When I was originally tasked with managing the restoration of the AOPA Sweepstakes Cessna 170B, I knew a couple things—one being that I wanted the engine upgrade to happen at the Barnstormer’s Workshop at the Peach State Aerodrome in Georgia. The second was that I wanted Gardner Lowe Aviation Services at Atlanta Regional Airport/Falcon Field, also in Georgia, to handle the panel upgrade.
Fast forward several months later, and my first wish came true. Barnstormer’s Workshop, along with Dave Stoots, of Stoots Aviation, installed a brand-new Continental Prime IO-370, 195-horsepower engine; Hartzell Trailblazer propeller, and Stene Aviation Sportsman STOL wing cuffs, and made several other modifications. The aircraft also successfully flew 25 hours and made its public debut at the Sun ’n Fun Aerospace Expo in Lakeland, Florida.
The soon-to-be custom panel will feature an impressive display of modern avionics from several different manufacturers. An Aspen Avionics Evolution E5 dual electronic flight instrument; PS Engineering PMA8000G audio panel; and Garmin’s GI 275 engine indication system, GNC 255 nav/com, GNC 355 GPS/com, GTX 345 ADS-B In/Out transponder, and GSB 15 USB power input will not only make the airplane more enjoyable to fly, but also much safer.
“I’m excited that we can take an older airframe…and make it more functional for everyday use,” said Gardner. “But, I’m also really excited that we are going to be able to make a safer airplane for somebody that’s going to win it, and they’ll be able to use it for years to come.”
Gardner, a longtime family friend, was the only person I considered to lead the install. Aside from his incredible reputation and being a mere 10 minutes away from home, Gardner and his team are more than just a first-class avionics shop. They are a 30-plus-year family-owned business that truly feels like family.
“I was able to spend a few days in the shop after dropping the Bonanza off, and I was very impressed by how well everything was organized, by the quality of the work they produce, and by how much every employee I spoke with truly cares about the work they do,” said aviation YouTuber Martin Pauly. “The result is a panel that looks stunningly beautiful, is customized to my specific needs and desires, and works as advertised.”
The Cessna 170 will spend the remaining days of April and all of May receiving these drastic panel upgrades. After avionics are complete, the airplane will be flown to Hawk Aircraft Services in Zephyrhills, Florida, for a brand-new interior and paint.