AOPA President Phil Boyer (right) introduces Norman Elliott to his new aircraft, the AOPA 2001 Sweepstakes Bonanza.
AOPA's 2001 Sweepstakes Bonanza winner Norman Elliott, with his wife Joyce next to him, grins from the cockpit of his new aircraft. The 1966 V35 Beechcraft Bonanaza has been completely renovated and updated and is valued at about $300,000.
AOPA President Phil Boyer (center) presents Norman Elliott and his wife Joyce with keys to the gleaming red and white 2001 Sweepstakes Bonanza.
The AOPA 2001 Sweepstakes Bonanza, shown here in flight, is the most technologically advanced aircraft ever given away by the association. With about $300,000 in upgrades, the long-range, "glass" cockpit-equipped Bonanza is among the most high-technology single-engine aircraft around.
A smiling Norman Elliott and his wife Joyce today received the keys to the gleaming red and white 2001 Sweepstakes Bonanza from AOPA President Phil Boyer, in Mineral Wells, Texas.
"Wow, I'm stunned," said the 50-year-old chemist from Los Alamos, New Mexico, as he and his wife rounded a corner and were greeted by a throng of cheering Meggitt Avionics employees surrounding their completely renovated and updated 1966 V35 Beechcraft Bonanza, renamed N2001B.
The ceremony awarding AOPA's upgraded AOPA membership Sweepstakes Bonanza was held at the Meggitt Avionics/S-TEC hangar in Mineral Wells, where the aircraft is undergoing tests for final FAA approval of the advanced Meggitt Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS) on the Bonanza.
The AOPA Sweepstakes Bonanza will be the first production piston-engine aircraft to be certificated with the "all-glass" Meggitt Avionics' new Generation Integrated Cockpit (MAGIC) two-tube active-matrix liquid crystal displays. The MAGIC units replace the traditional attitude indicator, directional gyro, airspeed indicator, altimeter, vertical velocity indicator, and navigation displays. A solid-state air data attitude heading reference system (ADAHRS) provides the computer information for attitude, airspeed, pitch and roll rates and angles, yaw rates, and angle-of-attack information, replacing mechanical gyros.
While this system is already certificated on the turbine-powered Piper Meridian, certifying it for the Bonanza has turned into a difficult, time-consuming task for the FAA. And that meant winner Norman Elliott was unable to fly his Bonanza home.
"Still, next month, when Norm and Joyce park this beautiful Bonanza at their home airport of Los Alamos, they'll have an airplane that represents the cutting edge of instrument and avionics technology," said Boyer. "Somehow, considering what Norm and Joyce do, it's only appropriate that the most technologically advanced aircraft AOPA has ever given away will be based right next to one of the nation's premier future technology research institutions."
(Both Elliotts work at the Los Alamos National Laboratories, a world-class research institution in nuclear and other high-technology fields.)
If taken at retail value, the airplane and the refurbishments and upgrades donated or discounted by 42 companies and individuals would total about $300,000.
A 20-year AOPA member, Elliott was selected in January as winner of the 2001 AOPA Membership Sweepstakes. He won in a random drawing conducted of all AOPA members and alternative-method entrants (a total of more than 448,000 names) by the accounting firm of Grant Thornton LLP.
During the award ceremony, Elliott was handed an oversize AOPA key to his sleek new airplane and then was given a complete tour of the aircraft and all of the upgrades by AOPA Pilot magazine associate editor Steve Ells, who was manager of the project for Pilot magazine and directed the renovation project.
"Oh, this is a beautiful airplane," said Joyce Elliott. "And what makes it so special is all of the love and care so many people have put into her."
Boyer had surprised the lucky Elliott and his wife with the news of their win on February 4, delivered via a telephone call during what the Elliotts believed was the taping of a television interview on an aspect of their work at Los Alamos National Laboratories. The fake interview was set up with the help of LANL Broadcast Media Specialist John Bass.
Elliott and his wife, both LANL employees in the Polymers and Coatings Group of the Materials Science Technology Division, were caught on videotape whooping with joy and embracing as Boyer delivered the news.
Joyce Elliott, who told Boyer she flies "all the time" with the winner in their current aircraft, a Mooney 201, did a double-take when told of his award. "A Bonanza?" she asked, tracing a "V" sign in the air for the classic aircraft's distinctive V-shaped tail. "An airplane Bonanza?
"You know, I told him once I was going to sell my house and buy him a Bonanza," she gasped. "But then we decided to be reasonable." Then she paused, and asked incredulously, "Is this for real?" Boyer assured her the award was very much for real.
At the end of the call, Elliott told Boyer, "I don't think I'll have any trouble getting somebody to give me a BFR in this airplane!"
The new Bonanza owner learned to fly in 1982, encouraged by a fellow employee who had just earned a private certificate.
"You know, you never really think that's possible for you to really become a pilot until someone else pulls you in," said Elliott. "That's why programs like Project Pilot are so important. It really makes a difference when you introduce someone to flying."
Elliott jokes that his first flying lesson was a cross-country flight from Los Alamos to San Ildefonso Pueblo. A broken prop forced an off-airport landing. Despite the rocky start, Elliott today holds commercial pilot and CFI certificates, and is instrument and multiengine rated. He has about 1,500 hours.
As befits the new owners of the most technologically advanced aircraft ever awarded by AOPA, both Elliotts are involved in nuclear fusion research that could ultimately lead to a generating plant that could provide electricity for the entire western United States.
AOPA completely refurbished and upgraded the 2001 Sweepstakes Bonanza over the past year with revolutionary technology that includes a panel full of advanced avionics from Garmin and Meggitt, an S-Tec autopilot, a Superior Air Parts certified 300-horsepower IO-550 engine, a Tornado Alley Turbo turbonormalizer system, and a new McCauley three-blade propeller. Upgraded tip tanks from J.L. Osborne give the airplane exceptional range.
Other key components in the year-long upgrade process included a TKS ice-protection system, a Mountain High Oxygen system, an Avionics Innovations AM/FM/CD stereo player, a modern wet compass from SIRS Product Services, new pilot and co-pilot windows with frameless vents, a Speed Sloped windshield and side windows, and flap and aileron gap seals from Beryl D'Shannon. Murmer Aircraft Services applied a striking red and white paint scheme, dreamed up by AOPA staff with assistance from Craig Barnett at Scheme Designers. Air Mod of Batavia, Ohio, designed and installed the custom leather interior.
For the 2002-2003 membership sweepstakes, a classic three-seater Waco UPF-7 biplane is being completely restored. It will be the grand prize in the first two-year AOPA membership sweepstakes. During the two-year contest period, one winner will be chosen each month to receive a paid trip for a ride in an already restored Waco biplane.
The completely restored Waco will be awarded after a year of celebrations and ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of powered flight in 2003.
AOPA members who join or renew their membership in the association are automatically entered in the membership sweepstakes.