All 19 aircraft AOPA has given away in the current 21-year series are still flying and have scattered to 15 states. Only three sweepstakes winners still have their aircraft.
The 2012 Tougher Than A Tornado Aviat Husky has proven it is “Tougher Than Sagebrush.” The 1997 Piper Ultimate Arrow was rescued after it became a homeless Chicago derelict. The winner of the 2008 Get Your Glass Piper Archer just might be controlling the Atlantic Ocean flight of an airline pilot who won the 2011 Crossover Classic Cessna 182.
Decals have worn off or been painted over, but N172GN (Cessna 172 Good New) still says, “Good As,” and has proven that it is “good enough.” For 16 years the Cessna 172 has trained more than 400 of the 7,000 graduates of Dean International Flight Training and Aircraft Rentals at Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport in south Miami. It teaches students from India, Miami Dade College, and the general public. Winner Bill Teschner of Fort Pierce, Florida, sold it to flight instructor Robert Neuman who worked part time at Dean International.
N172B (standing for Cessna 172 Better) came to Edward and Ellie Block via owners in Tennessee and Utah and spends 90 percent of its time at City by the Sea, Texas, near Corpus Christi. Ellie is the AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer for Aransas County Airport at Rockport, Texas, while Edward is the Airport Support Network volunteer for McCampbell-Porter Airport at Ingleside, Texas. Their airplane is used for a 260-nautical-mile commute to their ranch south of Fort Worth, Texas. It was originally won by Marshall Stambovsky of Athens, Tennessee.
N172FN (Cessna 172 First New) went from Sharon Hauser of San Jose, California, to Flightcraft in Portland, Oregon, and in 1997 to Niles Hanson of Eugene, Oregon, who owns Rosen Sunvisor Systems. It is a test aircraft for an eye-level iPad mount that goes under the Sunvisor rail. His 27-year-old son Henry started flying it at 17, and got delayed by school and then by a new job with Adidas Germany. Henry will use his vacation to complete his certificate in N172FN. Hanson’s daughter also plans to learn to fly in it.
N182FN (Cessna 182 First New) has flown its little wings off since 182 production resumed. It was won by Florida flight instructor Michael Raisler, sold to Gregory Pinneo in Seattle, and then sold to Carl Gilmore, of Seattle. Gilmore keeps it at Paine Field Airport in Everett, Washington, and flies to his property on San Juan Island, a 25-minute flight but a four-hour trip by car and ferry. He visits a daughter in California, makes business trips to Montana, and has flown to Green River, Utah for fly fishing.
N97UA (1997 Ultimate Arrow) became the ultimate problem for later owners. The AOPA winner was Paul Perrone in Medfield, Massachusetts. The airplane ping-ponged to owners in North Carolina and back to Massachusetts before it went to a software engineer in the Chicago area who leased it to A&M Aviation in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
Then it came on hard times. The engine needed an overhaul and BMO Harris Bank needed payments on its loan used to buy the airplane. The paint deteriorated and the interior was shot. Worse, the logbooks went missing and no one could reach the software engineer. It was ordered to be sold on eBay.
To the rescue came Mount Prospect, Illinois, masonry contractor Robert Niemiec who bought it for $75,000 after a furious eBay bidding war. It took $50,000 to overhaul the engine, repaint it, restore the interior, and upgrade the avionics, and create a new set of documents. It returned to its AOPA glory days.
Niemiec, owner of Professional Brick and Stone in Prospect Heights, Illinois, flew around the Chicago area and to neighboring states, putting it in leaseback for cross-country use before selling it in 2014 to Chicago-area residents Russ Valin and his wife who run Force Manufacturing in Lake Villa, Illinois. Jeanne is from Oregon and wants to see the Midwest by air, which she is doing. After only two months of ownership “our little getaway airplane” as Jeanne calls it has been to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and will head to Chattanooga next. It will serve as the trainer for Valin’s instrument rating. The airplane is based 10 miles from the factory at Campbell Airport.
N198TP (1998 Tri-Pacer) was won by an Indianapolis pilot, and then went to Bob Showalter of Showalter Flying Service at Orlando Executive Airport, then to another Florida pilot who sold it to Thomas Donnelly who splits his time between the Indian Hills Airpark at Salome, Arizona, and California. “AOPA did such a good job of restoring it that I didn’t need to change anything,” he said. As it happens, Donnelly has done professional PA-22 restoration work as well as Piper Cubs, so his compliment is a high honor.
Actor Ed Norton, whose talents range from frightening dramatic roles to goofy comedy and all points in between, owns AOPA's 1999 Cessna Stationair, N206SU (Cessna 206 Sport Utility). He offered an update on the airplane:
“206SU is still in mint condition and flying regularly. I have over 600 hours in it and have flown it all over the U.S. and Canada, including many trips from coast to coast. One of the best missions was flying the exact route of Lewis and Clark from the mouth of the Columbia back to St Louis during the research and writing of the forthcoming HBO mini-series 'Undaunted Courage'.
“The plane's avionics were upgraded since the AOPA rebuild and were done by the same great team at Airborne Electronics in Sacramento. We swapped the two [Garmin] 430's and the CD player for an Apollo MFD and Garmin 530 and upgraded all the coms, and Airborne added a bunch of other great custom features to their original panel.
“It's often flown with the rear two seats out to accommodate bikes, scuba gear, camping gear or a lot of bags.
“Once in Cheyenne, Wyoming a crop duster pilot in a cowboy hat saw me walking into the FBO and he did a double take. He came over and said 'I bet you get this a lot but...'
“I said 'Yeah it's me, nice to meet ya.'
“He looked at me confused and I realized he had no idea who I was and he says, 'Nice to meet you too, but I was gonna say...I bet you hear this a lot but that plane looks just like the AOPA 206.’
“I laughed and said 'That's the one.'
“He said, 'I'll be damned, I dreamed of winning that plane. Can I peek inside?'
“I gave him a tour and he shook my hand and said, 'Boy, I'm here to tell you that's the finest 206 that has ever been put together. Yer one lucky SOB.'
“I couldn't agree more.”
N2014U (Mooney 201 For You) was awarded to Alex Thurber of Puyallup, Washington, then went to attorney Gary Stoneking in Minnesota, and now is owned by trial attorney Timothy Murphy of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. The airplane is based at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport in Brainerd, Minnesota. Murphy travels to Florida, Denver, and to his clients in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. “I beat the airlines on most of those trips,” he said. At EAA AirVenture people on bikes chased after him to his parking spot to take a look.
N2001B (2001 Bonanza) was awarded originally to Norm Elliott and guess who still has it? Norm Elliott of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He fixed avionics problems (the old system was replaced three times) by switching to an Aspen Avionics Evolution system, and a valve problem with the engine was cured long ago. He praises the engine’s Millennium cylinders. He enters 180 knots on his flight plan for this 1966 V-tail Bonanza (he knows he could get more if he used higher power) and has taken flights to California and around Arizona.
Randy and Heather McCoy of Winnemucca, Nevada bought the AOPA Waco UPF-7 (N29352 is the original registration number from 74 years ago) from Rare Aircraft in Faribault, Minnesota in 2012. It makes local flights out of Winnemucca Municipal Airport. Both are pilots. “This is by far Randy's favorite airplane to fly,” Heather said. It’s in great shape despite that fact that it has been 10 years since restoration by Rare Aircraft. It was won by Mark Zeller of Conroe, Texas and sold to James Fox of St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Piper Comanche (2004 Win Twin) stayed with the winner eight years before heading from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to its present home at Garberville Airport, California. There, David J. Winters of Redway, California, addressed several older issues, especially with the landing gear. In 2012 he took it to the AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs. “It still looks exactly the same,” he said. “WT is a pleasure to fly and a very capable airplane; it always draws a lot of attention where ever I have flown the plane.”
Bill Evans of Santa Maria, California, is enjoying N112WN (Aero Commander 112 Win). “After AOPA got through with it from the 50 plus vendors, there wasn’t anything left to upgrade. I’m still discovering more and more features that were packed into it that I’m always surprised by and am continually learning new things about my plane that I didn’t know I had.” He calls the 1974 Commander an “amazing aircraft.” The airplane is based at Santa Maria Public Airport (Captain G. Allan Hancock Field). It was won by Robert Melnick of Denver.
The Piper Cherokee Six (one Six for you) was won by Coast Guard Commander Rocky Lee of California but went to an owner in Oregon, and then to Jeffrey Lariviere of Douglassville, Pennsylvania. It is perfect for his family of five including three girls. “Girls don’t travel light,” he said. Visits to remote job sites make up a third of his flying. He got his instrument rating in the airplane but the fancy avionics made it impossible to test “partial panel” skills. “The examiner relied on my honesty,” he said.
The Cessna 177 Cardinal (Cessna `77 bird—the “8” was made to look like a “B”) went from original winner Bruce Chase of Texas to Brady Turner of Brunswick, Georgia, in 2008. It is based at Malcolm McKinnon Airport at St. Simons Island, Georgia. Turner will fly “anytime for any reason” and finds the Cardinal a “delight.” Need a ride? He’s your pilot. He is currently inventing powered tow bars and hangar doors that may reach the aviation market one day. You may even meet him, especially if you visit the AOPA Fly-In Nov. 8 at St. Simons, Georgia (his home airport). He is a key player in helping with the event.
The Piper Archer (2008 Get Glass) is still with original winner Karoline Amodeo of Long Island, New York, but given the fact that she is a very busy New York Center oceanic air traffic controller, and several months pregnant, the aircraft is in leaseback. It can be rented from Nassau Flyers at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, New York. It has been to Chicago, Oshkosh, and to the AOPA Fly-In at Plymouth, Massachusetts. “It’s having more adventures than I am,” Amodeo joked. Her proud mom says Karoline has wanted to be in aviation since age 16.
Our Cirrus SR22 (the factory registration number includes the initials of its first owner, the late Lloyd Huck, who donated the airplane to AOPA) is now flown by Kingman, Arizona, cardiologist Dr. Dennis Dunning. Originally from Michigan, he makes trips back to Michigan to see family, and also flies to visit a daughter in Tennessee. One time he came back via Jackson, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Another trip took him to a meeting in Oregon, then to Virginia, on to Atlanta, and back to Arizona, all at 160 knots true airspeed.
This special light sport aircraft (2010 Fun Fly), a Remos GX, is the favorite hobby of owner Robert Bretz of Louisville, Kentucky. “He’s obsessed with it,” she said. Last year he won an iPad by visiting 40 airports in two months. He is currently touring 45 airports in this year’s Kentucky Airport Challenge. The aircraft was won by Yorke Brown of Etna, New Hampshire, and was sold by Brown to Bretz in mid-2011. “My longest trip alone was Louisville to Abilene, Kansas,” he said. He enjoys flights around the beautiful Kentucky scenery.
AOPA's Cessna 182 (Cessna 182 crossover) was won by United Airlines Boeing 747 pilot Eric Short. It has been shared with son Allen, a U.S. Air Force KC-135 pilot, spending six months at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha and six months at Prescott, Arizona. He took it to Palm Springs, California, to participate in the AOPA Summit Parade of Planes. Allen has flown it through the Rocky Mountains and above the Grand Canyon. It’s possible Eric has talked to 2008 winner and oceanic air controller Karoline Amodeo on his way to Frankfurt.
Our Aviat Husky, the one that flipped over in a storm during Sun `n Fun in Lakeland, Florida, and was restored, has proven it is also “Tougher Than Sagebrush.” After leaving the original winner in Florida and going to owners in Boise, Idaho, and Idaho Falls, Idaho, it went on a bush mission to a desert location. On takeoff the wheels caught in ruts and it ground-looped into tall sagebrush. Reo Underwood, the president of gas pipeline company Northwinds of Wyoming in Douglas, Wyoming restored it and bases it at Queen Creek, Arizona (Phoenix).