Brett Fuller flies a Dash 10T-powered 690B Twin Commander for Monte Cluck, whom Fuller calls “a savvy owner.” Why? Cluck grew up around airplanes—it was his father’s hobby, and Cluck learned to fly as well. When Cluck, a fifth-generation Texas cattle rancher and feed yard owner and operator, went looking for an airplane for the business, he put a sharp pencil to the decision and chose one that best fit the mission.
“I looked at price, speed, versatility, and safety,” Cluck says. “Nothing came back to us like the Commander did.” Cluck got some support in his decision-making from friend and fellow cattle rancher Jim Schwertner, who has been operating a Grand Renaissance Twin Commander for a decade. “He had nothing but praise for the Twin Commander,” Cluck says.
“We fly from the Texas hill country to the Texas panhandle, where the feed yard and farms are located,” Fuller explains. “The Twin Commander is perfect for that mission. It has the speed and the fuel burn you can’t beat.”
It also has the view, according to Cluck. “When we’re flying and I’m sitting back there and looking out those windows, I can almost see three days ahead of time, especially over flat west Texas,” he says. “Those big windows are fabulous!”
Fuller says the Commander is “by far the most fuel-efficient” turbine-powered airplane he has flown. “Those two Dash 10Ts burn 600 pounds total the first hour, and 500 pounds every hour after. And that’s at 290 to 300 knots true airspeed. Compare that to a King Air C90 or 200, which are slower and use more fuel.”
The airplane recently went to Legacy Aviation Services in Yukon, Oklahoma, for hot-section inspections and new Hartzell wide-chord props. “Before the hot sections and blades I was averaging 285 knots true airspeed at FL250, burning 78 gph,” Fuller says. “I would pencil in 80 gph, but it was really 78. Since the work we’ve gained about 5 to 7 knots at the same altitude and the same fuel burn. Those wide-chord blades deliver much better performance on takeoff and climb.
“Any Dash 10 conversion should go hand in hand with wide chords,” he adds. “It’s the bite those props get. The takeoff roll gets up to speed a lot quicker, liftoff comes quicker, and our climb rate has almost doubled up to 10,000 feet. Our first trip with the new blades was to Colorado Springs. It was a hot and high takeoff, but the wide-chords didn’t even think about it. We got off the ground clean and climbed well.”
Legacy also refurbished Cluck’s Twin Commander with new paint and interior, and upgraded the panel with a Garmin GNS430 with WAAS capability. The airplane is based in Kerrville, which has a published WAAS LPV approach, and “there were a handful of times I needed it,” Fuller says.
“Legacy has been outstanding,” Cluck says. “They care about what they do, the people are dedicated, and when you call you get a response. They have been wonderful for us.
“We’re really really proud of our Twin Commander,” he adds. “For the money, the speed, and the cost of operation, of the four airplanes we considered—the King Air, Cheyenne, Conquest, and Commander, the Commander is the one to own. Of those four airplanes, we have the best one. It’s the fastest airplane we’ve ever operated, and we think it has been a good investment.”