Author Archives: Marcel Colon

January 2021

Latest Flight Levels Online Available Now

The latest issue of Flight Levels Online, available now, is packed with interesting people, airplanes, places and tips to help you get more from your Twin Commander. For example, Christmas might be over, but the spirit can live on. Read about Operation Good Cheer, a gift-giving program for foster children in Michigan, and a Twin Commander pilot who pitches in each year. If you’re looking for something a little warmer, Thierry Pouille details Air Journey’s efforts to restart guided trips to the Caribbean and Latin America. And in the Southern Hemisphere, where summer reigns, discover the GAM Group, one of the world’s largest operators of Twin Commanders, and an active Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center. If you don’t feel like traveling to a Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center right now, read about how one can come to you. Finally, in this issue’s “From the Factory” we meet the people who make Twin Commander Aircraft a strong foundation of support for the community. You can find all this and more at https://flightlevelsonline.com.

Take Advantage of the Spend and Receive Promotion

From now until March 31, Twin Commander Aircraft is offering owners and operators a generous Customer Appreciation Program. Spend $25,000 on any factory parts at a Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center, have them installed at the center, and the factory will throw in a CK190 LED Cabin Flood Lighting Kit for free. The kit includes eight LED bulbs along the headliner providing more light, longer-lasting bulbs, and less heat. Everything needed for installation is in the kit including the bulbs, a new circuit board, and the receptacles. Available for all 690A and later models, the lights are a welcome modern addition to the cabin. And now you can get the parts for free by ordering and installing $25,000 worth of factory parts. Find your Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center on the website.

Morelock Promoted at Eagle Creek Aviation

Randy Morelock, Eagle Creek Aviation’s director of avionics and a longtime fixture in the company’s avionics shop, was recently promoted to vice president of maintenance. In his new position, Morelock will be responsible for the company’s entire portfolio of maintenance and upgrades including airframe and powerplant repair and upgrades, avionics upgrades, paint and interior, and parts sales. Since coming to Eagle Creek in 1998, Morelock has been instrumental in projects such as the Grand Renaissance program, the STC for the Garmin G950, and more. Eagle Creek is a Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center with three locations in the Indianapolis area.

 

Air Journey Restarts International Trips

The global coronavirus pandemic has put a significant strain on companies that intersect in any way with tourism. Among those impacted, Florida-based Air Journey was forced to stop its guided international owner-flown trips. As detailed in the winter issue of Flight Levels now online, the company said it is restarting operations. Throughout the next few months the company will be flying escorted trips through the Caribbean and Central America, following strict health protocols in an effort to keep everyone safe. These include COVID-19 tests prior to departure, occasional rapid tests during the journey, outdoor dining, and so on. Air Journey owner Thierry Pouille said that the new requirements for a COVID-19 test prior to arrival back to the United States will be handled as part of the journey. And as of this writing, inbound quarantines have been proposed but are not federally required. For dates, locations, and more information, go to www.airjourney.com.

 

Journey to the Caribbean January 26, 2021
Bahamas Out Islands Journey February 24, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Here to Help

Good help can be hard to find. But not when you own or maintain a Twin Commander. Among the many resources available to pilots, operators, and technicians is Andrew Wilson, the factory technical representative. Wilson is a certificated pilot and airframe and powerplant mechanic with inspection authorization. In addition to his duties helping to develop new parts and Custom Kits, Wilson also serves as a resource for the community. “I want everyone to know I’m here to support any and all of their needs as a pilot or technician,” he said. In the last few weeks Wilson helped the owner of a 500 Shrike diagnose a rough-running engine, worked with a technician to explain the function and troubleshooting of the speed switch, and helped a technician diagnose an installation issue with new fuel cells. For Twin Commander technicians at Factory Authorized Service Centers, or owner and operators, Wilson can track down difficult issues with original source documentation or pass along knowledge learned from flying and maintaining the airplanes. Call him at 1-919-514-0040 or email [email protected]

Genesys S-Tec 3100 Certified for Twin Commanders

Twin Commander owner and operators in the United States have a new option for an aftermarket autopilot. Genesys announced earlier this month that its all-digital S-Tec 3100 is now certified for Twin Commanders. The S-Tec 3100 is a three-axis attitude-based autopilot that can interface with a number of different panel systems. It offers envelope control, electronic stability, and more. Covered models in the latest supplemental type certificate include the 695, 695A, 690, 690A, 690B, 690C, 690D, 680W, 681, 500, 500A, 500B, 500S, 500U, 560A, 560E, and 560F. Foreign validation is expected sometime soon. In the Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center network Byerly Aviation, Eagle Creek Aviation, Meta Aerospace, and the Naples Jet Center are also Genesys Aerosystems dealers.

Share Your Story

The Twin Commander community is a small, tight-knit group of owners, operators, and enthusiasts who love to share the myriad ways in which they use these versatile airplanes. We want to share your story with the rest of the community through this newsletter and in Flight Levels Online. We’re always looking for great stories about you, your airplane, trips you’ve taken in the airplane, upgrades you’ve made, unusual missions, and more. For longtime operators, we want to share your best flying tips with those transitioning, and your maintenance and ownership tips. And for maintainers, help us share best operating practices, maintenance tips and more. Write to the editor at [email protected] or send us a message on Facebook or Instagram.

Tell Us About Your System

A few months ago, we asked which type of environmental system is in your Twin Commander. Over the many years of production, various models were delivered from the factory with a few different environmental systems. Subsequent aftermarket options also have been added to the mix. Knowing what’s in the field will help with the development of future upgrades.

We’d like to know what system is currently in your airplane. Please disregard if you’ve already answered the survey.

 

 


 

November 2020

Time for a Close-Up

Brad Howard’s 690B. Photo by Jessica Ambats

The only thing better looking than a Twin Commander on the ground is a Twin Commander in flight. Now, thanks to professional photographer Jessica Ambats and owner Brad Howard, we can enjoy new photos of Howard’s 690B over Southern California. Ambats met Howard and his son, Scott, in Iceland while the pair were on a flight around the world with Air Journey. A few years later they connected for the air-to-air photo shoot and now Ambats is making the photos available for purchase. On Ambats’ website, search for “Commander” to see the photos. Each can be purchased as a print or put on a mug or other keepsake. If you’re looking for more, Ambats performs custom shoots and can give your airplane the star treatment.

Factory Working on Multiple Upgrades

The COVID pandemic hasn’t slowed down the work at Twin Commander Aircraft. Business Unit Director Brian Harbaugh said the company is busy with multiple projects and upgrades, from stocking new parts to developing new Custom Kits and flight manual upgrades. Engineering is currently working on new nacelle bulkheads that provide a more secure fit. A new cabin altitude indicator has been developed and will soon be available as part of a Custom Kit. The factory is also developing a new rudder gust lock that addresses customer feedback. Finally, a pilot’s operating handbook, POH, rewrite for 695s on long-range fuel was recently released, and owners and technicians will appreciate an impending change to the hydraulic pump overhaul procedure that is currently under review should make the process more efficient and result in better performance. “We are always working hard to support the Twin Commander community,” Harbaugh said. “But I’m particularly proud of the team’s work recently to push forward in the face of significant outside challenges. They are fully committed to providing value to owners and the Factory Authorized Service Centers.”

Eagle Creek Will Come to You

Naples Jet Center FBO Photos of maintenance, ramp, jet aircraft and charter.

Whether it’s a busy schedule or travel restrictions, getting away right now can be, in some cases, quite difficult. Eagle Creek Aviation Services is hoping to help ease that burden by coming to you. The company has long had a respected mobile team that is dispatched for AOG situations, and that service is now expanding to include mobile inspections. “Leave your Commander in your hangar, and our AOG and maintenance technicians will come to you,” promised a press release. A company representative said each job is currently being custom quoted, with the additional travel expenses baked into the rate. “We want customers to know we can take care of them regardless of where they are,” he said. By leveraging its more-than $15 million in Twin Commander parts inventory, Eagle Creek is able to further save owners and operators time and money. And now, you can add convenience to that list as well.

Tell Us About Your System

Over the many years of Twin Commander production, various turboprop models were delivered from the factory with a few different environmental systems. Subsequent aftermarket options also have been added to the mix.

We’d like to know what system is currently in your airplane.

October 2020

Technicians Urged to Follow Maintenance Manual During Inspections

Twin Commander Aircraft is asking technicians to use the factory maintenance manual during annual inspections of all Twin Commander aircraft, in particular the piston-powered models. Many technicians follow an official checklist for the inspection, but the factory is urging them to follow the complete guidance for annual and recurrent inspections in Section II of the maintenance manual. Specifically, all technicians should reference Part IV Special Inspection Requirements of Section II for detailed information on inspection intervals and procedures that supplement the basic inspection requirements. Part IV covers items such as inspections after hard landings, as well as special inspections that don’t precisely follow the annual inspection schedule. The checklist doesn’t include these items, and can result in an incomplete inspection.

Twin Commander Flight Group Hosts Successful In-Person Meeting

In-person events are rare these days, but the Twin Commander Flight Group bucked the trend and held its annual meeting in-person earlier this month in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Aircenter, Inc.’s Gary Gadberry was elected as the group’s new president after longtime head Jim Metzger retired. Gadberry said the event drew three piston Commanders and two 840s. “This has been a goofy year to try to pull something like this off,” he said. “But most everyone was excited about it.” There were social events and presentations on important topics, such as the difficult insurance market. Twin Commander Aircraft’s Pam Brown gave a presentation on factory programs, parts support, and new employees. “The idea of the group is to draw a closer feel to the Twin Commander aircraft,” Gadberry said. “Without the factory there’d be no support for the legacy airplanes. We feel like the timing is good for Twin to participate more in piston-powered airplanes.” Next May the group is planning a Caribbean fly-out that will take them through Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “I think everyone’s ready for 2021,” Gadberry said.

Fall Flight Levels Now Online

Ever wanted to fly around the world? With the latest issue of Flight Levels Online you can. Follow along as Twin Commander owner and pilot Robert DeLaurentis details his polar circumnavigation, including those harrowing moments at the top and the bottom of the earth when things didn’t go quite as planned. Closer to home, check out National Flight Services, one of the world’s best Honeywell facilities that is also a top-notch Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center. Also, find out why the used market is so hot, look back at the JetProp 980, learn how to keep your turbines turnin’ and how fuel flow can help with power changes.

You’ll find all this and more in the latest issue of Flight Levels Online.

Business Is Brisk at Service Centers

The Coronavirus pandemic may bring a multi-year downturn to the world’s airlines, but it is not slowing down general aviation and Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers. Aircraft sales are booming, activity is up over seasonal norms, and aircraft charter is coming back to pre-pandemic levels in certain sectors. A representative from Eagle Creek Aviation Services said their charter business went from 30 hours a month when the pandemic struck in March to more than 130 hours a month through the late summer. On average he said they were picking up five new customers a week who were fed up with the airlines. Eagle Creek also recently refurbished three Twin Commanders for Conair Aerial Firefighting.

Winner Aviation, Aero Air, and Gemini Air Group have all recently expanded technician staff to handle increased demand. “When I look at what’s happening at the Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers, I feel good about the future,” said Business Unit Director Brian Harbaugh. “It’s a good time to be part of the Twin Commander family.”

August 2020

Peace Pilot Completes Polar Circumnavigation in Twin Commander

Robert DeLaurentis, who dubs himself the Peace Pilot for his ambitious polar circumnavigation, has safely landed back in San Diego after 11 months, 26,000 miles, and 170 hours logged flying his 1983 Twin Commander 900 from pole to pole. DeLaurentis faced numerous avionics challenges near the poles, but otherwise the heavily modified airplane performed almost flawlessly. He credits the power of his Honeywell Dash 10 engines and the reliability of the Twin Commander for flying him safely down through South America, over the South Pole, across the Atlantic Ocean, north through Africa and Europe, and then over the top of the world before coming back down through Alaska to his Southern California base. “I’m happy what the flight has done for Twin Commander,” he said. “I think it’s a prideful moment for the community. Twin Commander has been a great supporter.” You can read more about the DeLaurentis flight in the next issue of Flight Levels Online

Shrike Downed Due to Misfueling

Photo courtesy of AVweb

A Shrike operated by the State of Alaska’s Department of Forestry crashed May 28 after it was apparently filled with jet fuel, according to an NTSB report on the accident. The airplane had just taken off from Aniak, Alaska, when both engines quit. The ATP-rated pilot ditched in the shallow part of a nearby lake. The pilot and three passengers on board were seriously injured. According to the NTSB the pilot wasn’t present for the fueling. A line staffer had asked the pilot if he wanted Prist, to which the pilot said no. The fueler apparently didn’t notice the 100LL placard next to the filler port, and the pilot didn’t notice that the receipt said “no Prist” and “Jet A.”  Although numerous fail-safes such as placards and different fuel-filler nozzles and ports are meant to prevent misfuelling accidents, they are still a regular occurrence. Pilots are encouraged to stay with their airplane and supervise the fueling process, especially at unfamiliar airports. And always double-check receipts, which will detail the type of fuel added.

Now is a Great Time to Visit Your Twin Commander Service Center

Eagle Creek Aviation FBO, Indianapolis, Indiana

General aviation aircraft sales, operations, and support are all faring surprisingly well under circumstances that have brought challenges to the wider economy. Despite that, shops are reporting slightly shorter lead times for things like avionics upgrades and major maintenance. Take advantage of this opportunity to visit your Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center for your maintenance, overhaul, and inspection needs. With some destinations still closed to visitors and your vacation plans put on hold, it is the right time to go to your trusted source of Twin Commander parts, maintenance, and upgrades. Technicians at Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers are factory trained to work on your airplane with the latest guidance, best access to parts, and the highest standards. You can find a list of the network at https://twincommander.com/service-centers/. Many are offering specials, so make sure to ask about parts, maintenance, and inspection incentives.

Tribal Knowledge: Avoiding Hot Starts

As a long-time Twin Commander salesman, service center executive, and pilot who frequently ferries airplanes headed to the shop, Bruce Byerly has encountered the occasional airplane that is not quite up to the high standards demanded by most owners and operators and all factory authorized service centers. Stuff happens, sometimes on engine start, and Byerly has had to call on his tribal knowledge to get and keep things going. That’s where we’ll start this tribal knowledge class—with engine starts.

There are situations that increase the potential for exceeding the maximum allowable temperature on engine start—a hot start—such as high ambient temperatures, high altitude, starting the engines with the airplane facing downwind in a strong wind, and a quick turn when the engine core has not had a chance to cool. Regardless, there is no excuse for suffering a hot start, Byerly says. The pilot should see engines temperature rapidly rising in time to abort the start or reduce the fuel flow to the engine, and thus the temperature, using the Horsepower Limiter or, depending on the Twin Commander model, the Torque Limiter switch on the overhead panel.

We’ll have more on tribal knowledge techniques to avoid a hot start in the upcoming issue of Flight Levels Online.

July 2020

Latest Flight Levels Available Online

Twin Commander flown by Erick Teeters & John Kelley.

Author Dave Duntz has given the Twin Commander world a gift. The former Aerostar owner spent years researching and writing an authoritative history of Ted Smith and his designs. We sit down with Duntz to discuss his bookStars and Commanders: The Life and Vision of Ted Smith, for the latest issue of Flight Levels, which is now online.

Also in this issue, learn about the capabilities and history of Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center Winner Aviation, discover the basics of autopilot methodology, read about what to check on your Commander after a long downtime, and learn why Business Unit Director Brian Harbaugh thinks Twin Commander Aircraft is in a healthy position.

Finally, we remember Geoffrey Pence, the longtime technical service manager and Twin Commander expert. Read this and more in the latest issue.

Take Your Twin Commander to the Gym

As aircraft around the world sit dormant for extended periods due to the coronavirus, a host of potential safety issues come to the surface. Pilot proficiency is one of the first things to suffer, but aircraft systems may be impacted as well. This issue became serious for Boeing recently as an airworthiness directive was issued on certain 737s that had been sitting because of the pandemic. It was suspected that bleed air valves stuck open, causing in-flight shutdowns. There’s no evidence that any Twin Commanders have suffered a similar fate, but the longer an airplane sits, the more likely it is that the performance of things like tires, hoses, lines, and valves will degrade. If airlines are any guide, many have chosen to exercise weekly their fleets of 737 Max while they await a software fix. You, too, should be exercising your airplane. If possible, fly the airplane once a week to keep the engines and other components fresh. You can also take this opportunity to perform the 150-hour inspection a few hours early, or opt for an upgrade that’s currently on sale at your factory authorized Twin Commander service center.

FAA Cracking Down on Illegal Charter

Earlier this year the FAA took the extraordinary step of messaging every pilot in the database to pass on a very important reminder—on-demand operations require a charter certificate, and running afoul of the regulations isn’t as hard as you may think. Left unsaid in the message was that the agency is aggressively pursuing those who don’t follow the rules.
Most pilots and aircraft operators know a Commercial pilot certificate is needed to fly for compensation or hire, and that on-demand flying requires a charter certificate. But the meaning of “holding out for the purpose of charter” has often been up to the FAA’s interpretation. Recently that interpretation has tended toward the very strict, with pilots and operators being investigated for activities some previously considered cost-sharing. What’s worse, as AOPA has made clear in recent months, is that the pilot is often the first point in the investigation.
It may come as a surprise to pilots that, according to the FAA’s guidance, some common operations that require a charter certificate include:

  • Any dry lease without sufficient legal distance between the pilots and the lessor. For example, if the lease contract requires the operator to use a certain pilot or group of pilots, even if those pilots are independently paid and contracted.
  • Advertising for cost-sharing. The FAA said in its message that while cost-sharing is allowed, “advertising in any form (word of mouth, website, reputation, etc.) raises the question of ‘holding-out.’”
  • Not flying with a common purpose. In Advisory Circular 61-142, the FAA said that the pilot and passenger must have a common purpose for the trip. For example, if a friend asks you to fly him to the international airport in order to catch a flight, you can’t split the costs unless you have a reason to be at that airport or in that city as well.

In the FAA message and in AC 61-142, the FAA gives dozens of examples of situations it may view as charter flights. If you share costs often or take friends or business acquaintances on trips it is worth your time to review the guidance.

Naples Jet Center Under New Ownership

Naples Jet Center Holdings LLC, an investment group led by Byerly Aviation’s Bruce Byerly, has purchased the Naples Jet Center, a Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center. Previously owned by the First Wing family of companies that includes Eagle Creek Aviation Services, Byerly recently took control of the busy Southwest Florida facility he helped start. Byerly said customers won’t see any immediate changes as he takes the helm although significant development plans are taking shape. Although NJC will share resources and expertise with Byerly Aviation, the companies are separate entities with unique management groups. Naples Jet Center includes a busy FBO operation, a 94,000 square feet facility, maintenance, repair, charter, sales, and aircraft management capabilities. Byerly said business has been brisk thus far, despite the pandemic. “Naples is an exciting place for aviation. We’re thrilled to offer Commander owners from across the country and internationally an experienced and passionate support team” he said.