AOPA's 2012 sweepstakes: Aviat A–1C
Even for an airplane built for adventure, the Aviat A–1C that the aviation world will soon know as the AOPA 2012 Sweepstakes “Tougher Than a Tornado” Husky has had a tumultuous young life. The newly manufactured, stylishly painted aircraft got its registration number, N40WY, on February 14, 2011, and its initial test flight at the Aviat Aircraft factory in Afton, Wyoming, went smoothly.
A month later, Stu Horn, owner of Aviat Aircraft, personally flew the airplane to the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In at Lakeland, Florida, where it became the anchor for the Recreational Aviation Foundation’s (RAF) public display. Standing tall on oversized Alaskan Bushwheels, the yellow-and-maroon Husky was a big draw.
But the youthful Husky—with just 18 hours on its Hobbs meter—was parked squarely at the epicenter of what became an airshow nightmare. On March 31, a tornado ripped through the Sun ’n Fun display area, overturning new airplanes like playthings.
N40WY broke loose from its tiedowns, danced in the wind, and was pushed backward into a light pole. When the storm subsided, the damage to the airframe was relatively minor. Its rudder was bent, along with the left horizontal stabilizer and left elevator, and the right aileron and wing tip were torn and scuffed. There were several puncture holes in the fabric, the largest on the left side of the fuselage in the center of its N number. N40WY would fly again—but it would take time.
The airplane was tucked away in a hangar at Lakeland’s Linder Regional Airport at the conclusion of the show, and Aviat made arrangements to send replacement parts so that they could be installed and the wounded airplane could be ferried home for more permanent repairs. It was then that AOPA President Craig Fuller and Horn of Aviat saw a deal in the making.
Many AOPA members are adventurous sorts, enjoy backcountry flying, and would be thrilled at the prospect of winning a go-anywhere, land-anywhere dream machine like a Husky. And the fact that this one was scarred by a tornado isn’t a drawback, because AOPA members know their association will make sure it’s repaired as new. Perhaps, with help from Aviat’s skilled craftsmen and organizations within our general aviation industry, we will add features that will make it better than new.
August 22, 2011