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OMG! Look at this airplane!OMG! Look at this airplane!

AOPA Sweeps RV–10 stops traffic

The first casualty of the AOPA 2020 Sweepstakes RV–10 was a Honda Civic.
Pilot Briefing March 2020
Photograpny by Mike Collins

The gleaming red, black, and gold airplane had just returned from the paint shop and was tied down on the AOPA ramp when a Civic driver on his way to work locked eyes on the lustrous airplane as he negotiated a curve in the road. Then his car caromed off the curb, scraping the rim of its front, right wheel.

“You’ve got to move that airplane,” said Sherry Rosenkranz, AOPA marketing vice president, whose office is less than 100 yards from the ramp. “Drivers can’t take their eyes off it. People are stopping on the curve to stare at it.”

Fun and inviting

Paint was the final, big piece of the Sweeps RV–10 transformation—and the most striking. And we’re sure you’ll agree that Craig Barnett of Scheme Designers and Kendall Horst of Lancaster Aero outdid themselves.

Barnett had provided the AOPA staff with an array of designs and a broad spectrum of colors for the Sweeps RV–10. His marching orders had been to produce an “aggressive” design that would make the Sweeps RV–10 instantly identifiable yet keep it fun and inviting.

Of the hundreds of combinations AOPA reviewed, the one that was eventually chosen was the very first that Barnett had proposed—with a few tweaks.

The multicolor N number was an addition. The N number, 260MG, is a double entendre. The airplane’s got a powerful 260-horsepower engine, and when pilots learn that, a common reaction is blurting out, “Oh, my [goodness]!”

The joke contained in the N number was subtle when the numbers and letters were simply black vinyl blocks. Barnett himself wasn’t aware of the meaning until Horst suggested setting the 0MG apart by making them different colors. Barnett then took that idea even further by making the 26 appear in shadows.

There was a great deal of internal discussion about whether that would satisfy the FAA N number visibility requirements, but it’s been done many times in the past (including on previous AOPA Sweepstakes aircraft) and Barnett and Horst were positive it would meet the “500-foot rule.” An airplane’s N number should be visible and identifiable from a distance of 500 feet (see “FAA Guidance,” this page).

Anyway, it’s painted on now, so it won’t be easily altered.


Pilot Briefing March 2020Horst and his crew at Lancaster Aero went far above and beyond simply painting the airplane. They repaired or replaced damaged fiberglass around the windshield and window frames, added fresh air scoops for the overhead ventilation system, complied with a Van’s Aircraft Service Bulletin that involved adding a safety latch to each of the doors, and resealed the door frames. Now the doors close as tight as a bank vault, and they’re more streamlined, too.

The painting itself went quickly. Erick Rosado was dressed like an astronaut with a full chemical protection suit as he applied white primer, then several layers of Axalta. Red was the first color, and Rosado covered the aircraft twice using a total of 2.5 gallons of the $900-per-gallon paint. (Other colors were a relative bargain at $300 a gallon.)

“It’s amazing how rich the color is, even after just one coat,” said Rosado, who estimates he’s painted about 200 aircraft during five years at Lancaster Aero.

Later, he applied black, gold, and two layers of clearcoat to give the final product a glistening appearance.

Nine weeks after the Sweeps RV–10 had arrived at Lancaster Aero in Smoketown, Pennsylvania (S37), it was ready for the short, 60-nautical-miles flight home. The kit airplane that had been built in Canada and first flew in 2007 was unrecognizable from the fading, threadbare, yellow billboard that had been dropped off on December 7, 2019.

“The quality of the paint now matches the quality of the avionics and interior that had already been upgraded,” said Horst, a pilot, AOPA member, and mechanic with inspection authorization. “People who saw this airplane in 2019 aren’t going to believe it’s the same aircraft, so good luck convincing them.”

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Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.

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