M YRTLE B EACH, S.C. - Roy Wilbanks of Greenwood, S.C., is the grand-prize winner in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's 2004 Win-A-Twin Sweepstakes. AOPA President Phil Boyer surprised Wilbanks, a 12-year member of AOPA, last night during the South Carolina Aviation Association's annual Hall of Fame banquet in Myrtle Beach, telling him that he had won the fully restored, updated, upgraded, better-than-new 1965 Piper Twin Comanche.
Boyer asked Wilbanks, who co-owns a Piper J-3 Cub, if he'd like to step up to a more advanced aircraft. When Wilbanks responded that he had been looking to step up to a Cessna 172, Boyer asked, "How about this Twin Comanche?" as an image of the sweepstakes airplane appeared on the screen behind the pair.
"I'm dreaming! I'm dreaming!" Wilbanks kept repeating as the news sank in.
Wilbanks telephoned his wife from the stage to tell her about his good fortune. "I won it, honey! We don't need the J-3 anymore," he enthused. After the presentation, a red-faced Wilbanks, 62, realized that he had one more piece of good luck. "It's a good thing I just had a physical," he said.
AOPA worked closely with Kip Pratt of the SCAA to arrange the surprise for Wilbanks, who thought he had been selected at random by the state association to represent all South Carolina pilots at the Hall of Fame Banquet. Hal Shevers, chairman and co-founder of Sporty's Pilot Shop, ensured Wilbanks would be on time, picking him up in the Sporty's Citation jet at his home airport in Greenwood and delivering him to Myrtle Beach Aviation at Myrtle Beach International Airport.
Because the dinner ended so late, Wilbanks got his first look at his new airplane this morning.
Scheme Designers created a bold, modern look for the refurbished 1965 Twin Comanche, which was executed by KD Aviation. The basic paint scheme is Matterhorn White over Bahama Blue and features highly stylized accent stripes done in DuPont's ChromaLusion ® color-shifting paint (it changes colors depending on the angle from which it's viewed).
The interior is completely redone as well. Airtex Interiors, Inc., replaced the 60s-era cabin with new, custom-designed leather seating. The headrests in the pilot's and copilot's seats have been redesigned to accommodate color LCD monitors so that rear-seat passengers can enjoy the DVD entertainment system from PS Engineering. The Win-A-Twin Sweepstakes Grand Prize aircraft also sports a brand-new panel. Not just the avionics, but the panel itself is custom-made by Sebastian Communications for a finished look for all the updated instrumentation.
A completely updated aircraft needs a completely updated avionics suite. The AOPA Sweepstakes Twin Comanche boasts a full Garmin stack, including a WAAS-approved CNX 80 - recently re-christened the GNS 480. WAAS stands for Wide Area Augmentation System. It corrects for minute discrepancies, making GPS (global positioning satellite) signals even more accurate, allowing for the first time completely satellite-based precision instrument approaches, complete with vertical guidance.
The avionics suite also includes an MX-20 multifunction display that can show a pilot, among other things, other air traffic in the vicinity, giving an even greater awareness of the situation.
Very early in the restoration process, both of the Twin Comanche's engines were overhauled at Penn Yan Aero. Penn Yan Aero, a Superior Air Parts-authorized build center, overhauled the engines to Superior's exacting standards, making them Certified Millenium Pre-Owned powerplants. The mechanics at Penn Yan also installed new starters and ignition harnesses and new fuel pumps, fuel injectors, and fuel system plumbing.
Add Hartzell Q-Tip propellers and every streamlining speed modification that LoPresti Speed Merchants offers for the Twin Comanche, and you end up with an airplane that's 15 knots faster than it was when it was fresh off the assembly line.
Restoring the AOPA Win-A-Twin Sweepstakes Twin Comanche to better-than-new status has been a long process, not only for AOPA, but for nearly four dozen contributors who have made it all possible. A complete list of vendors and contributors is available online.
Wilbanks flies away with more than just a better-than-new Twin Comanche. American Flyers is providing initial multiengine training, and the Comanche Flyers Foundation - the educational arm of the International Comanche Society - is providing type-specific training in the actual airplane.
Carolina Air Center of Hilton Head (S.C.) and MBNA America Bank have teamed to provide a $5,000 aviation gasoline credit to feed those two engines. Bruce's Custom Covers has provided an aircraft cover and cowl plugs, and Bose will protect Wilbanks's and his passengers' ears with two pairs of top-of-the-line Bose X aviation headsets.
And to round out the modernization process, New Piper Aircraft, successor to the Twin Comanche's original manufacturer, provided a pair of modern control yokes while Aircraft Publications of Austin, Texas, has supplied a standardized GAMA-formatted pilot's operating handbook (our 1965 Twin Comanche was built before handbooks were standardized in the 1970s).
Even as AOPA presented the 2004 AOPA Sweepstakes grand prize, the 2005 Sweepstakes is already under way. Restoration work has already begun on a 1974 Rockwell Commander 112A. By the time it's done, the Commander Countdown Sweepstakes grand prize will sport new paint and state-of-the-art FlightLogic ® glass panels from Chelton that will rival almost anything found in the big airliners. Anyone who joins or renews membership in AOPA between January 1 and December 31, 2005, is automatically entered in the Commander Countdown Sweepstakes. Complete rules, eligibility requirements, and alternate methods of entry are available online.
February 11, 2005