Author Archives: Marcel Colon

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.

October 2019

Gemini Air Group Named Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center

Twin Commander Aircraft, an ONTIC company, is pleased to announce that Scottsdale, Arizona-based Gemini Air Group has been named a Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center. Gemini Air Group joins a robust network of 12 other independently owned and operated aircraft sales, maintenance, and overhaul facilities that have the experience, expertise, and capabilities to service and maintain the Twin Commander fleet of legacy aircraft.

Established in 1997 as an aircraft management company by Tim Carpay, Gemini Air Group has grown to become a successful aircraft charter, maintenance, and services operation. The company occupies a 60,000-square-foot facility at the Scottsdale Airport. Gemini Air Group’s extensive Twin Commander experience includes decades of operating Honeywell TPE331-powered aircraft. Owner Tim Carpay has owned and flown many Honeywell TPE331-equipped aircraft, and General Manager Greg Laabs, as the former turboprop lead for Duncan Aviation, has hands-on experience inspecting and maintaining the engines. For additional support the Gemini Air Group is located near Scottsdale’s TAE Aerospace, one of the largest TPE331 engine facilities in the United States. As part of the Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center network, Gemini maintenance technicians undergo factory authorized training and the company stocks genuine Twin Commander parts.

“I am excited for the opportunity to serve the wonderful community of Twin Commander owners and pilots,” said Carpay. “As fellow aircraft owners, operators, and pilots, we have unique capabilities to help keep your aircraft safe and modern, and to make your ownership experience the best it can be. I believe that if we focus on the details of safety and service, everything else will fall into place.”

Twin Commander Aircraft Business Unit Director Brian Harbaugh said, “We are thrilled to welcome Gemini Air Group into the Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center Network. We are committed to bringing value to our owners, and I know Gemini feels the same about its customers.”

Gear Warning Horn and Fuel Filler Now Available

Components for the gear-down warning horn in Custom Kit (CK) 204 and replacement parts for the fuel filler nozzle are now in stock. CK 204 provides a gear-down warning horn for models 685, 690, 690A, and Shrikes. The previous horn was no longer manufactured, so Twin Commander Aircraft created a mounting bracket and hardware for a new replacement horn. Installation is estimated to be two hours. Call your favorite Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center and ask for CK 204.

Is your fuel filler nozzle bent, corroded, or missing the fuel siphon protection? If so, the entire fuel filler nozzle housing (part number 630216-503), is now in stock. Applicable to all models, the single part will be a quick installation at any Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center.  Owners of early models that didn’t come with the anti-siphon flap can increase safety and add it as part of Custom Kit 87A.

Take a Journey with the Fall Issue of Flight Levels Online

In the latest issue of Flight Levels Online we take you across the Americas for a look into Legacy Aviation and its founder RJ Gomez, to Byerly Aviation’s resurrection from Central America of a 900 to Peru and the air force’s outstanding 690B. Continue the trip around the world in Adventure Travel, or stay close to home and get some business done by the end of the year with Business Flying and Taxes. For pilots, read about sequencing your Garmin after a missed approach, the benefits of a Convective Outlook, and how to avoid bog down.

You can find this and much more in the fall issue of Flight Levels Online 

New Pressurization Hoses Soon Available

Twin Commander models with the older-style pressurization system with fiberglass hoses will soon be able to get relief from older and inconvenient exhaust ducts. Twin Commander Aircraft is working on Custom Kit 173, which will replace the fiberglass exhaust duct hose with a more modern rubber accordion-style hose. The kit makes for easier aircraft serviceability by making it more convenient to access inside the tail section. It will also make the pressurization system more reliable and safer. Check for updates around the end of the year.

August 2019

Byerly Aviation Supports the Troops

Twin Commander Authorized Service Center Byerly Aviation recently pulled together all its resources and supported three military charter flights. Members of the Illinois National Guard were headed from Byerly’s location in Peoria, Illinois, to Biggs Army Airfield at Fort Bliss, Texas, for training. Soon after the units are scheduled to head to Afghanistan. Byerly Line Service Manager Chuck Atkins said 12 of Byerly’s 13 line staff worked the charters, which were Airbus A-320s from Allegiant Airlines. The team fueled one aircraft and loaded around 450 soldiers and their bags and equipment between the three flights. “It was an all-hands-on-deck type of operation,” Atkins said. Military charters are one of many services Byerly Aviation offers in Peoria. They also sell, service, and upgrade Twin Commanders, service other makes and models, run a full-service FBO, and have the local airline fuel contract.

Twin Commanders Serve During Fire Season

The North American fire season is in full swing. That means across the continent there are dozens of Twin Commanders going to work helping to support aerial firefighting efforts. Twin Commanders are a favorite bird-dog platform. On a fire the Twin Commander is typically crewed by an experienced pilot and an Air Attack officer. Together they scope out a fire’s footprint and help the tankers fly the correct paths through the blaze. It’s a testament to the strength of the airframe that the conditions are often marginal VFR, turbulent, and sometimes at low altitude. While August is typically the most active fire month Conair’s Jeff Berry says things have been slightly below average in much of Canada and the United States, with the exception of Alaska and the Yukon. Conair operates eight Twin Commanders. These airplanes help maintain a dispatch rate of more than 98 percent. Not only are they reliable performers, Berry says, they also shuttle parts in AOG situations, helping the rest of the fleet stay in the air.

Airborne Support Adds 500B to Fleet

Houma, Louisiana-based Airborne Support has added a Twin Commander 500B to its fleet of oil spill response aircraft. Based deep on the Mississippi Delta, Airborne Support flies a variety of piston and turbine aircraft to help oil clean-up efforts. Large air tankers with 1,200 or 2,000 gallons of dispersant help to contain and clean spills, an operation that’s coordinated from a Twin Commander. Typically the company uses a 690 in the spotter and coordination role, but President Brad Barker said they needed a backup for when the 690 is undergoing an inspection or when things get really busy. He said they turned to another Commander because there is no better choice for their mission, which includes long stretches over water up to 200 miles offshore, and a need for great forward and downward visibility. Bruce Byerly found the 500B for Airborne Support, and helped prepare it for the demanding new role.

Longtime Twin Commander Guru Morris Kernick Dies

Robert DeLaurentis, left, and Morris Kernick, right check out DeLaurentis’ Twin Commander.

Morris Kernick, the Stockton, California-based Twin Commander expert, died this month after an illness. Kernick was well known in the Twin Commander community for his expertise, flying adventures, and his eagerness to pass on knowledge to owners. Kernick began Commander Services in 1977 and came to be seen as a great resource for all types of Commanders, both piston and turbine. Twin Commander owner Robert DeLaurentis, who is planning to fly his airplane around the world, posted a video to YouTube two years ago about his relationship with Kenrick. He said Kernick was a patient teacher. “It’s great to be around someone who is willing to share all his knowledge like he does.” Many friends and longtime customers shared remembrances on Facebook. Jim Metzger said he had many fun flying adventures with Kernick, including ferrying a resurrected Twin Commander from Alaska to Alabama where they dodged unhappy FBO managers and even an F-15 due to a flight plan mix-up. “I miss you Morris,” he said.