Jerry Mowbray

Jerry Hammes Mowbray is proud of the fact that he has owned and flown a 1963 680F(P) Commander since 1989 — 24 years. His airplane, one of 47 680Fs built with an optional hydraulically driven pressurization system, can rightly be called a classic. And although he uses it for reliable business transportation for his Reno, Nevada-based law firm, he takes pains to keep it in original configuration (see photo of instrument panel) and pristine condition.

Mowbray’s connection with Commanders goes back further than the 680F(P). His first airplane was a single-engine Commander 112TCA that he bought in 1985 and flew until buying the 680F(P).

To understand why Mowbray has an affection for Commanders, you have to go back even further, to 1953, the year he was born. That was when his grandfather, Romy Hammes, bought a 520 Commander, the first of two Commanders he would own. Mowbray remembers flying in the 520 when he was a young boy.

Jerry Hammes Mowbray with the 680F(P) that he has owned and flown since 1989. His grandfather, Romy Hammes, bought a 520 Commander in 1953, and then a 560 in 1961. Romy Hammes was a successful car dealer and entrepreneur from Kankakee, Illinois. Hammes recognized early on the advantages of business aviation, and bought a new Beech Bonanza in 1947, the year the distinctive V-tailed single was introduced to the market. Four years later he traded the ’47 Bonanza for a new one.

As his business interests grew in size, scope, and geographic spread, his need for reliable long-range travel grew. When Ted Smith certified the Aero Commander 520 as the first purpose-built multiengine business aircraft, Hammes took notice. In 1953 Hammes went to Aero Design & Engineering Co. in Bethany, Oklahoma, and bought a new 520, s/n 78, from the factory.

Hammes was not a pilot. He hired a former barnstormer, Lawrence Schilling, to fly the first Bonanza, and Schilling continued to fly for Hammes for as long as he operated airplanes.

Mowbray’s uncle, Jerry Hammes, who is the son of Romy Hammes, recalls that the 520 was “such a state-of-the-art airplane, a real head turner, that at every airport they went to, people would come up to look at the airplane. Even the mechanics would come out of their shops to look.”

Schilling kept meticulous records of all the passengers who flew on N4172B. The log for October 24, 1953 includes the signatures of seven passengers, including those of a young Senator and his wife, John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, who were visiting Kennedy’s sister in Wisconsin.

Also aboard that day was The Reverend John J. Cavanaugh, C.S.C, the President of Notre Dame University. Romy Hammes was a devoted Catholic and supporter of Notre Dame. His generosity, which has been sustained by Jerry Hammes, is reflected in the Hammes name on several buildings at the University.

Mowbray prefers the original, functional look for the instrument panel in 1963 Commander. In late October 1960 Hammes lent his airplane and pilot to another Kennedy — Rose, John Kennedy’s mother. She spent several days flying around the Midwest in the 520 campaigning for her son, who was seeking the presidency. John Kennedy sent a note of thanks to Hammes.

In 1961 Hammes traded the 520 for a new 560F.

Jerry Hammes has complied a fascinating online account of the family’s history ( It includes photos, documents, and descriptions of the Bonanzas and Commanders, the family’s travels, and notable passengers.

Mark Dziuban

Try as he might, Mark Dziuban couldn’t help but end up a printer. “Both my grandfathers owned small print shops, and my father was a printer,” he says. “I did everything in my power to stay out of printing, but it was in my blood.” In the early Eighties, when the economy was down, Dziuban’s father got him a job — at a print shop, of course. The ink worked its way under Dziuban’s skin. Permanently. He stayed in the business, and in 1994 he and a partner founded American Litho to focus on direct mail and specialty catalog publishing. The company now employs 500 people, and continues to grow.

Printing is not the only passion that flows through Dziuban’s veins. He’s also a pilot and aircraft owner. Not just any aircraft, however — Dziuban flies a 695B Model 1000 Twin Commander that has the distinction of being the last one manufactured.

Dziuban has been in love with flying for as long as he can remember. He started taking lessons when he entered the workforce and began earning an income, but things changed when he got engaged. “The flying lessons ended,” he says.

About 18 years later he resumed his flight instruction, earning a Private certificate in 2000. The first airplane he bought was a Piper Cherokee Six. A Cirrus SR20 soon followed, then a Cessna 310R, and finally a Cessna 414. “I loved flying in a pressurized cabin,” he says. “Loved it!”

Before After The step up to pressurization changed Dziuban’s perspective. Long cross-country flights were more comfortable, and with the ability to overfly lower weather, more practical and less stressful. Soon, Dziuban began eyeing the next step up in capability and safety — turbine power.

He had long admired the performance and looks of Twin Commanders, but his partner in the step-up airplane, a non-pilot, was not so enthralled. They compromised on a King Air F90, which they bought in March 2008. Dziuban continued to operate the 414 while the King Air got a fresh interior and overhauled engines.

Dziuban stayed current in both the 414 and F90. In late 2011 the partners decided to put the King Air up for sale, and Dziuban’s 414 as well. Remarkably, both sold within a few weeks, and both went to Mexico.

Dziuban couldn’t be without an airplane for very long, however. He travels to the west coast frequently for business and pleasure, and for him and his wife to go by commercial air carrier with their dogs and bikes was difficult at best. Before buying the King Air, Dziuban had been looking at Commanders and had been in touch with Eagle Creek Aviation Services in Indianapolis. He decided to pay a return visit.

“I spent the afternoon poking around inside airplanes in the shop,” he said. “I spoke to the mechanics — great guys! No one had any negatives on the airplane. I asked about any Achilles heels. Everyone said there were none. When I went back home there was no doubt that I would buy a Commander.”

Bruce Byerly, co-owner of Naples Jet Center, had acquired the 695B from its English corporate owner at about the same time Dziuban went looking for a Commander, and a deal was constructed.

The airplane came from England in its original equipped configuration with Collins EFIS and Collins analog radios. Dziuban had Naples Jet Center fast-forward the panel to contemporary standards with a Garmin G600 Primary Flight Display/Multifunction Display and GTN 750 and 650 GPS/NAV/COM/MFD. What was once the most contemporary Commander flying had once again achieved that distinction.

And, as a highly useful bonus, the panel makeover provided Dziuban with an astounding 454 additional pounds in useful load.

“I’m so happy with it,” Dziuban said after his initial experience in the Commander. “It’s reliable, and the numbers are right to the book — almost 300 knots on 75 gallons per hour.

“The biggest thing was getting accustomed to the climb rate,” he adds. “I just couldn’t believe how it climbs. It’s a lot faster in climb than the King Air. And, above Flight Level 180 the King Air got sluggish. With the shorter wing it was hard to fly at altitudes above the low twenties. I’ve been flying at Flight Level 270/280 in the Commander.

“The F90 had no external baggage,” Dziuban says. “It was a hassle to lug bags through the cabin, and the passengers probably didn’t like looking at a cargo net with bags. It had great ramp appeal, but it had a tough cockpit to wiggle into. The pedestal with the FMS was in the way, and visibility from the cockpit was not good; the wing and engines were in the way. In the Commander it’s like sitting in a jet in terms of visibility.

“It’s very stable on instruments — I often hand-fly my approaches. It’s such a solid platform. The more I fly it the more I find out about it. The direct-drive engines are a lot different than the free turbines in the King Air. When you push the Commander throttles forward it’s a treat.

“My wife and I are cyclists,” he adds. “We can put the bikes in the airplane along with our gear and two Golden Retrievers. And, it makes seeing the kids on a weekend a lot more convenient.”

Support has been another strongpoint for Dziuban. “Eagle Creek and Naples Jet have a great, great bunch of guys,” he says. “Throughout the organizations the people have been welcoming, knowledgeable, and accommodating.

“I’m thrilled to death with everything I’ve experienced so far. I’ve been loving flying the airplane. I seriously believe I’m flying the best airplane in the sky right now.”

Those were Dziuban’s comments not long after taking possession of the 695B. Here is what he had to say months later:

“The airplane is everything I had hoped. It remains a pleasure to fly. I feel that the speed, combined with the efficiency of the engines and the gross weight of 11,800 pounds suits my mission most ideally.

“I have become quite proficient with the G600 and the GTN750/650. Those, coupled with the handling characteristics of the plane — which are very predictable — provide me with the confidence to shoot low approaches.

“If asked which airplane I plan on upgrading to in the future, well, I’m already there.”

Catherine Martin

It’s late February, a bit northwest of Caribou, Maine, and a lone Commander 1000 JetProp, wearing the livery of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), lopes along at 110 knots just 500 feet above the trees. No, they’re not searching for a downed aircraft or lost hiker. This NOAA Commander is using sophisticated instrumentation to measure the water content of snow packs. And it’s the perfect airplane for the mission.

“We are conducting Snow Surveys for the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center, under the National Weather Service,” explained LCDR Catherine Martin, pilot for the agency’s airborne snow survey program. “We are measuring water content in the snow pack to help create spring flood and water supply forecasts.”

Using sophisticated Airborne Gamma Radiation equipment, the NOAA Commanders—they also operate a Shrike—fly above snow-covered regions in the U.S., southern Canada, and Alaska to measure both the water contained in the snow and the saturation level of surrounding ground moisture. The information is then relayed back to the National Weather Service and NWS River Forecast Center. When the spring thaws come, they can get a head start on spotting areas that may be prone to flooding.

NOAA started doing aerial snow surveys in 1978, and has been using Twin Commanders since the early 1980s when they put their first Shrike Commander into operation.

“The Commanders are the perfect airplane to meet the mission profile we fly,” LCDR Martin said. “They have excellent slow-speed handling qualities and their high wing is very beneficial flying close to the ground. We always fly VFR with our eyes outside. The visibility is great.

“We take a lot of photos during a mission,” she said. “The copilot will take pictures of anything of hydrological importance whether it’s a river, snow build-up, an ice jam or whatever may be of interest to the researchers. The high wing and large windows are great for that.”


LCDR Martin said that the Commanders fit NOAA’s profile so well that the agency upgraded their older 690A to a 695A JetProp 1000 in 2005.

“It was built in 1984 and has 7,000 hours on it now, but it was the newest and greatest at the time,” she said. “When we took ownership we did a complete upgrade. We stripped it down and refurbished it to our needs.

“When we redid November Forty-Five Romeo Foxtrot, the Meggitt EFIS was the newest and best system going into the Commanders at the time. Because we fly so low, we were looking to provide our pilots with the greatest situational information available in the flight station (cockpit),” LCDR Martin said. “The Meggitt system delivered that for us. We also have dual Garmin 530s and a Honeywell MFD.”

She pointed out that the Commander also has electronic engine displays, which makes easier than the standard electromechanical gauges.

“Situational awareness is critical at the altitudes and speed we routinely operate at,” she said. The NOAA Commanders fly so low and slow that the crews routinely turn off the aircraft TAWS, so knowing what’s outside and ahead is critical. LCDR Martin also explained that the crew’s situational awareness and overall mission accuracy is aided by the use of FalconView mapping software.

“We have a separate monitor mounted between the pilot’s and copilot’s seats for the FalconView. We can display our flight lines and then visually follow them on the terrain below. We can verify valleys, roads, rivers—landmarks like that,” she said. “We are flying low and VFR so we are out the window all the time. The MFD is just to make sure we’re turning on the right landmark. The copilot operates the survey equipment so they know when to start and stop the lines based on the moving map.”

Along with the opportunity to upgrade the flight station, the move up to the 695A JetProp 1000 also gave the NOAA flight crews the added safety benefit of the Dash 10 engines. “It certainly doesn’t lack for power,” LCDR Martin said.


LCDR Martin, who also flies a NOAA WP-3D Orion, has been flying the Commanders since 2002. With more than 2,000 hours in type she has plenty of reasons to love Commanders. “It’s a great airplane. I feel very comfortable flying at 500 feet AGL because of the stability and performance,” she said. “You don’t want to be down low and question the climb performance of the aircraft in the event you lose an engine. I know this airplane climbs and performs very well on one engine.”

Fortunately, LCDR Martin’s experience with single-engine operations has been limited to recurrent training exercises. She has not had to shut down an engine on the JetProp during any mission.

As you would expect, the JetProp’s cruise speed is another attraction. “It’s fast. A lot of the times our missions are dictated by recent weather. We can be in New England and need to get to Minnesota because of heavy snowfall. The Commander gets us there quickly,” she said. “It also can take us above the majority of the winter weather. It performs great at flight levels.”

She also said she loves the flight station in 45RF. “We have 11 displays—all the information I need is right there in front of me. There’s noting missing from our flight station display. The Meggitt system also gives us solid backup display capability. If one screen were to fail, you can get everything on the next screen.”

As the agency’s Commander instructor pilot, LCDR Martin also likes the aircraft’s predictability and flight characteristics. “I do all training for our Commander pilots. This season I’m flying with a new copilot and we’ve been doing his first flights in the northeast,” she said. “Most of our new pilots come up from flying piston twins and this is their first experience with a turboprop. Overall the Commander is an easy airplane to transition to. It’s very stable, but it’s a very complex airplane. System training takes time.”


While the Commander 1000 looks like it will continue to serve NOAA’s snow survey mission for many winters to come, its annual “summer vacation” is about to be dramatically reduced. This summer the JetProp is scheduled to take part in another NOAA survey mission for the National Geodetic Survey.

“The GRAV-D (it stands for Gravity for the Redefinition of the American Vertical Datum; you just have to love government acronyms) survey will create a new, more accurate sea-level height reference for the U.S.,” LCDR Martin explained. “This summer we’re going to be doing the Great Lakes region.”

The purpose of the GRAV-D project is to model and monitor Earth’s geoids (a surface of the gravity field, very closely related to global mean sea level) to serve as a redefined zero reference point for surface heights throughout the U.S. Accurate heights are very critical to many scientific programs.

LCDR Martin said that while this is another NOAA survey mission, it will be preformed at an altitude that is more familiar to Turbo Commanders and their owners. “We’ll be doing these flights at 20,000 feet. That’s a great altitude for the Commander, both fuel consumption and performance wise,” she said. “The flight levels are where the Commander is at its best.”

Pete Nickerson

Here’s what an online site has to say about one Pete Nickerson:

Pete…is a co-founder and director of Growth-Link Overseas Company, a Hong Kong based firm founded in 1988. The company’s main activity is investment in and operation of a series of footwear factories located in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and most recently India. These factories are engaged in the supply of name-brand footwear and athletic equipment.

He sits on the boards of publicly traded companies in the U.S. and Taiwan, and a handful of for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises.

Since 1979 Pete and his family have resided in Taiwan, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Portland. He is a 1979 graduate of the University of Oregon, B.A. Political Science and is a Chinese speaker. Married 27 years, with four children, he’s a flying and sailing enthusiast, enjoys reading history, and collecting antique books about Asia.

Obviously a successful and interesting guy, but the brief profile is far too brief about one very important part of Pete Nickerson’s life. Some of best times a guy can have are sitting in the cockpit just chatting, running the machine efficiently, he says. He gets to enjoy those moments in a variety of cockpits, including a Stearman he co-owns, a DC-3 he is restoring, and a succession of piston and turboprop Commanders he has owned and flown.

Commanders have been a Nickerson family tradition. His father owned two different 500-series piston Commanders that he used in his aircraft and equipment leasing and financing business, and Pete has owned three himself a Shrike, a 690B, and his current ride, a 695B 1000. The 1000 is the One, he says.

Pete soloed when he was 18, but left flying for about 20 years to concentrate on his family and building a business. In 1997 he returned to the cockpit.

Plane The first airplane he bought was a Cessna Skylane, which he flew for about four years before looking to upgrade to a twin. His research included a discussion with Swede and Norm Ralston at Aero Air in nearby Hillsboro, Oregon, whom he had known from the days when his father was flying Commanders. Not surprisingly, the Ralstons talked up the virtues of a Commander, especially single-engine performance.

I had to agree with them, Pete says. Moving up to a turbine was beyond his reach at the time, so Aero Air found him a nice Shrike.

As his business took off over the next few years, Pete felt he finally had the time and the confidence as a pilot to move up to a turboprop. Again he turned to Aero Air, and bought a 690B. It was absolutely the right decision, he says. I love the turbine Commander. I’m six feet five inches, and I can sit up straight in the pilot’s seat. And I like the fact that I can reach around and control the cabin door without having to rely on someone else to do it. I like the cockpit flow, and the high wing for visibility down and around the airplane.

Pete flew the 690B until business demands led to what he thought would be a long stint living overseas, so he sold the airplane. Two years later, however, he and his family were back in Oregon. I thought, I can live without an airplane, but that lasted only about three months before I got the hankering again, he says.

Pete thought another Commander would be effective treatment for that hankering, but he also evaluated King Airs. I looked at the B200 and C90, he says. The 200 is nice, but it was outside my budget. I could afford the 90, but just couldn’t see buying it when compared to a Commander. It’s 30 percent slower, and doesn’t have the visibility. I just didn’t see the advantage.

He went back to see Norm Ralston, who argued for a 695B 1000, the last Commander model produced. He had to wait quite awhile before one became available, but eventually Pete found himself the owner of a late-model 1000.

I just found all the things I like in the Commander, and not in the King Air, he says. The seat position, the cockpit flow, and the visibility. My mother and father were alive at the time and flew with me, and they loved the one step up into the cabin.

The other advantage of the Commander is cost, in a number of aspects. The purchase price was significantly less than a King Air, and the operating cost has been less as well.

Pete’s use of the Commander is strictly personal. I fly to British Columbia to fish for trout, to Mexico for game fish, to South Dakota to hunt uplands game birds, and to follow Oregon Ducks football. My wife is from Columbus, Ohio, and is a Buckeyes fan, so we go to Ohio a couple of times a year, too.

He also volunteers his airplane and piloting services to Veterans Airlift, which arranges flights for veterans to visit medical clinics and family. His longest Veterans Airlift trip so far was from Manhattan, Kansas, to San Jose, California. He was able to do it nonstop in the 1000.

Along with the Commander, Pete co-owns a 1943 Stearman that he recently restored. My near-term project is to take a tour of all the lighthouses that remain on the west coast, he says. They are well known and easy to find, with airports around them. I’d like to do the tour in the Stearman.

He also has a DC-3A, and a dream. Some years ago he was flying from Los Angeles to Portland in the 690B with his long-time instructor, John Fjellman. John said that when he was running an FBO he thought about having a DC-3 in the LA basin to do tourist flights. I told him I had been thinking about flying a DC-3 to China and India. A plan was born.

It took Pete a couple years, but he eventually bought a DC-3 and started what has become a six-year restoration effort. The interior is the last major task remaining. My dream is to get a group of guys together, maybe make a six-month journey up the west coast of the U.S., then over to the east coast of Asia and on to India, with appropriate off-course trips, of course. He hopes to launch on his dream trip within the next five years.

Pete says he tries to find reasons and excuses to go fly, and it’s apparent that he is highly successful at it. The Stearman and DC-3 fulfill the low, slow, romantic-glow side of the flying habit but, otherwise, the Commander is all I need, he says. I don’t think I’m a jet guy. There are times when I’d like to be higher and go faster, but when the trip is done and I look at the bills I think, Gee, it sure is nice that this is half what a jet would cost. So I’m looking at this Commander as the airplane I will always have.

Will Shinew

When Will Shinew joined SimCom Training Centers about a year ago, the Orlando-based company was embarking on an ambitious expansion. SimCom had recently acquired PrestoSIM, which conducted simulator-based legacy Citation and King Air 200 training in a facility near DFW International Airport. Then the big move: SimCom bought 14 simulators and training programs from FlightSafety International, including two motion-based Twin Commander simulators and associated training programs. The Commander simulators were relocated to SimCom’s new DFW location, and Shinew, who has practical experience flying Commanders, was assigned to the new program.

Today Shinew is the lead instructor for the Commander JetProp training program and simulator, and he’s having a ball. I fell in love with Twin Commanders, he said of his experience flying them, and now I’ve fallen in love with the people. They are enthusiastic about their airplanes. I know once you start flying one, you become pretty loyal.

Shinew is one of seven instructors involved in SimCom’s Commander pilot initial and recurrent training at the DFW center. Simulators include a motion-based Dash-10-configured Commander JetProp and motion-based Dash 5-configured 690-series, and a non-motion flight training device (FTD) configured as a 690A with Dash 10T engines. A 180-degree wraparound visual system in the FTD provides realistic motion cues in day, night, and twilight conditions.

The visual motion cues are really outstanding, Shinew says. We have people who swear the simulator is moving.

Commander training is the busiest program at the DFW center, according to Shinew, and has more instructors. With the addition of the former FlightSafety programs and equipment, SIMCOM operates 59 simulators in five training center locations in the United States.

Shinew learned to fly as a teenager, washing airplanes in exchange for flying time. He kept adding to his certificate and ratings count, and eventually landed a job flying auto parts around the country in a Cessna Caravan, King Air 100, and Piper Navajo.

Before turning to professional flying fulltime, Shinew owned his own financial services firm. In the mid-1990s, however, Shinew surrendered to the inevitable. I told my wife that I enjoyed flying, and that’s what I want to do.

Along with the early freight-dog experience, Shinew’s interesting pilot resume lists a stint flying Casa 212 and de Havilland DHC-8 turboprops in Afghanistan and the U.S. for Blackwater Worldwide. He crewed a Cessna Citation 650 based in Smyrna, Tennessee, and before joining SimCom commanded a Kissimmee, Florida-based 690B Commander, for a businessman-owner.

Shinew and his fellow instructors have worked primarily with Commander owner-pilots, but also military and corporate operators. One bit of advice from Shenew to pilots: Don’t rely too heavily on use of the autopilot from initial climb to short final. We try to cure that in the first couple of sim sessions, he says. If the autopilot goes inop, you gotta be able to fly that thing.

For more information about SimCom?s Commander training, see