AOPA Pilot Magazine
April 2001 Volume 44 / Number 4
AOPA Millennium Mooney 2000 Sweepstakes: Surprise of the Millennium
AOPA's Mooney sweepstakes airplane finds a new home
Alex Thurber went to the Northwest Aviation Conference and Trade Show in Puyallap, Washington, south of Seattle, on February 24 thinking that he had won an avionics suite from UPS Aviation Technologies.
But Thurber, a 550-hour private pilot and computer-company executive from Portland, Oregon, did not know that the avionics were installed in AOPA's 2000 membership sweepstakes airplane, the Millennium Mooney.
In front of some 1,000 pilots, Thurber was called up on stage by AOPA President Phil Boyer and congratulated on winning the avionics stack. "I think we have something you can carry those avionics home in," Boyer said, handing Thurber a Millennium Mooney T-shirt. As Thurber speculated that he'd carry the avionics home in the shirt, the audience gasped when Boyer projected on the big screen an announcement that Thurber had won the custom-refurbished 1987 Mooney 201.
After the presentation, Thurber admitted that he was taken by surprise. He recalled seeing an AOPA ePilot announcement that the Mooney would be awarded soon, "but I did not put two and two together." He telephoned his wife, Joni, who didn't believe the news until Thurber handed his cell phone to Boyer's wife, Lois, who confirmed that Thurber had indeed won the airplane.
After the presentation, Boyer took Thurber to Pierce County Airport-Thun Field to see his new airplane for the first time. Thurber climbed into the cockpit, examined the modern panel, and several times remarked, "This is amazing." Thurber and Boyer later flew the airplane to Seattle's Boeing Field.
Thurber, 40, became fascinated with flying after watching James Bond pilot a seaplane over the South China Sea in "The Man With the Golden Gun." He worked a paper route to earn enough money for lessons, and soloed at age 16 in a Piper Cherokee 140 from Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland, now home to AOPA headquarters. Thurber joined AOPA, earned his private certificate at age 17, and kept flying through college. "It was great for dates," he said.
Then the pressures of career and family led to a decade-long hiatus from flying. Meanwhile, he created several very successful computer, Internet, and network security consulting businesses. He returned to flying three years ago, earning an instrument rating and flying for both business and pleasure.
"It was a real pleasure to give the Millennium Mooney to a pilot who in many ways is a typical AOPA member," said Boyer. "And it is especially appropriate that our most technologically sophisticated sweepstakes aircraft so far is going to a pilot who lives and breathes technology."
Coincidentally, much of the Millennium Mooney's technology, like Thurber, has its roots in the Northwest. Vision Microsystems, based in Bellingham, Washington, provided its VM1000 engine-monitoring system for the project. The package combines all of the standard engine gauges into one display. Oregon-based UPS Aviation Technologies supplied the navigation and communications suite, topped by the big-screen MX20 multifunction display. Another Oregon company, Pacific Coast Avionics, engineered the avionics installation, which also includes an Insight Strikefinder weather detection system and a Century horizontal situation indicator. Century will also install its new Triden Series autopilot with voice prompter. Yet another Oregon company, Oregon Aero, installed a new interior and ergonomically correct seats. For a complete list of participating companies, see "Millennium Mooney: High Time" (December 2000 Pilot) or AOPA Online (www.aopa.org/pilot/mooney/).
Galvin Flying Service, an FBO at Boeing Field, and Keith Vasey of Pacific Mooney repaired a couple of minor squawks and detailed the Millennium Mooney for the presentation.
"Flying it from Puyallup to Boeing Field, it was just great — having that huge display, circumnavigating the Class B [airspace] was easy," said Thurber, who has logged about 50 hours in a Mooney Bravo.
At press time Thurber was preparing to fly his new airplane home to Portland. "I've got a good line on a hangar at Portland-Hillsboro Airport," he said. And he's already planning some trips in the Mooney. "We have a condominium in Sun River, and that's perfect for this airplane," Thurber said, explaining that the trip was a 30-minute flight or a four-hour drive. He also looks forward to taking it to some area fly-ins.
"I'm hugely appreciative to the entire membership body of AOPA for making this possible," he said. "The last thing I ever won was a $3 lotto ticket, and I know that it's only all of us members working together that makes it possible."
Thurber is the latest in a long line of AOPA sweepstakes winners. Will you be next? Work already is under way on AOPA's 2001 sweepstakes airplane, a 1966 Beech V35 Bonanza, being improved with almost $200,000 in custom upgrades (see "Bonanza Sweepstakes: Firewall Forward to the Future," p. 91). Anyone who joins AOPA or renews their AOPA membership during calendar year 2001 is automatically entered in the sweepstakes.
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