Service Center Focus: Naples Jet Center and Byerly Aviation
As one of the most active brokers of Twin Commanders, and with leadership positions in two Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers, Bruce Byerly has the pulse of the community. He’s been working for three years to expand the company’s footprint at the Naples Airport in Florida. A new 20,000-square-foot hangar is nearly completed “with a floor you could eat off,” and they’ve recently begun construction on a second hangar. At Byerly Aviation in Peoria, Illinois, Tim McKune, the company’s longtime manager, has been promoted to president, where he oversees the company’s numerous Commander dealings. Byerly said they are chocked full of Commanders, with Garmin improving lead time on parts to enable panel upgrades, and other exciting projects, soon to be announced.
Despite increased economic headwinds, Byerly said used inventory remains low enough to keep prices solid. “There’s still a ton of demand for Commanders.” The Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center network is the only source for parts and factory trained service technicians. The independently owned and operated facilities have capabilities that range from inspection and repair to paint and panel upgrades. Find the full list of service centers online.
A History of Innovation
When Ted Smith designed the prototype for the Aero Commander, he knew he had something special. But even great designs can be improved upon, and the company’s long history of innovation began almost immediately. Soon after receiving $400,000 in funding for production, Smith and 10 other early employees moved to Oklahoma City in order to begin production. There the team made 14 significant design changes, including industry firsts, such as electric trim and electric fuel shutoff valves. It’s also when they adopted the geared Lycoming GO-435 engines.
The storied history of Ted Smith and the many models of the Twin Commander he helped to produce can be found in Stars and Commanders: The life and vision of Ted Smith, by Dave Duntz. Make sure to check out every issue of Flight Levels Onlinefor an excerpt of the book that details the airplane’s incredible history. You can purchase the book directly from the Stars and Commanders website.
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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 Onlineis 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.
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
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 VB or 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 VB speed. 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.
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’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
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.
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 travel, tax 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
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.