are all new. Penn Yan Aero even repainted the engine graphite gray to go with the paint scheme. It almost makes you want to take the cowling off all the time just to admire the engine.

Finally, in early March, the airplane went to Penn Avionics in West Chester, Pennsylvania, for the final part of its makeover. About that time, Aspen Avionics certified its Electronic Flight Display 1000 Primary Flight Display. The timing was such that the Archer features the company’s first-ever certified PFD as the centerpiece of the panel. But the PFD is just the beginning. An Avidyne EX500 multifunction display with traffic, datalink weather, charts, and a WX-500 Stormscope help complete the situational awareness. A pair of Garmin GNS 430W GPS/nav/coms drive the navigation, and an S-Tec Fifty Five X autopilot, a PS Engineering audio panel, and a J.P. Instruments engine analyzer all will make the winner’s life easy.

Penn installed part of the equipment listed above prior to Sun ’n Fun in early April, and then finished the job by AOPA’s Fly-In and Open House in early June. We were left with one of the most capable instrument panels possible, in a logically organized, clean arrangement that really does make the airplane a retrofit piece of glass art.

…to the end

The result of all the hard work can be seen on these pages. N208GG went through its second rebirth to become a beautiful, highly capable, and fully equipped modern aircraft. It combines the easy flying characteristics of a great airframe with the advanced avionics from this year’s generous contributors. The panel is such that a student pilot could fly it like any other airplane, but a seasoned pilot will find it easy to operate and with capability that exceeds any other airplane of this vintage. We’d like to say thanks to all who followed along on AOPA Online, and to this year’s contributors who made the project possible. Glass is a brave new GA world, and the lucky winner of the 2008 Get Your Glass Sweepstakes will be ready to tackle it head on.

E-mail the author at [email protected].

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.