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Oregon pilot wins AOPA's Millennium MooneyOregon pilot wins AOPA's Millennium Mooney

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See Phil Boyer's PowerPoint presentation.

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Alex Thurber prepares to enter his new airplane, AOPA's Millennium Mooney, for the first time.
 
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Alex Thurber, sitting in his new airplane at Pierce County Airport/Thun Field, is briefed on the avionics by AOPA President Phil Boyer.
 
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At Pierce County Airport/Thun Field, another pilot congratulates Thurber on winning the Millennium Mooney.
 
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After the presentation, Thurber phones his wife to tell her that he has won an airplane. She doesn't believe him—until he hands the phone to Lois Boyer, who verifies the story.
 
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After learning that he has won the airplane, Thurber views a presentation on the Mooney's refurbishment.
 
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Alex Thurber, wearing a "Millennium Mooney" T-shirt, is all smiles after realizing that he has won the airplane.

P UYALLUP—Alex Thurber of Portland, Oregon, a 550-hour private pilot and computer company executive, is the winner of AOPA's 2000 membership sweepstakes airplane, the Millennium Mooney. AOPA President Phil Boyer surprised Thurber today during a presentation to more than 1,000 pilots attending the Northwest Aviation Conference and Trade Show in Puyallap, Washington, south of Seattle.

Thurber had been lured to the conference thinking he had won a $20,000 UPS Aviation Technologies avionics package. After Boyer called him onto the stage to present the prize, he told Thurber, "I think we have something you can carry those avionics home in," and handed Thurber a Millennium Mooney T-shirt. As Thurber speculated that he'd carry the avionics home in the T-shirt, the audience gasped when Boyer projected 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. The airport was begun by several Puyallup men in 1944 but was initially unsuccessful; it was bought in 1949 by John Thun. At the time Thun did not know how to fly, but he soon began lessons. Thun sold the airport to a group of local businessmen in 1967, and the airport was acquired by Pierce County in 1980. Thun's son, Bruce, serves as airport manager. Today the airport is home to five maintenance shops, two flight schools, and more than 250 aircraft.

Thurber climbed into the cockpit, examined the modern panel, and several times remarked, "This is amazing." Many pilots gathered around the airplane, inspecting it enviously and offering Thurber their congratulations. Thurber and Boyer later flew the airplane to Seattle's Boeing Field.

Typical pilot beginning

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. But he kept his AOPA membership active and kept dreaming. 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."

Hi-tech airplane for a high-tech pilot

AOPA's Millennium Mooney features avionics that employ the newest display technologies, for engine and systems monitoring as well as navigation. Ironically, much of the technology, like Thurber, has its roots in the Northwest. Vision Microsystems, based in Bellingham, Washington, provided itsVM1000 engine-monitoring system for the project. The package combines all of the standard engine gauges into one display, with a large LCD screen showing both analog and digital readouts. 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 (HSI). 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. Top Gun Aviation, in Stockton, California, refurbished the airframe and installed many of the modifications. The airplane is powered by a Teledyne Mattituck Red Gold overhauled Lycoming IO-360 and sports a classic paint job from Scheme Designers and KD Aviation.

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.

Thurber, who currently flies a Malibu Mirage, will also enjoy type-specific flight training from the Mooney Aircraft Pilots Association's safety foundation.

Long line of winners

Thurber is the latest in a long line of AOPA sweepstakes winners. Will you be next? Work has already begin on AOPA's 2001 sweepstakes airplane, a 1966 Beech V35 Bonanza, improved with almost $200,000 in custom upgrades. The classic V-tail airplane will feature a Superior Air Parts Certified Millennium 300-horsepower engine married to a Tornado Alley Turbo turbonormalizer and intercooler for sizzling cruise speed and a higher operating ceiling. The airplane will also come with Beryl D'Shannon tip tanks and speed mods, new fuel bladders, TKS anti-ice system, state-of-the-art Garmin avionics, Meggitt electronic navigation displays, an S-Tec autopilot, and a host of other refinements.

Anyone who joins AOPA or renews their AOPA membership during calendar year 2001 is automatically entered in the AOPA 2001 Bonanza Sweepstakes. The winner, selected at random by an independent accounting firm, will be awarded the grand prize Bonanza in early 2002. Complete rules are available on AOPA Online.

Look for additional coverage of the Millennium Mooney's delivery to Thurber in the April issue of AOPA Pilot.

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