Author Archives: Marcel Colon

August 2022

FAA Proposes AD for V-band on Turbocharged Engines

The FAA late last month issued a proposed airworthiness directive (AD) affecting turbocharged Lycoming and Continental engines with certain v-band couplings installed. According to the proposed AD, the action was prompted by reports of multiple failures of spot welds at the connection between the tailpipe and turbocharger exhaust housing flange. If adopted, the AD would require a life limit of 500 hours, and an annual condition inspection. The part in question is found on Twin Commander models 500, 500A, 500B, 500S, 500U, 560A, 560E, and 685. According to Twin Commander Technical Service Manager David Allison, this part is a known area of concern, and Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers know to check the v-band clamp as part of any regular inspection. The proposed AD is open for comment until November 4.

Grabbe Receives FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award

Mike Grabbe, the veteran Twin Commander technician and training expert, was recently awarded the FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award in recognition of more than 50 years of excellence in aircraft maintenance.

Grabbe is Eagle Creek Aviation’s maintenance quality and safety manager, and is a renowned expert in Twin Commander systems, troubleshooting, and maintenance. He teaches the Twin Commander factory authorized training course for technicians in Eagle Creek Aviation’s facility near Indianapolis, and has been doing so for more than 20 years.

Grabbe’s career began in 1970 at a small shop in Maine after he earned a degree in aviation maintenance. “Mike Grabbe has been an invaluable asset for our aircraft maintenance operations over the past two decades,” said Scott Dillon, president of Eagle Creek Aviation. “His extensive experience, technical knowledge, and leadership in quality assurance and training have contributed to our success as an award-winning MRO. We are proud of his accomplishment of more than 50 years in the aircraft maintenance profession and are fortunate to have him on our team.”

Air Journey Offering Excess Liability Insurance for Europe

Flying to Europe has long presented a vexing insurance problem. Europe, including Greenland and Iceland, requires liability insurance amounts from $11 million, upwards of $25 million, depending on the aircraft type. One would think this excess liability request would be a simple call to your insurance broker, but most owners are met with hurdles or enormous cost.

This increased insurance requirement, directed by the European Union, dates back to the early 2000s. The EU imposes the amount depending on the weight of the aircraft. Airplanes weighing up to 13,230 pounds must be insured to the tune of $7 million SDR, the equivalent to roughly $11 million today.

Knowing what a challenge it is to obtain the additional insurance, tour company Air Journey is now offering the Air Journey Club. Interested parties need to become a member of the Air Journey Club (annual dues of $1,750 per member, of which $1,000 can be used as a credit towards a group-guided Air Journey or split into two installments of $500 towards Air Journey’s Concierge Services; among other benefits). As a member of the Air Journey Club, members will gain access to third party coverage providing excess liability insurance worldwide, with the exception of the USA, Canada, and countries subject to the Kiln Geographic Areas Exclusion Clause. The Kiln Geographic Areas Exclusion Clause refers to, in short, a list of countries that if operated in would be a breach of United Nations sanctions or countries with a history of political unrest.

For simple reference, pricing for the Air Journey Club plan is a set amount based on the type of aircraft by weight class and the length of time needed for coverage:

Aircraft with liability insurance requirements of $11M USD:

•    $2,500 premium: 1 to 15 days of coverage

•    $3,500 premium: 16 to 30 days of coverage

•    $6,000 premium: up to 75 days of coverage

Become an Air Journey Club member online or for additional information and details, please call the Air Journey Club at (561) 841-1551, ext. 15 or write them at [email protected].

Name That Model

Shorter propellers. Eyebrow windows. A slightly shorter wing. These are just a few of the clues that can help identify the type of Twin Commander in this great black and white photo. Is it an early 690, or maybe a 680?

Tell us in this month’s model quiz.


July 2022

Summer Flight Levels Online Available Now

How many times do you hear from a Twin Commander owner that they’ve wanted one since they were a kid? How sweet it is when the new owner fulfills that dream. It’s even better when the Commander is used as a way to soften the often difficult transition to retirement. Rick Ferrin had a lengthy career as an airline pilot, and used a Cessna 310 to commute from his home to work. But the dream of a Commander kept calling, and with his family’s support and guidance from the Commander community, he was able to put together an epic trip in his new 500B soon after parking the big jet for the last time. You can read his story in the latest issue of Flight Levels Online, available now. The issue is packed with tips from other owners, the latest on the challenging maintenance technician market, getting the most from your insurance, and more.

Wright Retires from Twin Commander Aircraft

Alan Wright, the soft-spoken and unassuming engineer for Twin Commander Aircraft, retired from the company at the end of June. Originally hired on the staff when the company was based in Washington, Wright made the move to Creedmoor, North Carolina, and spent a total of 16 years with the manufacturer. As an engineer for Twin Commander, he had responsibility for working on a diverse range of parts and aircraft improvements, interfacing with the FAA, writing service publications, and more. In an interview last year for Flight Levels he said, “I’m always inspired when I think about how Twin started, Ted Smith’s journey and perseverance in getting this dream of his off the ground, and especially how enduring the Twin legacy is. Sometimes when I’m going through reports and drawings, I see documents that are 40 years old with names on them of people that are still, or have recently, worked on Twin Commanders, like Geoffrey Pence and Fred Gatz. And I regularly hear about pilots and mechanics who cut their teeth on Twins and still love them and fly them. It makes me want to do my part in keeping Twin Commander parts and maintenance costs affordable so that they can keep flying for another 30 years!”

Space Still Available for Final Maintenance Training Session of the Year

As of this writing space was still available for the final factory authorized maintenance training session of the year. Held at the Eagle Creek Aviation facility near Indianapolis, the second and final in-person session of the year will be held October 17-26. All sessions feature eight days of in-depth instruction on virtually all aircraft systems. Students are issued full presentation and reference materials, and the class concludes with a 100-question exam. Successful completion leads to an official certificate of training and a record of training document. The cost is $5,000 per student. To register or for more information contact Mike Grabbe at 317-293-6935 extension 404 or email [email protected].

Lane Takes Over Larry York Aviation

Longtime Twin Commander instructor and mentor pilot Barry Lane is now the principal at Larry York Aviation after Larry York’s recent retirement. Larry York Aviation has an extensive client list, primarily of turbine-powered Twin Commander owners and operators. Lane, who long worked as an instructor for York, said customers can expect the same great service and instruction they’ve come to known and expect from the company. Larry York Aviation specializes in in-aircraft initial and recurrent training, and can work with any model of turbine-powered Twin Commander. Although based in Texas, Lane regularly travels to the customer’s home airport as a matter of convenience, and to ensure a deeper knowledge of the pilot’s home area.

Identify the Model

A busy production line. An open nosecone, and an open pilot and passenger doors. A number, written in marker on the nosecone, should give clues, but it’s hard to see in enough detail to know. When Twin Commander posted this photo on Facebook a few months ago, it was identified as a Model 685. But commentors objected, saying it was a Shrike. What do you think?

Tell us in this month’s model quiz.


May 2022

Eagle Creek Earns FAA’s Diamond Award

Eagle Creek Aviation and the company’s associated First Wing Jet Centers have been honored by the FAA with the AMT Diamond Award of Excellence. The Diamond Award of Excellence is given for employers who have more than three maintenance technicians, 100 percent of whom undergo continuing education and training throughout the year. Eagle Creek is a Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center, and the company’s technicians underwent more than 1,500 hours of training last year, including the Twin Commander factory authorized maintenance technician training course. “As a company, we are committed to excellence in everything we do, including ensuring that we continue to invest in our technicians through training and education. We believe our customers are best served by professionals who are continually learning and utilizing industry best practices,” said Scott Dillon, President, Eagle Creek Aviation. “We are honored to be recognized by the FAA for that commitment.”

Last Chance to Save on Step Retract Link

Now through the end of May, take advantage of the factory’s discount program and Spend and Receive on a step retract link. Although the entry door to Twin Commanders sits relatively low to the ground, the entry step is a welcome touch that makes the process easier and more comfortable, especially for passengers. Now you can save 25 percent and keep yours in top shape and operating properly. The step retract link is PN 560000-41 (1001-1). The part is in stock and ready to ship now, and is available for models 680FLP, 680T, 680W, 681, 685, 685A, 690, 690A/B/C/D, 695, and 695A/B. Contact your preferred Factory Authorized Twin Commander Service Center for pricing and to schedule.

Cruise to the Latest Issue of Flight Levels Online

Every issue of Flight Levels Online is packed with stories of our community’s history, interesting people, market movements, and tips to get the most from your Twin Commander. The latest issue is free and available online now. In it you’ll find the story of Camanchaca, a fishing company in Chile that uses a Twin Commander to spot for fish off the Pacific Coast. For those interested in making your airplane even more powerful, learn how the Dash 10 upgrade can virtually pay for itself through longer inspection intervals. There are also tips on getting the most out of your insurance program through creative recurrent training, methods of programming visual approaches in your Garmin, a journey to the Galapagos Islands, and an early history of Fred Smith’s work developing the Aero Commander.


April 2022

Spring Issue of Flight Levels Online Available

Imagine circling for hours, on a moonless night, hundreds of miles offshore. It’s all in a day’s work for Fredy Castillo and the pilots of Camanchaca, a fishing company based in Chile. Using a 500S, the crews coordinate with boat captains to gather as many fish as possible. You can read the entire story in the latest issue of Flight Levels Online, available now. Also in this issue, learn how National Flight Services brought back the Dash 10 conversion and how it might fit into your upgrade plans. Decide for yourself whether the market is still red hot or starting to stabilize, figure out if maintenance training is right for you, and get a primer on aircraft tax benefits. All this, and much more is available online in the latest issue of Flight Levels out now.

Eagle Creek Teams Meshing Well with New Ownership

As we reported last November, Jet Access recently purchased a majority share in Eagle Creek Aviation and its associated charter, maintenance, and FBO lines of business. Prior to the merger, Jet Access had a charter fleet of some 50 aircraft, but no in-house maintenance capability. Eagle Creek had a smaller charter group, but is renowned for its maintenance expertise. By coming together, Jet Access will have much-needed support, while Eagle Creek gains additional resources for growth. Eagle Creek’s Scott Dillon said the change has been fantastic for both companies, and he is enthused for the future. Although Eagle Creek’s charter group will be absorbed into Jet Access, and the First Wing FBOs will also likely be rebranded, Dillon said there are no immediate changes anticipated for the maintenance side of the business. “We’re not shifting to only serve in-house maintenance,” he said. In fact, the company is continuing to prioritize long-term clients, and adding staff to handle company assets. In addition, Eagle Creek’s top people remain in place, and longtime owner Matt Hagans is on the company’s board of directors, and he retains an equity stake in the new company.

Kerry Leifeld Earns Taylor Mechanic Award

Kerry Leifeld, left, receives the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award from Clive Adams, regional FAA Safety Team program manager


Kerry Leifeld was recently presented with the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award by Clive Adams, regional FAA Safety Team program manager, at a ceremony in Bartonville, Illinois. Leifeld worked for Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center Byerly Aviation for more than 42 years, retiring as the Director of Maintenance, a position he held for 36 years. He began his career in 1968 with the U.S. Navy, where he served as a plane captain on the McDonnell Douglas F4 Phantom. Leifeld started with Byerly in 1974, earning his inspection authorization, and a pilot certificate along the way. Becoming a pilot helped him to better understand the concerns of his customers, he said. In 2016 Twin Commander Aircraft awarded Leifeld a Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing his longtime service to the community.

Factory Continuing to Expand

If you happen to call the Twin Commander Aircraft offices and hear lots of commotion in the background, don’t be alarmed. They’re expanding. In an effort to make room for additional lines of business among Twin Commander’s many sister companies, Ontic is undertaking a massive expansion of the Creedmoor, North Carolina, facility. They expect to add approximately 70 staff over the year, or about four times what it was just a few years ago. The construction project will add 30,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space.

Spend & Receive a Big Discount on Step Retract Link

Sometimes the little things make all the difference. Even though Twin Commanders sit relatively low to the ground, the entry/exit step is a nice creature comfort, especially for passengers. Keep your step functioning in top form with this month’s Spend and Receive promotion. Now through the end of May, take 25 percent off PN 560000-41 (1001-1), the step retract link. The part is in stock and ready to ship now, and is available for models 680FLP, 680T, 680W, 681, 685, 685A, 690, 690A/B/C/D, 695, and 695A/B. Contact your preferred Factory Authorized Twin Commander Service Center for pricing and to schedule.




February 2022

Ontic Acquires Merlin, Metroliner Type Certificates

One of Air Chathams’ Metroliners courtesy of Biponacci/

Twin Commander Aircraft’s parent company Ontic recently acquired the type certificate of the Fairchild Merlin II, III, and IV, and the military version C-26 from San Antonio, Texas-based M7 Aerospace. The full product lines, equipment, and staff will be moving to Ontic’s facility in Creedmoor, North Carolina later this year. The acquisition gives Ontic its second complete line of production aircraft after its acquisition of Twin Commander in 2018. “We’re excited to add the Fairchild Merlin Metro II, III, and IV, and DOD C-26 certificates,” said Ontic CEO Gareth Hall. “We have had success with our initial Twin Commander acquisition, and we feel this will fit perfectly with our capabilities and our growth initiatives.” Twin Commander and Merlin align well. Both are twin turboprops powered by Honeywell TPE-331s, and many are owner operated or in non-scheduled commercial use. By combining forces, Ontic will hold greater purchasing power with common vendors, bringing savings to both communities.

Maintenance Training Set for March, April, and October

The schedule is set for this year’s slate of factory-approved Twin Commander maintenance training. The first session will be virtual, starting on March 7 and wrapping up on March 16. If the pandemic situation allows, the second and third sessions will be conducted in person at Eagle Creek Aviation’s facilities near Indianapolis. The first of these live sessions will run from April 4 to 13, and the second from October 17 to 26. All sessions feature eight days of in-depth instruction on virtually all aircraft systems. Students are issued full presentation and reference materials, and the class concludes with a 100-question exam. Successful completion leads to an official certificate of training and a record of training document. The cost is $5,000 per student. To register or for more information contact Mike Grabbe at 317-293-6935 extension 404 or [email protected]

Dash 10 Conversion Brings Numerous Benefits

Raise your hand if you want to go more than 300 knots, have full power to 16,000 feet, make it to Flight Level 290 in 12 minutes, all the while burning less fuel and spending less on maintenance. That’s the kind of oomph a Dash 10 conversion gives the Honeywell TPE-331 engine. Upgrading your Dash 5s to Dash 10 engines can bring serious performance enhancements, reduced maintenance costs, and especially in this market, a significantly higher resale value. In recent years the cost of parts from Honeywell made the conversion financially challenging, but thanks to a new exclusive agreement with National Flight Services, a Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center, the conversion is once again feasible. This is great news for owners who are looking to save money on maintenance while gaining performance enhancements. While National Flight, through Honeywell, is the exclusive provider of the engines, the conversion can be done at any Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center. Find your preferred center online and call today to receive a quote.

Save on a New Dorsal Fin

From now to the end of March, Twin Commander Aircraft is offering a 25 percent discount on Custom Kit 200, a new dorsal fin design that reduces trapped moisture. The original factory dorsal fin design has a tendency to hold moisture that can lead to corrosion on the original skins underneath. Various Custom Kits have addressed this issue over the years, but Custom Kit 200 is the latest, and also comes with a completely new dorsal fin. The kit features a new composite design with integrated water channeling. By upgrading to Custom Kit 200 on your 690C/D, 695, or 695A you can protect your aircraft and improve the look of the fuselage as well. Contact your favorite Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center today for a quote and to schedule the simple installation.