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Portland, Oregon, computer executive wins grand prize in AOPA's 2000 "Millennium Mooney" SweepstakesPortland, Oregon, computer executive wins grand prize in AOPA's 2000 "Millennium Mooney" Sweepstakes

AOPA member Alex Thurber, a 550-hour private pilot and computer company executive based in Portland, Oregon, is the winner of AOPA's 2000 "Millennium Mooney" Membership Sweepstakes.

AOPA President Phil Boyer surprised Thurber February 24 during a presentation in front of more than 1,000 pilots attending the annual Northwest Aviation Conference and Trade Show in Puyallap, Washington, south of Seattle.

"Wow," was all the dumbfounded Thurber could say.

Thurber had been lured to the conference thinking he had won a $20,000 UPS Aviation Technologies avionics package. After Boyer called him to the stage to present the "prize," he asked Thurber if he needed something in which to carry the avionics.

To the gasps and applause of the audience, Boyer then announced that Thurber's prize was really AOPA's Millennium Mooney, a $175,000 custom-refurbished 1987 Mooney 201.

"It was a real pleasure to give the Millennium Mooney to a pilot who has followed the aviation path of many AOPA members," 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."

After the presentation, Boyer took Thurber to Pierce County Airport/Thun Field to see his new airplane for the first time. "It's an awesome airplane," said Thurber, "and a very nice 'bag' to carry home all those avionics."

Typical pilot beginning

The 40-year-old winner's flying history parallels that of many AOPA members. He 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 get enough money for lessons and soloed at age 16 in a Cherokee 140 at Frederick Municipal Airport, now AOPA's home field.

Thurber joined AOPA, earned his private certificate at age 17, and kept flying through college. "It was great for dates," said Thurber.

Then the pressures of career and family led to a decade-long hiatus from flying. But he still kept his AOPA membership active and still kept dreaming. Meanwhile, he created several highly successful computer, Internet, and network security consulting businesses.

He returned to flying three years ago, earning instrument and multiengine ratings and flying for both business and pleasure.

High-tech airplane for a high-tech pilot

AOPA's Millennium Mooney is the perfect aircraft for the techno-savvy pilot. The avionics stack takes advantage of the newest display technologies, not just for navigation, but for engine and systems monitoring as well. Coincidentally, much of the technology, like Thurber, has roots in the Northwest.

Vision Microsystems, based in Bellingham, Washington, provided its VM1000 engine monitoring system. It combines all of the standard engine gauges into one package with a large LCD screen displaying both analog and digital read-outs. The unit features automatic monitoring and alerting of critical engine parameters. The Millennium Mooney was one of the first production aircraft to have a VM1000 installed.

Oregon-based UPS Aviation Technologies supplied the navigation and communications suite, topped by the big-screen MX20 multifunction display. The 640 x 480 pixel, 65,000-color display can show both sectional-style VFR charts and IFR en route maps, along with GPS-driven position information, flight plans, airport diagrams, and other information.

The MX20's database also contains a terrain map. The unit can issue a CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) warning if the airplane is within two minutes of terrain or obstructions mapped to be at or above its altitude.

UPS-AT's SL30 nav/com and GX60 GPS/com provide navigation redundancy with a host of clever features. An SL15 audio selector panel and SL70 transponder round out the avionics package.

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 "position + rate" autopilot with voice prompter. Yet another Oregon company, Oregon Aero, installed a new interior and ergonomically correct seats in the Millennium Mooney.

"What an amazing coincidence that Alex Thurber is from my home town, and that most of the components and critical installations in the plane were done in the winner's state," said Boyer.

Top Gun Aviation in Stockton, California, refurbished the airframe and installed many of the modifications. The Millennium Mooney is powered by a Teledyne Mattituck Red Gold overhauled Lycoming IO-360 and sports a classic paint job from Scheme Designers and KD Aviation.

For more on the Millennium Mooney and its winner, visit the AOPA Web site.

Contributing to the Millennium Mooney grand prize project were:

Belt Makers Inc.
Century Flight Systems
KD Aviation
Leather Tech Aircraft Interiors
LoPresti Speed Merchants
Lord Corporation
LP Aeroplastics
McCauley Propeller Systems
Mod Works
Mooney Aircraft Pilots Association
Oregon Aero
Pacific Coast Avionics
Parker Fluid Connectors, Parker Hannifin Corp.
Precise Flight
Scheme Designers
Teledyne Mattituck Services
Top Gun Aviation
UPS Aviation Technologies
Vision Microsystems

AOPA's 2001 Bonanza Sweepstakes

The 2001 AOPA Sweepstakes plane will be a 1966 Beech V35 Bonanza, valued at some $200,000 with its custom upgrades and improvements. The classic V-tail airplane will feature a turbonormalized 300-horsepower engine with intercooler for speed and a higher ceiling, tip tanks and new fuel bladders, TKS anti-ice system, and state-of-the-art avionics including a "glass panel" flight instrument display.

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.

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