Author Archives: Marcel Colon

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/commons.wikimedia.org

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.

January 2022

Ashcroft Assumes TCA Leadership

Longtime Ontic manager Derek Ashcroft has assumed the role of Business Unit Director for Twin CommanderAircraft in the wake of Brian Harbaugh’s retirement late last year. Ashcroft is intimately familiar with the company and its customers and suppliers, having been with Ontic’s sister companies in Creedmoor, North Carolina, for many years. He joined in 2013, serving in various management and engineering roles, and as Business Unit Director for Firstmark Aerospace and Controls, and now Twin Commander, Aircraft Belts, and Centroid. “I have worked closely with the great people at Twin Commander Aircraft for many years,” Ashcroft said. “Their passion for the airplane, the owners, and supporting the entire community is always palpable, and I look forward to becoming a more involved member of the team.” Ashcroft said he hopes to further strengthen the ties with the Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers, and learn how the factory can better support owners and operators.

What Dash 10 Announcement Means for Owners

When Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center National Flight Services announced late last year that it had secured a deal with Honeywell to sell Dash 10 upgrades, there was some question as to what it would mean for owners. As the current aircraft market continues its hot streak, it’s clear that the Dash 10 upgrade is now a worthy investment. Eagle Creek Aviation’s Jim Worrell said that hasn’t been the case since at least 2008. But now, he said, “it’s a no brainer.” That’s especially true of 840s with timed-out engines. And there are scores of benefits, including better climb, hot and high performance, 35 knots in cruise, 30 percent reduction in operating costs, and more. If you have a Dash 5-equipped airplane and are looking for better performance and lower life-cycle maintenance costs, contact your Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center for a quote.

Stay Up to Date with Twin Commander

When owning and operating a legacy aircraft, you can never have too much help. Start by emailing Pam Brown, operations lead at the factory, at [email protected] to get on her mailing list. Brown sends out pertinent information about everything from manual updates to service bulletins, and is your best source for required factory updates. You can also engage the larger community of owners through the factory’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.

You can also connect with an independent community of operators at the Twin Commander Flyers Facebook page and online forum Twin Commander Group. Finally, make sure you are signed up for this email by joining the mailing list at www.twincommander.com

 

November 2021

Brian Harbaugh Announces Retirement

Twin Commander Aircraft head and longtime fixture Brian Harbaugh recently announced his retirement from the company, set to take effect at the end of this year. Harbaugh came to Twin Commander through the Firstmark brand of companies when it acquired the type certificate in 2008. Since then he has held roles in parts and technical support and as the head of the company, responsible for customer support, interfacing with the Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers, strategic parts initiatives, FAA regulatory requirements, and more. “The history, the people who own, operate, and maintain this airplane today, and the incredibly dedicated employees here at the factory make Twin Commander special. I have loved every minute of my time with all of them,” Harbaugh said. “I have complete faith in Ontic’s strong support of our community and for this airplane.” Although an immediate successor hasn’t yet been announced, Harbaugh said Ontic is actively working on plans to offer even more value to the brand through strategic investments and other support. For example, the company recently hired David Allison as the new technical service representative. He joins the team with decades of aircraft maintenance experience. Look for more about Allison in the upcoming issue of Flight Levels Online. Best wishes to Harbaugh on this next chapter.

Eagle Creek Aviation Merges with Jet Access

Indianapolis-based Eagle Creek Aviation, one of the most active members of the Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center network, recently announced it is merging with Jet Access. Eagle Creek will come under the umbrella of the Jet Access name, which also includes 10 FBOs, 40 charter aircraft, 11 flight schools, airport management, aircraft rental, and more. The combined company will operate 50 aircraft to become the twelfth largest charter company in the country, and will have approximately 380 employees, including 110 pilots and 75 technicians. Eagle Creek’s Matt Hagans will remain with the company. He said, “We believe when we combine Eagle Creek’s decades-long technical expertise and reputation in the industry with the innovation and growth orientation of Jet Access, we will unleash the potential to become the country’s preeminent provider of the full scope of aviation services.”

Turning to Experts for Protection in a Hot Market

The used aircraft market is at levels not seen in more than a decade, and depending on which measure you use, possibly in a generation. That’s good news for sellers, but it can be a challenging time for buyers. As supply tightens, finding a quality airframe can be difficult. When you do find the right airplane, make the effort to take it to the right place for a proper pre-purchase inspection. All the facilities in the Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center network are experienced and adept at pre-purchase inspections, so you really can’t go wrong by picking any shop in the network. Aircraft-specific knowledge, tooling, parts, and resources put service centers a notch above other pre-purchase inspection options. Even better, if the airplane you’re thinking of buying has been serviced by a Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center, you know you’re buying an airplane maintained to the factory’s and industry’s highest levels. Read more about pre-purchase inspections in the upcoming issue of Flight Levels Online and find the full network of service centers here.

Rethinking Maneuvering Speed

Thunderstorm Chart from Douglas & Stewart Boyd’s article in March 2014 IFR

From the earliest days of private pilot training we’re taught that VA, the airplane’s maneuvering speed, provides a margin of safety such that the wing will stall prior to the airframe being overstressed by G-inducing gust loads. While this may be true, its usefulness as a real-world tool for turbulence may be overstated. Writing a few years ago for IFR Magazine, Douglas and Stewart Boyd suggest that Vor turbulence penetration speed, is a better target. This will protect the airframe from the inevitable gusts associated with strong turbulence. The challenge for pilots is that these speeds are only required to be published for transport category aircraft, which doesn’t include Twin Commanders. Various authors suggest different strategies for determining a maximum Vspeed. The Boyds suggest 1.6 VS, while O.C. Hope, writing in Air Facts, suggests splitting the difference between VS1 and VA. Do you have a VB speed for strong turbulence? Let us know at [email protected], and look in the upcoming issue of Flight Levels Online for more.

Survey: Tell Us How Much You Flew This Year

Twin Commander flown by Erick Teeters & John Kelley.

Compared to the pandemic doldrums of last year, there’s no question that flight activity is up in 2021. But what about your personal or business flying? Tell us in the survey below how much you flew compared to last year.

Take Survey

 

October 2021

Jeff Cousins Remembered

Jeff Cousins, the longtime former general manager of Byerly Aviation and Twin Commander Aircraft, passed away last month near his home outside Phoenix. For more than two decades, Cousins had a major impact on the Twin Commander community, first in his role leading one of the largest Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers, and later running the day-to-day operation of the factory when it was based in Arlington, Washington.

Bruce Byerly remembers Cousins as a tough, but fair boss who taught him lessons that still stick with him today. “He definitely set a standard for flying,” Byerly said. “He had solid expectations for the quality of work and the quality of our pilots, and that left a lasting legacy. He was supportive of doing the job the right way, and that can’t be underestimated in our business. Jeff required pilots to be on duty an hour before their charters, wearing a tie, shaved, and looking good.”

Those habits may have begun when Cousins was in the Air Force, which he joined after high school. He later attended the University of Illinois to study aviation. He led Byerly from 1981 to 2001, when he transitioned to the role at the factory. Jim Matheson, Twin Commander’s CEO at the time, hired Cousins, and said he was an excellent manager, with impeccable integrity. “If he said it, you could take it to the bank,” Matheson said.  Matheson praised his problem-solving skills, no doubt honed over many years running a service center. The FAA had threatened serious consequences after Matheson said a pilot intentionally rolled a Twin Commander and bent the fuselage. According to the FAA, improperly rigged ailerons caused an uncommanded roll, which no one at the factory believed. Nor did Cousins. He brought an airplane from Byerly to Washington, where they purposely improperly rigged the ailerons. Matheson hired a test pilot from Boeing who had done work for Twin Commander. What they did next has become legendary. Cousins and the test pilot took the airplane well past the never-exceed speed and performed full-deflection rolls. “The FAA was convinced it was going to crash,” Matheson said. But of course, the airplane was fine, and the evidence of its incredible performance spared the fleet a costly and unnecessary airworthiness directive.

Byerly also fondly recalled Cousins’ ability to work through challenges. He said Cousins flew a Shrike to Moline to lend to Bob Hoover for a show. “Hoover goes out, rings its neck, does the whole show, and Monday afternoon it was back out of Experimental and on the charter certificate,” he said.

The photos accompanying this story were Cousins’ work, which display his mix of creativity, problem solving, and stick and rudder skills. Cousins is survived by his daughters Jami and Laurie, many grandchildren, and wife Sue Cousins. The pair celebrated their fiftieth anniversary earlier this year.

NBAA a Tentative Step Toward Normal

Gulfstream may not have been there, but Aircraft Belts was. As were representatives from Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers. This year’s NBAA BACE in Las Vegas wrapped up October 14 with a slightly new look and new safety measures. After having to cancel last year’s show, and concerned about travel restrictions this year, NBAA required all attendees to be vaccinated, which likely thinned the normal crowd. Official attendance numbers weren’t released. Normally with a focus on big-iron announcements, this year’s show instead featured forward-looking presentations, including those on urban air-taxi development and sustainable fuels. Twin Commander’s Brian Harbaugh was at the show representing Aircraft Belts and he said, “NBAA is always a great event, and this year was no different. We love connecting with our customers from all over the world, and to do it after such a difficult 18 months felt even more special.” Next year’s show is scheduled for October 18-20 in Orlando.

First Wing Jet Center Expands at Indianapolis Executive

Eagle Creek Aviation FBO, Indianapolis, Indiana

Eagle Creek Aviation’s First Wing Jet Center is expanding its footprint at the Indianapolis Executive Airport in Zionsville, Indiana. The company is building 12 large hangars on the west side of their facility. The hangars will be 65 feet by 60 feet, and include bathroom facilities. “The hangars we are building are unique in this part of the state,” said Vice President and General Manager Sean White. “They will provide a new option for customers who own large or multiple airplanes that previously weren’t available in central Indiana.” In addition to its Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center at the Eagle Creek Airport on the west side of Indianapolis, First Wing also operates FBOs at Indianapolis Executive and the Frankfort/Clinton County Regional Airport in Frankfort, Indiana.

Nighttime Is the Light Time

Shrike Commander flown by Erick Teeters and Brian Rikeman over Lake Powell, Arizona.

The days are getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means more night flying. Now is the time to think about upgrading your landing light for the best performance. An oft-overlooked item, good lights are as important for avoiding embarrassing and expensive ground mishaps as they are for proper visibility during takeoff and landing. Upgrade to Custom Kit 182 today. This popular kit moves the landing light to the nose. It also deactivates the wing-mount light mechanism, further future-proofing the aircraft and saving on repairs. Contact your preferred Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center to learn more.