AOPA Pilot Magazine
October 2001 Volume 44 / Number 10
AOPA's 2001 Bonanza Sweepstakes: An Aerial Entertainment Center
A quiet, soft, leather-lined cabin
When the avionics certification uncertainties are put aside, the AOPA Sweepstakes Bonanza is finished. For a week in late July, the AOPA Pilot staff proudly showed off the newly painted Beech V35 Bonanza at EAA AirVenture 2001. Right after the show ended, N2001B(onanza) was flown to Air Mod in Batavia, Ohio, for a new interior.
By the time you read this, Dennis Wolter and his talented staff will have transformed the cabin interior of the sweepstakes Bonanza from its original 35-year-old, two-tone, fabric-and-vinyl blue interior into a leather-lined office — or, if you like, an aerial entertainment center.
For those who are reading their first installment of the 2001 sweepstakes Bonanza saga, the staff of Pilot magazine and more than a few industry suppliers (40 companies have helped so far) have worked together during the past year to upgrade a 1966 V35 Bonanza. The Bonanza has been morphed into a sky-screaming, mountain-jumping, fuel-sipping, electronic-navigating twenty-first-century flying machine that will be awarded to a lucky person early in 2002. And all any AOPA member has to do to be eligible is...be an AOPA member. One result of this effort is that some lucky winner will be very happy early next year. But making one person happy isn't really what this project is about.
The real goal is to prove that a solid airframe that's more than 30 years old can be transformed into a twenty-first-century GA airplane — that there are avionics, engine, paint, and interior options available for today's airplane owners that can markedly upgrade and improve older airplanes.
Wolter, owner of Air Mod, is a general aviation interior refurbishment innovator. During the AOPA Aero SUV project in 1999, Wolter designed a lightweight, quickly deployed, fold-up frame that converted the Cessna 206's aft cabin into a level sleeping platform.
Assisted by wife Cynthia, longtime employees Cathy Wilson and Calvin Edwards, and the rest of his crew, Wolter transforms airplane interiors into rugged, luxurious works of art. This is not quite as much of a dichotomy as it sounds, since Wolter's insistence on quality workmanship and materials, combined with his creative flair, always result in interiors that wear like iron, yet are pleasing to the eye. Not to mention comfortable and safe.
FAR 23.853 lists the requirements for passenger and crew compartment interiors. This regulation isn't too restrictive — the materials used must be at least flame resistant and must pass a self-extinguishing test. Instead of testing every material and fabric used, Air Mod and other reputable interior shops buy their materials from suppliers that provide documentation attesting to that fact. The documentation most often supplied is FAA Form 8110-3, which is a statement of compliance with the FARs.
Since the material guidelines are pretty cut and dried, what else is needed to design a good interior? The ability to create distinctive and durable covers is surely one piece of the puzzle, but the real key to long-term customer satisfaction is the installation. Piper does things a little different from Cessna, and Beech has its own methods.
A person who isn't familiar with airplane structures, practices, and procedures should attempt to install an airplane interior only with experienced guidance, and even then with extreme caution. Airframe structures, while strong as a whole, are quite fragile on a piece-by-piece basis. Repairing a critical piece of airframe structure that has been damaged during an installation can cost big bucks. Even the length of the attaching screws is extremely important. More often than you'd think, reports are heard about fuel lines, pitot/static lines, or electrical wiring bundles that have been punctured by a screw of the wrong length. Troubleshooting a system fault that has been caused by the installation of one screw that's too long can quickly turn into a nightmare. Interior refurbishment skills, and the techniques that make a long-term difference, are not learned quickly.
Wolter formed Air Mod in 1973. Over the years he has developed a reputation for consistently delivering very high quality modifications and interiors.
One of the advantages of choosing Air Mod is that the owner can rest assured that the hidden, and often ignored, cabin interior of his airplane will be improved when the airplane is returned.
The sweepstakes Bonanza arrived at Clermont County Airport, also home to Sporty's Pilot Shop, on the Tuesday after Oshkosh. Within a couple of days, the interior, carpets, and all of the existing fiberglass insulation were removed, the floorboards (they're thin plywood) were inspected, and the exposed airframe was checked for corrosion. A couple of floorboards will be replaced, but the rest of the inspection revealed a clean, corrosion-free interior — a perfect palette for an interior artist.
The interior metal surfaces will be painted with an epoxy primer. Painting reduces the possibility of corrosion and provides a clean surface to attach sound-blocking and sound-suppression materials.
In combination with Skandia Inc., of Davis Junction, Illinois, Wolter has created a passive noise-suppression system that promises to lower the cabin sound level. These passive noise-suppression kits consist of dense sound-blocking materials and sound-absorbing foams and insulation that combine to quiet the cabin. In concert with the thicker Beryl D'Shannon windshield and side windows, this kit will reduce noise-induced fatigue, making long trips less taxing and safer.
Jon Tellock of Skandia installed a sound-deadening blanket on the cabin side of the firewall during the Bonanza's stay at J.A. Air Center. This was the ideal time to install this important part of the kit because the instrument panel had been completely removed, and access to the firewall was as good as it can get.
The team at Air Mod meticulously fitted the different layers of sound-blocking and sound-absorbing foams and foils in the $1,500 Skandia kit. These kits aren't a couple pieces of foam and a promise — kit weight is approximately 25 pounds. Wolter says the noise level will be reduced by approximately 7 dB.
While flying N2001B from DuPage Airport to Salina, Kansas, after installation of the Beryl D'Shannon 3/8-inch-thick Speed Sloped windshield and the Skandia firewall blanket, I got a reading of 94 dBA on my trusty Radio Shack sound meter. At 60 miles per hour in my 1986 Lexus (actually it's a 1986 Toyota Cressida) the noise reading was 74 dBA on the same meter. The Skandia/Wolter kit won't make the Bonanza as quiet as a car, but it will be quite a bit quieter than other general aviation airplanes.
New landing-gear actuating tube boots from Performance Aero, of Grain Valley, Missouri, are being installed. Often overlooked, new boots will cut down air noise and make the cabin more comfortable. New cabin door seals and windlace complete the "quiet" package.
The Air Mod extras
During the flight to reposition the Bonanza for the AOPA Open House in early June (www.aopa.org/pilot/bonanza/010606commentary.html), the pilot's seat-back locking mechanism failed. Editor at Large Thomas A. Horne was able to continue the flight, but he wasn't happy. An Air Mod interior includes seat refurbishment. The Bonanza seats were removed and all paint was stripped off each seat structure prior to a detailed inspection for wear, misalignment, and cracks.
After the seats are airworthy, Air Mod rebuilds the pilot's and copilot's seats to accommodate the customer's physical stature. The seat-back structure is adjusted, and the layers of foam that form the seat shape are cut in accordance with measurements taken of the owner.
Since no one yet knows who will win the sweepstakes Bonanza, Wolter will build the seats to the "standard measure of man," which should fit the middle ninetieth percentile of human bodies. Should the winner's body be outside this envelope, Wolter can fine-tune the seats in a couple of hours to accommodate nonaverage-size people.
Aircraft Belts, of Kemah, Texas, has supplied new inertia reel mechanisms and a complete set of color-coordinated seat belts. A set of Medeco high-security door locks, courtesy of Aircraft Security and Alert Systems, of Dallas, Texas, will replace the worn-out original door locks. These locks guarantee a much higher level of cabin security. Seat-back assist cylinders have been rebuilt by the G. Nichols & Company, and the new interior is a beautiful cream-in-coffee-colored leather.
Air Mod interiors are expensive, but the results look wonderful, are distinctive, and wear well. Dick Bicknell, the longtime owner of a beautiful 1980 Cessna 182Q, installed an Air Mod interior in 1984. Seventeen years later, Bicknell is still happy. "I had a wool and vinyl interior installed. It still looks great, and allows extremely comfortable Maine-to-Florida trips, which I frequently fly nonstop." Air Mod's buyers get what they pay for. For instance, GA airplane side-panel upholstery is often stapled and glued to cardboard-like panels. Over the years the cardboard degenerates, mainly because of moisture and flexing. Wolter throws the cardboard away and replaces it with 0.020-inch-thick aluminum. Replacing the old cardboard with aluminum allows Wolter to create recessed armrests and other special touches that aren't possible when reusing the original cardboard.
Cincinnati Avionics, another business located at Clermont County Airport in Batavia, checks radios, intercoms, autopilots, electrical components, and lights for all of Wolter's customers. Recommendations are then made to the customer so that any system can be upgraded, certified, or repaired during the interior refurbishment process. A small touch, but it takes the customer's needs into account, streamlines maintenance, and combines two tasks into one down period. Cincinnati Avionics also works with Air Mod to ensure that everything works after the interior is completed.
The last step
The nuts-and-bolts upgrades on the sweepstakes Bonanza will be done by the time you read this. Do the new interior, paint, turbonormalized engine, prop, and instrument panel mean the AOPA staff will be enjoying three months of zooming across the country at speeds and flight levels usually reserved for turboprop-powered airplanes? Not exactly.
Currently, the AOPA Sweepstakes Bonanza is a day-VFR airplane because the Meggitt EFIS and the S-Tec autopilot installation are not yet approved by the FAA. Will the FAA approve the installation of the Meggitt EFIS system before the end of 2001? We have been told that approval could take up to two months, so it may be close.
The instrument-panel configuration and equipment decisions hammered out months ago were made with reference to the latest FAA advisory circular that provided guidelines for the installation of electronic display instrument systems (the Meggitt system). Mike Kiernan, S-Tec/Meggitt's manager of flight, has provided very able assistance and guidance based on his experience with certification issues of the Meggitt system in the New Piper Meridian. We think that the EFIS technology is a step forward in cockpit displays. Since an almost identical system has been approved in the turboprop Meridian, we're extremely hopeful. In short, we've taken a gamble that the certification process won't delay our proposed drawing date. Stay tuned for further updates. In the meantime, plan to attend AOPA Expo 2001 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (November 8 through 10). Unless you're the lucky one, it may be your last chance to get a good look at the AOPA Sweepstakes Bonanza.
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AOPA would like to thank the following companies that are donating or discounting their products and services to refurbish AOPA's 2001 Bonanza Sweepstakes project or are otherwise assisting with the project.
Engine compartment paint
Ada Aircraft Painting LLC, 2800 Airport Rd, Hangar D, Ada, Oklahoma 74820; telephone 580/332-6086; fax 580/332-4547; e-mail email@example.com.
Fuel cells (bladders)
Aero-Tech Services, Inc., 8354 Secura Way, Santa Fe Springs, California 90670; telephone 562/696-1128; fax 562/945-1328.
Inertia reels, seat belts, and shoulder harnesses
Aircraft Belts, Inc., 200 Anders Lane, Kemah, Texas 77565; telephone 281/334-3004; fax 281/538-2225; www.aircraftbelts.com.
Medeco door locks
Aircraft Security and Alert, 3863 Royal Lane, Dallas, Texas 75229; telephone 214/956-9563; fax 214/956-9960; www.aircraftsecurityalert.com.
Air Mod, 2025 Sporty's Drive, Clermont County Airport, Batavia, Ohio 45103; telephone 513/732-6688; www.airmod.com.
Alpha Coatings, Inc., 310 West 12th St., Washington, Missouri 63090; telephone 800 875-3903; fax 636 390-3906; www.alphacoatings.com.
Technical guidance and one-year free membership for winner
American Bonanza Society, P.O. Box 12888, Wichita, Kansas 67277; telephone 316/945-1700; fax 316/945-1710; www.bonanza.org.
AM/FM radio with CD player
Avionics Innovations, Inc., 2450 Montecito Rd., Ramona, California 92065; telephone 760/788 2602; fax 760/789 7098; www.avionicsinnovations.com.
Ayers, Inc., 2006 Palomar Airport Road, Carlsbad, California 92008; telephone 760/431-7600; fax 760/431-2848.
Standby alternator system
B&C Specialty Products, Inc., 123 East 4th, Newton, Kansas 67114; telephone 316/283-8000; www.bandcspecialty.com.
Sloped windshield, windows, vortex generators, aileron and flap gap seals
Beryl D'Shannon Aviation Specialties, Inc., P.O. Box 27966, Golden Valley, Minnesota 55427; telephone 800/328-4629 or 763/535-0505; fax 763/535-3759; www.beryldshannon.com.
Proficiency course for winner and spouse
Bonanza/Baron Pilot Proficiency Program, Inc., Mid-Continent Airport, P.O. Box 12888, Wichita, Kansas 67277; telephone 970/377-1877; fax 970/377-1512; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bppp.org.
Prepurchase inspection assistance
Coastal Valley Aviation, Inc., 3119 Liberator St., Santa Maria, California 93455; telephone 805/928-7701; fax 805/928-4427; www.coastalvalleyaviation.com.
Concorde Battery Corporation, 2009 San Bernardino Road, West Covina, California 91792; telephone 626-813-1234; fax 626-813-1235; www.concordebattery.com.
Dual control yoke and control wheels
Cygnet Aerospace Corporation, , P.O. Box 6603, Los Osos, California 93412; telephone 805/528-2376; fax 805/528 2377; www.cygnet-aero.com.
Engine oil analysis kits
Engine Oil Analysis, 7820 South 70th East Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74133; telephone/fax 918/492-5844; e-mail email@example.com.
ExxonMobil Aviation Lubricants, 7400 Beaufont Springs Drive, Suite 410, Richmond, Virginia 23225; telephone 804-743-5762; fax: 804-743-5784; www.exxon.com/exxon_lubes/aviation_fr.html.
Avionics suite (including audio panel / marker beacon / intercom, transponder, and dual nav / com / GPS units)
Garmin International, 1200 East 151st St., Olathe, Kansas 66062; telephone 913/397-8200; fax 913/397-8282; www.garmin.com.
Precision matched fuel injection nozzles
General Aviation Modifications, Inc., 2800 Airport Rd., Hangar A, Ada, Oklahoma 74820; telephone 888-FLY-GAMI, 580/436-4833; fax 580/436-6622; www.gami.com.
Tires and tubes
Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, 1144 E. Market Street, Akron, Ohio 44316; telephone 330/796-6323; fax 330/796-6535; www.goodyear.com.
Avionics and instrument panel installation
J. A. Air Center, DuPage Airport, 3N060 Powis Rd., West Chicago, Illinois 60185; telephone 800/323-5966 or 630/584-3200; fax 630/584-7883; www.jaair.com.
Wing tip fuel tank system
J. L. Osborne, Inc.,, 18173 Osborne Rd., Victorville, California 92392; telephone 800/963 8477, 760/245 8477; fax 760/245 5735; www.jlosborne.com.
J.P. Instruments Inc., 3185-B Airway Ave., Costa Mesa, California 92626; telephone 800/345-4574, 714/557-3805; fax 714/557-9840; www.jpinstruments.com.
Beryl D'Shannon upgrade and modification installations
Therese and Doug Kelly, Rt 2, Box R45, Military Highway, Mercedes, Texas; telephone 888/787-0689.
McCauley Propeller Systems, 3535 McCauley Drive, Vandalia, Ohio 45377; telephone 800/621-PROP or 937/890-5246; fax 937/890-6001; www.mccauley.textron.com.
MAGIC EFIS display system
Meggitt Avionics, Inc., 10 Ammon Drive, Manchester, New Hampshire 03103; telephone 603/669-0940; fax 603/669-0931; www.meggittavi.com.
Four-place oxygen system with Electronic Delivery System (EDS)
Mountain High E & S Company, 625 S.E. Salmon Avenue, Redmond, Oregon 97756-8696; telephone 800/468-8185, 541/923-4100; fax 541/923-4141; www.mhoxygen.com.
Murmer Aircraft Services, Houston SW Airport, 503 McKeever Rd. #1504, Arcola, Texas 77583; telephone 281/431 3030; fax 281/431 3031; www.murmerair.com.
Rebuilt seat back assist cylinders
G. Nichols & Co., 1923 Jackson Street, St. Clair, Michigan 48079; telephone 810/329-7083.
Audio landing gear and overspeed (Vne) warning system
P2, Inc., P.O. Box 26, Mound, Minnesota 55364-0026; telephone 888/921-8359, 952/472-2577; fax 952/472-7071; www.p2inc.com.
Landing gear retraction boot set
Performance Aero, East Kansas City Airport, Hangar L-1, Grain Valley, Missouri 64029; telephone 800/200-3141 or 816/847-5588; fax 816/847-5599; www.bonanza.org/performance/.
San Diego Aircraft Sales, Gillespie Field, 1987 N. Marshall Ave., Ste. 110, El Cajon, California 92020; telephone 619/562-0990; fax 619/562-0121; www.sandiegoac.com.
Scheme Designers, 277 Tom Hunter Road, Fort Lee, New Jersey 07024, 201-947-5889; www.schemedesigners.com.
SIRS Product Services, 25422 Trabuco Rd. #105, PMB 436, Lake Forest, California 92630 telephone 310/325-3422; fax 949/951-0778; www.sirsproducts.com.
Cabin sound suppression kit
Skandia Inc., 5002 North Highway 251, Davis Junction, Illinois 61020; telephone 815/393-4600; fax 815/393-4814; www.skandia-inc.com.
Camloc cowling fasteners
Skybolt Aerospace Fasteners, 9000 Airport Road, Leesburg Municipal Airport, Leesburg, Florida 34788; telephone 352/326-0001; fax 352/326-0011; www.skybolt.com.
Autopilot and EFIS certification
S-Tec Corporation, One S-Tec Way, Municipal Airport, Mineral Wells, Texas 76067; telephone 940/325-9406; fax 940/325-3904; www.s-tec.com.
Superior Air Parts, Inc., 14280 Gillis Rd, Dallas, Texas 75244; telephone 972/233-4433; fax 972/233-8809; www.superiorairparts.com.
Airframe anti-ice system
TKS Ice Protection Systems, 3213 Arnold Ave., Salina, Kansas 67401; telephone 888/865-5511 or 785/493-0946; fax 785/493-0959; www.weepingwings.com.
Turbonormalizer system and annual inspection
Tornado Alley Turbo, Inc., 300 Airport Rd, Ada, Oklahoma 74820; telephone 877/359-8284 or 580/332-3510; fax 580/332-4577; www.taturbo.com.
Engine buildup and test
Western Skyways, Inc., 1865 Launa Dr., Montrose, Colorado 81401; telephone 800/575-9929 or 970/249-0232; fax 970/249-4155; www.westernskyways.com.
Whelen Engineering Co., Route 145, Winthrop Road, Chester, Connecticut 06412-0684; telephone 860/526-9504; fax 860/526-4078; www.whelen.com.