AOPA Pilot Magazine
December 2004 Volume 47 / Number 12
AOPA Win-A-Twin Sweepstakes: Home Stretch
Notes to the lucky winner
It seems difficult to believe, but the year of AOPA's Win-A-Twin Sweepstakes is drawing to an end. Just one short year ago I was flying a newly purchased, rather well-worn 1965 Piper Twin Comanche across the United States, taking it to the first of many stops in its restoration. Now that restoration is virtually complete. The airplane — once a beater facing the boneyard — is now a born-again beauty.
The Win-A-Twin's winner will be chosen during a drawing in January 2005. The winner will be notified shortly thereafter.
While the new winner will no doubt be thrilled with the Win-A-Twin, my reaction will probably be a bit subdued. The Win-A-Twin project has claimed the bulk of my attention in the past 12 months, and turning it over won't be easy. I've flown it across the United States twice, halfway across and back two times, up and down the East Coast three times, and in all logged some 100 hours in N204WT. It's a great airplane — now, that is. And I've got a lot to be thankful for. I've learned a whole lot about Twin Comanches in particular, and the ins and outs of airplane maintenance and upkeep in general.
The more I reflect on the upcoming giveaway the more I think about the uniqueness of the Win-A-Twin program. First of all, it's a light twin. AOPA has never had a twin in its 12-year roster of sweepstakes airplanes. It also means that ongoing training and maintaining currency will be big, big responsibilities for the Win-A-Twin's winner. Much more so than if the airplane were, say, a Comanche single. AOPA will help kick off the training program by providing the winner with multiengine training from American Flyers. This will prepare a winner for the multiengine checkride (if he or she doesn't have a multiengine rating), or brush up multiengine procedural skills (for the winner who has a multiengine rating, but needs to get current).
Training in N204WT is the next step. For this, the International Comanche Society's Comanche Flyer Foundation will provide type-specific training from Larry Larkin, one of the most experienced Twin Comanche instructors in the world.
The Win-A-Twin's avionics present another learning curve. Without any prior familiarity, the Win-A-Twin's black boxes can be baffling. In high-workload instrument flying situations, not knowing the airplane's Garmin AT GNS 480 GPS/nav/com, Garmin AT MX20 multifunction display, or Meggitt/S-Tec System Fifty Five X autopilot could be downright dangerous. That's why Avionics Training Unlimited will be there to help the winner make the most of the Win-A-Twin's panel.
After this, however, it will be up to N204WT's new owner to keep flying skills safe and sharp, and to fly the airplane with the respect it demands.
Then there are the Twin Comanche's many systems. Hands down, it's the most complex of the sweepstakes airplanes AOPA has given away. And on top of that, it's one of the oldest. This combination of age and complexity translates into higher awareness of maintenance issues, and rigorous adherence to inspection intervals and recurrent airworthiness directives.
Remember, the Win-A-Twin may have started out as what I have called a beater, but it was only through the application of an aggressive maintenance and repair philosophy that the airplane was transformed into a near-concours-quality classic. This same philosophy will be needed to retain the airplane's high standard.
Skimping on maintenance is a false economy: That's how N204WT's previous owners let the airplane slide into neglect. What these owners apparently didn't understand was that for airplanes such as the Twin Comanche — and all airplanes, for that matter — maintenance is a continuous process. That goes double for the engines. One great realization of mine during this restoration process was an irony of light-twin flying: With two engines, you worry twice as much about engine health. That's because an engine failure or stoppage can be so dangerous in critical phases of flight.
But enough of this sobering talk! For the winner, there will be much more to like than fret about — take it from me. Let me recount the most impressive of the Win-A-Twin's attributes.
This is one of the best cross-country machines ever built. Name another single-engine or light twin airplane that can fly for five and a half hours and still land with nearly two hours of fuel reserves. Or any light twin that has the fuel burn of a big single. Or any airplane that can consistently cruise at 175 knots true airspeed on a fuel burn as low as 14 gph, single or twin? Then throw in the $5,000 fuel credit that Carolina Air Center of Hilton Head, South Carolina, and MBNA America Bank are adding to the sweepstakes package. Now you have an airplane that can cruise fast and far for very little cost indeed.
The Win-A-Twin also has one of the best avionics packages ever put together. The GNS 480's flight management functions let you program flight plans, sure, but they also store arrival and departure procedures as well as instrument approaches and their missed approaches. Turn on the System Fifty Five X autopilot and it will fly all those procedures — plus holding patterns! — on its own, right down to all the course changes. All you have to do is monitor the goings-on. The autopilot also can be used to effect altitude changes. Just push the VS (vertical speed) button, then dial in a climb or descent rate using the knob on the right.
The WSI InFlight datalink weather will spoil you rotten. A composite of Nexrad images lets you see storm cells and their precipitation contours, cloud top heights, and direction of movement. Text weather — METARs, TAFs, sigmets, airmets, and more — is also available, as are graphical METARs. All of this plays on the MX20's large screen, along with low-altitude en route charts and a VFR display that can be configured to show VORs and a terrain awareness depiction.
Now throw in the traffic-information-service (TIS) capability provided by the Garmin GTX 330 transponder. This shows nearby traffic on a thumbnail view in the MX20, unless that traffic comes within a 5-nautical-mile radius and preset vertical parameters. Then the MX20's display automatically switches to a full-screen view of potential traffic conflicts.
Finally, the Twin Comanche is one of the best-looking airplanes in all of general aviation. Although it's 40 years old, it's kept its looks and has an appearance that's still contemporary. In short, it has aged well.
Although we're in the home stretch for the sweepstakes drawing, I'll be providing more updates on the Win-A-Twin via AOPA's Web site, right up to the time N204WT is delivered to the winner. Just click on the status report button over on the right side of AOPA's home page (www.aopa.org).
Oh, and come February keep an eye on your airport. If you see a pilot in a blue-and-white Twin Comanche with multicolored stripes — it won't be hard to miss — that'll be me, and the winner just might be you.
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AOPA would like to thank the following companies that donated or discounted their products and services to restore AOPA's Win-A-Twin Sweepstakes Piper Twin Comanche or are otherwise assisting with the project.
Seat belts/shoulder harnesses
Aircraft Belts Inc., 2000 Anders Lane, Kemah, Texas 77565; 800/847-5651, 281/538-1284; fax 281/538-2225; www.aircraftbelts.com
GAMA-format pilot's operating handbook
Aircraft Publications, Post Office Box 201183, Austin, Texas 78750-1183; 512/250-9350; e-mail email@example.com
Aircraft instrument overhauls/refinishing
Air Parts of Lock Haven, Hangar 3, Piper Airport, Lock Haven, Pennsylvania 17745; 800/443-3117; www.airpartsoflockhaven.com
Interior design and upholstery
Airtex Products Inc., 259 Lower Morrisville Road, Fallsington, Pennsylvania 19054-1494; www.airtexinteriors.com
Multiengine initial/recurrent instruction
American Flyers, 3N040 Powis Road, West Chicago, Illinois 60185; 800/323-0808; www.americanflyers.net
Aviation Resources, 101 Airport Avenue, Hangar #7, Cumberland, Wisconsin 54829; 715/822-5787, 715/822-3413; www.aviationvibes.com
Bose X aviation headsets
Bose Corporation, The Mountain, 145 Pennsylvania Avenue, Framingham, Massachusetts 01701; 800/999-2673; www.bose.com
Aircraft cover/cowl plugs
Bruce's Custom Covers, 989 East California Avenue, Sunnyvale, California 94085; 408/738-3959, 800/777-6405; fax 408/738-2729; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.aircraftcovers.com
$5,000 avgas credit
Carolina Air Center of Hilton Head, Hilton Head Island Airport, Hilton Head, South Carolina 29926; 843/689-3200; fax 843/681-3960
MBNA America Bank, NA, Wilmington, Delaware 19850
K&N air filters
Challenger Aviation Products Inc., 3530 Lightner Drive, Vandalia, Ohio 45377; 937/667-0510; fax 937/667-3410; www.challengeraviation.com
D&D Aircraft Supply, 4 Stickney Terrace, Post Office Box 1200, Hampton, New Hampshire 03842; 800/468-8000, 603/926-8881; fax 603/926-7855; www.ddaircraft.com
Eagle Fuel Cell-ETC Inc., 853 Adams Road, Eagle River, Wisconsin 54521; 715/479-6149; www.eaglefuelcells.com
Integrally lighted instrument subpanels
EDN Aviation Inc., 6720 Valjean Avenue, Van Nuys, California 91406; 818/988-8826; fax 818/904-6799; www.ednaviation.com
Garmin International Inc., 1200 East 151st Street, Olathe, Kansas 66062; 913/397-8200; www.garmin.com
Fiberglass rudder cap assembly
Globe Fiberglass Ltd. Inc., 3470 Aircraft Drive, Lakeland, Florida 33811; 800/899-2707; www.globefiberglass.com
Propellers and propeller spinners
Hartzell Propeller Inc., One Propeller Place, Piqua, Ohio 45356; 937/778-4200; www.hartzellprop.com
Electronic horizontal situation indicator (EHSI) and compass slaving
Honeywell Bendix/King, One Technology Center, 23500 West 105th Street, M/D #19, Olathe, Kansas 66061-1950; 877/712-2386, 913/712-2613; fax 913/712-5697; www.bendixking.com
Wingtip fuel tanks
J.L. Osborne Inc., 18173 Osborne Road, Victorville, California 92394; 800/963-8477; www.jlosborne.com
J.P. Instruments, 3185-B Airway Avenue, Costa Mesa, California 92646; 800/345-4574; www.jpinstruments.com
Custom painting and finishing
KD Aviation, Trenton-Robbinsville Airport, Sharon Road, Robbinsville, New Jersey 08691; 609/259-4200; and Stewart International Airport, Newburgh, New York 12550; 845/567-1617; www.kdaviation.com
Magnetos; fuel-injection components; starters
Kelly Aerospace, 1400 East South Boulevard, Montgomery, Alabama 36116; 334/286-8551; www.kellyaerospace.com
Exhaust augmenters, rudder and aileron seals
Knots 2U Ltd., 703 Airport Road, Burlington, Wisconsin 53105; 262/763-5100; www.knots2u.com
Reconditioning/repair of engine mounts
Kosola and Associates Inc., 5601 Newton Road, Albany, Georgia 31707; 800/456-7652; www.kosola.com
Speed modifications, airframe repairs, engine removal/installation
LoPresti Speed Merchants, 2620 Airport North Drive, Vero Beach, Florida 32960; 800/859-4757; www.speedmods.com
LP Aero Plastics Inc., 1086 Boquet Road, Jeanette, Pennsylvania 15644; www.lpaero.com
Autopilot/flight director, electric pitch trim
Meggitt Avionics/S-Tec, One S-Tec Way, Municipal Airport, Mineral Wells, Texas 76067; 800/872-7832; www.s-tec.com
Instrument overhauls, standby attitude indicator
Mid-Continent Instrument Company, 9400 East 34th Street North, Wichita, Kansas 67226; 316/630-0101; www.mcico.com
Modern control yokes
The New Piper Aircraft Inc., 2926 Piper Drive, Vero Beach, Florida 32960; 772/567-4361; fax 772/978-6584; www.newpiper.com
Stemless digital OAT
Questair Inc., 312 Boston Post Road, Orange, Connecticut 06477; 203/795-0611
Penn Yan Aero, 2499 Bath Road, Penn Yan, New York 14527; 800/727-7230; www.pennyanaero.com
Leading-edge abrasion boots
PM Research, 4110 Niles Hill Road, Wellsville, New York 14895; 800/724-3798; www.papa-mike.com
Precision Hose Technology, 2702-D North Sheridan Road, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74115; 800/331-5946; www.aircrafthose.com
Audio panel and entertainment system
PS Engineering Inc., 9800 Martel Road, Lenoir City, Tennessee 37772; 800/427-2376; fax 865/988-6619; www.ps-engineering.com
Radio-stack mounting rails
Radiorax Aviation Systems, 228 West Bonita Avenue, Claremont, California 91711; 909/981-0422; www.radiorax.com
Rapco Inc., 445 Cardinal Lane, Hartland, Wisconsin 53029; 800/527-2726; www.rapco-rfs.com
Paint scheme design
Scheme Designers, 210 Brookside Avenue, Cresskill, New Jersey 07626; 201/569-7785; www.schemedesigners.com
Instrument panel design, avionics installation and modifications
Sebastian Communications Inc., 473 Manor Drive, Merritt Island, Florida 32952-3796; 321/453-6894; www.sebcomm.com
Engine components for overhauls, ignition harnesses, oil pumps
Superior Air Parts, Suite 100, 621 South Royal Lane, Coppell, Texas 75019-3805; 972/829-4600; www.superior-air-parts.com
The DuPont Company, 854 Pheasant Run, Westchester, Pennsylvania 19382; 610/793-2626; www.performancecoatings.dupont.com
Propeller governor overhauls
Tiffin Aire Inc., 1778 West State Route 224, Tiffin, Ohio 44883; 800/553-7767; www.tiffinaire.com
Airframe replacement parts, placards, interior hardware
Webco Aircraft Company, 1134 North Oliver Road, Newton, Kansas 67114; 316/283-7929; www.webcoaircraft.com
Re-skinning of control surfaces, cabin door refurbishment
Williams Airmotive Inc., 9838 North 1100 East, Kendallville, Indiana 46755; 260/347-0807; www.williamsairmotive.com
Datalink weather hardware, software, subscription service
WSI Corporation, 400 Minuteman Road, Andover, Massachusetts 01810; 978/983-6300; www.wsi.com
Links to additional information about the AOPA Win-A-Twin Sweepstakes may be found on AOPA Online (www.aopa.org/pilot/twin/).