Author Archives: Marcel Colon

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


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.


August 2021

Read the Summer Issue of Flight Levels Out Now

The Twin Commander community has a reputation for great service and support, in part because of the work of experts who have spent entire careers dedicated to the fleet. In the latest issue of Flight Levels we meet Mike Merek, who recently retired after many years maintaining a few very special Twin Commanders. We also profile well-known Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center Eagle Creek and its longtime leader, Matt Hagans. And in Market Report we speak to Bruce Byerly, who grew up maintaining, flying, and buying and selling Twin Commanders, as well as market expert Jim Worrell who has taken over sales at Eagle Creek for Hagans. Plus, make sure to check out Twin Commander Aircraft’s Brian Harbaugh’s “From the Factory” message, tips on operating your Garmin equipment, the current requirements on international traveltax tips, and more.

New Option for Dash 10T Conversions

National Flight Services, Inc., the second oldest Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center and the oldest Honeywell TPE331 service center, was recently selected by Honeywell as the exclusive Honeywell Heavy service center authorized to perform the Dash 5 to Dash 10T engine conversion. National Flight Services has long been known as a premium service center to send TPE331 engines for overhaul or repair. With the announcement, a National Flight Services representative said, “This is the conversion that Twin Commander owners with Dash 5 engines have been waiting for.” The Dash 10T conversion has many benefits, including faster rate of climb, increased cruise speed, better fuel efficiencies, better performance, and reduced maintenance costs for HSI/GBI. “Bottom line, this conversion will increase the value of the aircraft,” he said. Interested operators should contact Mike Converse, director of sales, at [email protected] or 567-868-9902.

Factory and Service Centers Work in Tandem

Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers have a close relationship with the staff at the factory. Information flows both directions, as service centers provide customer feedback to the factory and the factory provides updates and critical information directly to the service centers. The two also collaborate on product development, as illustrated by recent work at Legacy Aviation. The factory has been working on a new part that customers have requested, and engineering was ready to test its installation in the field. It’s one thing to design a part based on drawings and assumptions, but critical information always comes from installing a new component on an airplane in the field. For that the team at Twin Commander Aircraft traveled to Legacy Aviation, a Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center in Oklahoma. There they worked closely with experienced technicians to fit the component on an airplane and gather information that will help to better understand everything from how well the new component fits to how effective the installations instructions are. It’s one of the many benefits of maintaining close connections between the factory and the service center network.

EAA AirVenture a Big Success for Aircraft Belts

Some of the wardbirds ABI saw at AirVenture. Photo courtesy of EAA AirVenture.

Twin Commander Aircraft sister company Aircraft Belts, Inc. (ABI) exhibited at this year’s EAA AirVenture in late July, and by all accounts it was a successful show. EAA said more than 10,000 aircraft – a record number – flew in to Oshkosh’s Wittman Regional Airport and other nearby fields for the show, and the 608,000 attendance figure nearly reached 2019 levels, the last year the show was held. The coronavirus pandemic shelved last year’s show, and it was clear from the enthusiasm of attendees and exhibitors that everyone was happy to be back. “It was great to see everyone again and meet so many new customers,” said Twin Commander’s Brian Harbaugh. “It was just an awesome show.” Harbaugh and the team are headed to the annual NBAA convention in Las Vegas October 12-14. Look for them in booth 864.

Maintenance Class Set for September

In addition to extensive hands-on experience in maintaining Twin Commanders, many technicians from the service center network have also attended type-specific training. The next eight-day class is scheduled to begin September 13. The class is taught by Twin Commander expert Mike Grabbe at Eagle Creek Aviation in Indianapolis. “Open wide and here it comes from a fire hose,” said Grabbe. Every system on the airplane is covered, including environmental, hydraulic, panel, engines, electrical, fire suppression, and more. Grabbe said the only thing he doesn’t cover is interiors. For more information, or to sign up, call Eagle Creek at 317-293-6935.

Buy One, Get One on O-Rings

The main landing gear retract cylinder O-rings are a common wear item, so why not save some money when replacing them? From now until the end of September, buy one O-ring overhaul kit and get one free as part of Twin Commander’s Spend and Receive program. Buy the left- or right-side kit and get the kit for the other side free. Either way, you win. Make sure to ask your Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center for kit number 145-O to take advantage of this offer. Limit two per serial number.


July 2021

A Focus on Hot Weather Operations

Record temperatures in the United States and Europe, and news out of Japan of extreme conditions for Olympic athletes make it clear the northern hemisphere is in the grips of extreme heat events. High temperatures can have big impacts on airplanes, especially as it relates to performance. Here’s how:

Beware of Density Altitude’s Sly Impacts

For many pilots who fly to airports primarily at lower elevations, density altitude is something that was covered in private pilot ground school, and probably not considered since. But the impact of heat, humidity, and elevation can quickly overwhelm an airplane’s ability to takeoff and climb. Consider the 500S. At sea level, gross weight, no wind, the takeoff distance to clear a 50-foot obstacle is only about 1,800 feet. Even a really hot summer day of 35 degrees Celsius (95º F) will only increase that distance to about 2,100 feet. Head to the mountains and things change quickly. That same standard day will take about 3,100 feet to clear the obstacle at an airport sitting at 6,000 feet. Now raise the temperature 20 degrees above standard like you did at sea level and it will take 3,600 feet, a pretty significant difference. More importantly, if an engine fails, perfect technique will get you climbing 80 feet per minute on a standard day and only about 25 feet per minute on a +20 day.

As you would expect, turbines do better, but they aren’t immune to the impacts of density altitude. In a 690A, our same 6,000-foot airport would require a little more than 3,000 feet on a standard day and a bit more than 4,000 feet on a +20 day. Single-engine climb is where the turbines really shine. A standard day at 6,000 feet sees a single-engine climb rate of about 800 feet per minute, whereas on a +20 day, the book says we should still be climbing at 650 feet per minute. Regardless of the performance improvements over a piston, if the airport is high and it’s summer, the performance charts should be the first place you turn.

Firefighting Ramps Up Early

Photo by Mike Biden

With the higher temperatures of summer comes the threat of wildfires. Conair, a Canadian aerial firefighting company, operates seven Twin Commanders as bird dogs and two more on parts and supply runs. A company representative provided this report:

The fire season this year in Alberta has so far been fairly average, enabling the province to release on loan the Twin Commander bird dog to British Columbia to support operations from Castlegar. Similarly, the Yukon Twin Commander, which was based in Whitehouse, has been deployed to Revelstoke BC to assist with forest fires in the region. And, after the recent heat dome and a drier-than-average June and July, British Columbia is experiencing an extreme fire season, with burning conditions approximately three to four weeks ahead of schedule. Recent weather and fuel conditions have made initial attacks challenging. The Twin Commander bird dogs are flying throughout the province, with the Okanagan, Kootenays, and southern Cariboo regions experiencing a significant number of fires-of-note. There are over 1200 fires this year to date, with over 250 active fires. The rest of the fire season outlook doesn’t look promising and isn’t likely to slow down until the rain – or snow – arrives.

Owners of 500s Can Order Supplements from Twin Commander

Sometimes it’s so hot that even the writers of the flight manual couldn’t have imagined it. When the temperature exceeds the values listed in the performance charts it can turn you into a test pilot, a situation no pilot wants to be in. For pilots who routinely operate out of hot and high environments, or those wanting better performance data, Twin Commander Aircraft offers flight manual supplements. Owners of 500S models can ask for supplement 12, 500U owners need supplement J, and owners of 500B models can ask for supplement K. Inside you’ll find performance figures beyond what’s in the standard flight manual, including those for takeoff, climb on one engine and two, landing, and more. Call Twin Commander Aircraft at 919-956-4300 and ask for engineering librarian Pam Moore to get yours.

Heat Can Wreak Havoc on Systems

Density altitude isn’t the only consideration for operating in hot weather. Our airplanes also behave differently in the heat. According to Andre Pridgen, service center manager for Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center Aero Air, brakes and prop hubs are a consideration as well. He said brake caliper o-rings tend to fail and leak more when it’s hot, so keep an eye out for the telltale seepage around the landing gear. Aero Air keeps a spare caliper overhauled on the shelf ready to go for this reason. And pilots who tend to ride their brakes or use them more forcefully on landing can expect shorter cycles between maintenance.

Pridgen also stressed that the Hartzell propeller hubs with Aeroshell 6 or 7 grease tend to leak when the temperature starts to rise. Aero Air will see it first in the hangar, and especially on the ramp. And when the grease is new and the prop recently serviced, expect it to happen even more. “I get four or five calls a month from pilots asking about it,” he said. Seeing fluid on the ground near the propellers is always a bit disconcerting, but in most cases Pridgen said it’s harmless.

Most importantly he said it’s critical to watch your starting temperatures. Things happen faster when it’s warmer, and it’s much easier to exceed temperature limits. By keeping a close eye on the engine temperature during start you can prolong your engine’s life and avoid a dreaded hot start.