Author Archives: Marcel Colon

May 2020

Andrew Wilson Hired as Technical Service Manager

Twin Commander Aircraft has hired Andrew Wilson, a longtime aircraft technician and proven maintenance manager, as the company’s new Aerospace Technical Engineer and Manager. He replaces Geoffrey Pence, who is retiring. Wilson comes most recently from Dynamic Aviation where he served as a Maintenance Controller and Flight Operations Support for a fleet of Beechcraft King Airs and Bombardier Dash 8s, and other various aircraft on many government contracts. He has experience in onsite technical support, quality assurance, international operations and regulations, government accountability, and hands-on airframe, engine, avionics, and hydraulic work. In addition to his work as a maintenance technician and manager, Wilson is a certificated pilot and a member of the US Military. He has served in the middle east several times on various aircraft and projects, with the Department of Defense. He credits his lifelong love of wrenching with working on dirt bikes, motorcycles, and cars, starting from age 6, when he did hill climbing and track riding. The Aerospace Technical Engineer and Manager position is the focal point for many important responsibilities at Twin Commander, but one of the most critical is as a conduit between the factory and the Factory Authorized Service Centers. Wilson will be relied on for expertise on parts, service techniques, and troubleshooting. He starts June 1 and will be relocating to Twin Commander headquarters in Creedmoor, North Carolina.

The company has also hired Pam Moore as a librarian. Moore’s duties will include vault and printed document maintenance, maintaining the owner list, subscription information, service bulletin communications, and yearly reporting requirements. Moore starts June 15.

FAA Extends Currencies During Pandemic

With the publication of a 94-page special regulation in early May the FAA extended certain medical, pilot certificate, and currency requirements in light of the ongoing worldwide coronavirus pandemic. In doing so the FAA acknowledged that some currencies and requirements would be hard to complete during state shutdowns and social distancing requirements. Medical certificates that expire between March 31 and May 31, 2020 are automatically extended to June 30. Flight review requirements are more complex. If your flight review expires between March 1 and June 30 of this year, and you have logged 10 hours as PIC in the previous 12 months, you can now act as PIC for three additional months beyond the expiration date, assuming you complete three Wings credits. Finally, instrument currency also extends to June 30, assuming you have logged three instrument approaches within the preceding six months and performed and logged the tasks required by Part 61.57(c)(1) in the preceding nine months. Unfortunately, maintenance requirements have not been extended, so while you may be able to fly under the SFAR your airplane may not. The FAA document has all the details.

Save Big on Spring/Summer Deals!

With much of the country still locked down in various stages and most business still being conducted remotely, now is the time to take advantage of multiple offers on parts from Twin Commander and Aircraft Belts. Custom Kit 170 is being heavily discounted at 25% off. The shoulder strap kit increases crew safety and maintains the value of your airplane. While you’re installing front shoulder harnesses, take advantage of a 15% discount on all passenger belts from ABI. Custom Kit 190, a big upgrade to LED interior cabin lighting, is being discounted 25% while supplies last. Finally, Custom Kit 50, an upgrade to the control column and rudder pedal boots to improve cabin pressurization performance, is also being discounted at 25% off. Talk to your favorite Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center about these great deals to improve the look, safety, performance, and value of your airplane.

Maintenance Training Continues

The folks at Eagle Creek Aviation Services made a slight change in March to ensure the company’s Twin Commander maintenance training continued. Normally held in person, the course has been switched to an online format. A spring course had to be cancelled, and future classes will be evaluated based on current community health standards and rules. The training is mandatory for Twin Commander technicians who work at a Factory Authorized Service Center. Type-specific maintenance training is one of the many benefits of taking your airplane to a Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center. Each class lasts a bit more than a week and covers all the airplane’s systems. For more information on upcoming classes contact Eagle Creek’s Mike Grabbe at 317-293-6935 or [email protected]

One-of-a-Kind Commander

A Twin Commander 680F is a pretty rare bird. One that has been in the same family for nearly 60 years is unheard of. Ricardo Otaola’s 1962 680F is one of a kind. The airplane was recently imported from Venezuela, where Otaola’s family first started flying Commanders, even owning a dealership and service facility at one point. Otaola’s 680F is one of many highlights of the Spring issue of Flight Levels Online. In this latest issue you can also read about loading flight plans into your Garmin, plan ahead for tropical escapes, learn what’s involved in painting a Twin Commander, and the history and culture of excellence of Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center Byerly Aviation.

Find the full issue online here.

New Book Looks at Twin Commander History

Stars and Commanders, a new book about the history of Ted Smith’s iconic designs, is now available. Author Dave Duntz has created a beautiful coffee table book with more than 600 pages of incredible photographs and stories of the people and places that cemented the Twin Commander and Aerostar as the greatest culmination of speed and efficiency on the market. Duntz describes the book as, “the story of Ted Smith, the unrivaled twin-engine aircraft designer of the 1950s and 60s. How his dream, passion and determination overcame setbacks and sorrow. How he started two successful aircraft companies from the ground up. How his prescience, engineering acumen and courage gave the world some of the best airplanes ever built.” The book is available for $169 from the author’s website at www.starsandcommanders.com

Are You Flying?

Take a short survey and let us know how the pandemic has caused you to fly more, less, the same, not at all.

Go to Survey


April 2020

Twin Commander Aircraft Fully Operational


The staff at Twin Commander in Creedmoor, North Carolina, is hard at work keeping the factory fully operational during the worldwide COVID-19 crisis. Business Unit Director Brian Harbaugh said that many processes have been put in place to ensure the safety of the team, including virtual meetings, remote work for those employees who are able, more handwashing stations, regular handwashing reminders, and additional office cleaning. “We know how much owners, operators, and service centers rely on the factory being fully operational,” he said. “I’m proud of how well the team has pulled together during this challenging time.” Harbaugh reported few distributions in parts supplies or engineering support as a result of the various state lockdowns.

Community Rallies for Coronavirus Support

The GAM Group, a Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center in Australia, is busy flying to remote locations as part of that country’s COVID-19 response. The company operates 21 Twin Commanders, and flies 16,000 freight trips annually in the airplanes. Five days a week they are departing Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne to remote locations all over the vast country. Currently they are transporting medical supplies, pathology samples, and other items necessary to fight COVID-19. GAM flies 17 Shrikes, two 680s, and two 690As.

Twin Commander owners, operators, and service centers around the world have rallied in the face of the COVID-19 crisis to support emergency services, medical facilities, and remote communities. Factory Authorized Service Center Winner Aviation teamed up with Outback Steakhouse and Handel’s Ice Cream to feed employees from Mercy Health Saint Joseph Warren Hospital in Ohio. Winner Aviation’s Tyler Wolfe, the regional manager for ground operations, came up with the idea as a way to show gratitude for all the work the healthcare workers are doing during the pandemic. “When I pitched the idea to Meg Bianco (President of Winner Aviation), she didn’t even let me get to the end of my sentence,” he said. “She heard Outback Steakhouse, Handle’s Ice Cream, and St. Joe’s Hospital, and she was on board.”

Meanwhile, Twin Commander operator Bridger Aerospace has pivoted its considerable Air Tactical Ground Supervisor fleet to supporting COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The aircraft have been repurposed for a number of medical missions, including transporting emergency supplies, blood transportation, and more. In addition, staff from Bridger were resourced to the hospital in Bozeman to help finish construction of 60 hospital beds. CEO Tim Sheehy said, “It’s important for us to do our bit as a company and as individuals in these uncertain times.” Bridger has also committed to paying full wages to its workforce.

How to Disinfect Your Avionics

If you’re lucky enough to possess a bottle of rubbing alcohol you can safely disinfect your avionics screens. As a high-touch center of the panel, your avionics are potential infection spots for airplanes flown by multiple crews. Every manufacturer has its own recommendations, but most agree on the same steps. To be effective the product must have at least 70 percent alcohol and sit on the screen, buttons, and any other contact areas for at least 30 seconds. However, avionics aren’t usually water-resistant, so the best practice is to thoroughly spray a microfiber cloth and make sure there is prolonged contact, then clean it off appropriately. Garmin cautions against any cleaning agents containing ammonia or bleach, as either could potentially damage the anti-reflective coating. If you’re careful, soap and water can be used if you can’t find a bottle of 70 percent alcohol. Garmin further cautions against using paper towels, tissues, or anything other than microfiber cloths to clean the screens, as they may produce small scratches. Don’t forget about the rest of the cockpit and cabin, including seatbelt latches, armrests, door handles, cabinets, and various buttons and switches.

 


February 2020

Well Deserved Retirement. Geoffrey Pence

Twin Commander Aircraft’s stalwart Technical Service Manager Geoffrey Pence has retired. Pence began his stint with the factory in 1999, but his experience with the airplane goes back much further. After graduating from the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics in 1972 he did a brief stint at Grumman American Aircraft. He got his first taste of Commanders at Oregon’s Eagle Aircraft, a Rockwell Service Center, in 1973. Pence has the distinction of working for Gulfstream Aerospace when it was producing the JetProp models, as well as a number of other Twin Commander service centers over the years. But it was possibly his final position for Twin Commander Aircraft where he had the greatest impact on the community. As the primary point of contact for service centers on technical issues, he was the go-to guy for everything from parts questions to troubleshooting to installation issues. It’s the kind of position only someone with a lifetime of learning and experience can perform. “Geoffrey’s contributions to the Twin Commander factory, service centers, and owners is beyond measure,” said Twin Commander Business Unit Head Brian Harbaugh. “We are going to miss him, and we wish him all the best. Someone is going to have big shoes to fill.” The company is currently looking for someone to step into those shoes.

Brian Harbaugh to Visit Service Centers

One key to Twin Commander’s long history of success is that it listens to customers. The primary flow of that communication is through the Factory Authorized Service Centers. This winter and spring Business Unit Director Brian Harbaugh will be visiting a number of centers in an effort to strengthen the bond between the factory, its service providers, and their customers. “I love being in the field hearing what’s important to our Factory Authorized Service Centers because what’s important to them is important to us at the factory.” Harbaugh said. Twin Commander’s robust network of 13 Factory Authorized Service Centers sell Twin Commander parts, have factory trained technicians, and have the most current information on best practices.

Finding a Unicorn

Ricardo Otaola’s airplane is one of fewer than a dozen 1963 680Fs on the FAA registry. But what makes it even more special is that it has been in his family since it rolled out of the factory more than 50 years ago. Otaola’s family helped establish Twin Commander’s presence in Venezuela, and three years ago he made the decision to emigrate to the United States in order to fly the 680F more. Read more about Otaola and his one-of-a-kind 680F in the upcoming spring issue of Flight Levels.

The Commanding Choice

In February the United States celebrates Presidents’ Day, a holiday originally intended to honor the birthdays of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, but what has become a day to honor all presidents. Two presidents showed particularly strong leadership when they used Aero Commanders in their official duties. President Dwight D. Eisenhower commissioned a specialized 680 to use as a regional executive aircraft to shuttle him between the White House and his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The airplane was recently restored and is being operated by the Commemorative Air Force. Lesser known was his successor, John F. Kennedy’s use of an Aero Commander on his official trip to Venezuela in 1961.

Fun Fact

Did you know that best glide speed varies by weight? In a Model 1000, the indicated airspeed for best glide changes approximately 6 to 7 knots per 1,000 pounds. At 6,000 pounds the best glide speed is 91 knots indicated and at 11,000 pounds it is 124 knots indicated. Flying faster or slower than best glide for the given weight will result in less ground covered in the event of a dual engine failure. Assuming the correct speed is flown, weight won’t impact the total glide distance. A heavier aircraft will only arrive at the same touchdown point earlier.

Do you have an interesting fact about your Twin Commander that you would like to share? Send it to [email protected] and we’ll share it here and on Twin Commander social media.

January 2020

New Flight Levels Out Now

The newest edition of Flight Levels is out now. Read about Gemini Air GroupTwin Commander’s newest Factory Authorized Service Center, and Tim Carpaythe company’s founder. We also have a conversation with our own Mark Twombly to get his thoughts on Twin Commander Aircraft’s changes over the years, and why it’s so much fun to fly the airplane. Looking for an updated fuel filler cap, or need a new entryway step strut? Find out about the latest Twin Commander Aircraft development projects. Become a better pilot with tips on programing holds in the Garminor dream about faraway flying vacations with Air Journey. You can find all this and more in the issue or online.

FAA Unveils ADS-B Blocking Procedure

Aircraft owners concerned about privacy in the age of ADS-B now have a solution. Late last year the FAA announced a program that enables users to block ADS-B’s in-depth tracking mechanisms to public view. To participate the aircraft owner/operator must go through a series of steps, including registering on the FAA’s website, and applying for a call sign through a third-party provider, such as Foreflight and FltPlan.comTo be eligible the aircraft must be registered in the United States, have 1090 MHz ADS-B equipment, and be flying in U.S. airspace. See the FAA’s website for more information.

Dates for 2020 Maintenance Class Set

Eagle Creek Aviation Services has set this year’s class dates for the Twin Commander Initial Maintenance Course. The course has been lengthened to conform to EASA rules, and to include information about the Garmin G950 STC. Class dates are April 20-29 and September 21-30. The course is a combination of class work and hands-on aircraft demonstrations. Each attendee will receive printed and digital course materials, and graduates obtain a certificate and record of training. Classes are held at Eagle Creek Aviation Services in Indianapolis, and the fee is $5,000. For more information or to sign up, contact Mike Grabbe at 317-293-6935 or [email protected]

Insurance Rates Climbing

Have you seen premium increases on your aviation insurance policy? You’re not alone. Rates are rising across the industry, according to Greg Reba of Reba Aviation Insurance. Whether it’s a two-pilot Gulfstream, a single-pilot TBM, or a Twin Commander, Reba said rates are going up an average of about 15 percent across the board. Pilots transitioning up from high performance pistons to a turboprop are likely to see large increases, and they can expect to undergo training and supervised experience. Increases are due to a number of factors, including low profits for underwriters in previous years, big recent losses, and fewer underwriters in the market. Reba said rates are still less expensive than they were a decade ago but that, “It’s stormy weather ahead.”

November 2019

Pole to Pole in a Twin Commander

Robert DeLaurentis is on a mission for peace, and his vehicle for change is a tricked-out 1983 900. Having previously flown around the world via the equatorial route, DeLaurentis will soon be leaving on a trip that will stretch his airplane to the limit. He’ll be flying from the United States through South America, over the South Pole, through Africa, Europe, and up over the North Pole before coming back home again. He calls it a mission for peace because the North and South Poles have perpetual peace, and he will be connecting the world between the two far-flung regions. Over the past two years he’s been prepping the aircraft through the help of more than 90 sponsors, and in a first he plans to cross both poles on biofuels. He’ll need all the fuel he can cram into the airplane because the leg to the South Pole and back is more than 4,000 miles, a stunning distance for a Twin Commander. You can find out more about his extensive modifications and preparations at Flying Thru Life.

Legacy Aviation Services Excels in Hydraulic Overhauls and Repairs

Have any landing gear or hydraulic component part that needs a refresh? Yukon, Oklahoma-based Legacy Aviation Services is a Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center with special capabilities to repair and overhaul your Twin Commander’s landing gear and hydraulic components. With the purchase of Higher Planes in 2015, Legacy Aviation gained the ability to do component repair and overhaul on-site, significantly decreasing downtime for pilots who fly in and quick turnaround for domestic and international customers. Their wide range of capabilities includes landing gear components, flap actuators, brake controllers, hydraulics accumulators and more. For more information visit Legacy Aviation.  For detailed descriptions of all the Legacy/Twin Commander component repair and overhaul capabilities, download the full brochure.

Show your Twin Commander Spirit
This Holiday Season

One of the most enjoyable things about owning and flying an airplane is showing everyone how much you love doing it. Show the world your Twin Commander love with apparel and accessories from the Twin Commander store at Lands’ End. You can choose from shirts, sweaters, jackets, drinkware, golf accessories and more by going to Commander Gear and choosing your favorite items. Lands’ End makes the process easy. Shop for your favorites as you would any online store and the company will engrave, embroider, or print the Twin Commander Aircraft name and logo on the item. Be sure to click ‘Apply Logo’ when checking out. And because it’s Lands’ End you know the quality is good and the prices are reasonable. So swag up and let the world know you’re a Twin Commander pilot or owner.