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Photo by Jeff Bough

One of the most important of the many missions Twin Commanders perform around the world is as an air attack platform. Sometimes called the Fire Boss position, air attack serves as the airborne command and control of a fire response team, evaluating the situation on the ground and directing assets to the fire’s hot spots. Conair is one of the world’s foremost users of Commanders in the air attack role. We talk to the company’s leaders about how the mission works, how they handle maintenance and pilot training in such a busy operation, and why Commanders are so well suited to this special mission.

Also, in this issue, check out stories defining the Garmin flight leg segments, taking stock of the technician shortage, following along on a journey through Mexico, learn about fuel additives and more. You can find all these stories and more at flightlevelsonline.com.

NTSB Recommends Twin Commander
Add Spin Instructions

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a recommendation that Twin Commander Aircraft include language on spin recovery procedures in the pilot’s operating handbook of 690B models as the result of an investigation into a 2021 accident in which the pilot and two passengers died while in a spin. The NTSB made the point that 690C and 690D models do include a spin recovery procedure, and that it would thus be prudent to include one in the 690B POH. However, the NTSB also noted that spin recovery is not a certification requirement for twin-engine airplanes, and that Rockwell appropriately followed the regulations when certifying the aircraft. In a statement, Brian Sartain, COO of Ontic, Twin Commander’s type certificate holder, said, “Ontic values the safety and reliability of our products above all else and is aware of and participating with authorities to investigate the viability and inclusion of spin recovery techniques across all Twin Commander aircraft variants.”

Maintenance Training Schedule Released

Eagle Creek Aviation FBO, Indianapolis, Indiana

Mike Grabbe and Jet Access/Eagle Creek Aviation have scheduled three maintenance training sessions for 2024 to take place at the company’s facility in Indianapolis. They are: March 18 to 27, April 22 to May 1, and October 14 to 23. The factory approved training sessions cover everything a technician needs to know to begin working on all models of Twin Commander. It is also a popular session for refresher training for experienced Twin Commander specialists. Grabbe said the face-to-face format is especially important for newer techs, as the class moves quickly. Custom sessions are possible with a minimum of four attendees. The cost is $5,000 per person. Contact [email protected] to learn more.

Training Options

Photo by Tom Horne

Proponents of in-airplane training say simulators can’t replicate the intensity and realism of the genuine article, while sim backers say the box is safer and more efficient.

Which type of Commander training have you done in the past?

Take Survey

January / February

Maintenance Training Sessions Scheduled

Mike Grabbe and Jet Access/Eagle Creek Aviation have scheduled three maintenance training sessions for 2024 to take place at the company’s facility in Indianapolis. They are: March 18 to 27, April 22 to May 1, and October 14 to 23. The factory approved training sessions cover everything a technician needs to know to begin working on all models of Twin Commander. It is also a popular session for refresher training for experienced Twin Commander specialists. Grabbe said the face-to-face format is especially important for newer techs, as the class moves quickly. Custom sessions are possible with a minimum of four attendees. The cost is $5,000 per person. Contact [email protected] to learn more.

Service Information Index Updated

Last year was a busy one for Twin Commander Aircraft engineers. The company released six new service letters, all of which are now detailed on the updated Service Information Index. This guide, one of six detailing maintenance documents on the Twin Commander Aircraft website, lists the full history of Service Information Letters, making it easy to stay on top of new and updated information from the factory. Last year’s additions include special inspection criteria for the main landing gear up-lock assembly bolts, exhaust seal installation, a status change on Collins fuel transmitters, and three new airworthiness directives that apply to piston operators. You can find the new index here. For the full list of service documents, check the website here.

Service Bulletin 218 Revision Not Yet Finalized

Service Bulletin 218 details the procedure necessary to stop cracking on certain fuselage bulkheads of turbine-powered Commanders. In place since 1994, the bulletin has undergone three previous revisions, and engineers are working with the Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers and other partners to update the bulletin to Revision 4. However, those efforts are still ongoing, and the updated bulletin has not yet been issued. Factory representatives caution that it’s premature to begin work to comply with Revision 4, as it’s not yet finalized and will almost certainly change between now and its eventual release. For more information, read the recent story in Flight Levels Online.

November/ December

When it Comes to Maintenance, Experience Matters

The quality of aircraft maintenance heavily depends on the experience of the technician, the shop manager, the parts staff, and the facility owner. Many technicians won’t turn down a job, even if they’ve never done it before. So it’s up to the owner/operator to choose wisely. That’s where the Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center Network can help. These independently owned and operated facilities have the experience and expertise to work on your airplane. With a legacy airframe, tribal knowledge is especially important, and many Service Centers have been working on Twin Commanders for decades, and they have the tooling, parts, and most importantly, the knowledge to do the job right. Service Centers have a close relationship with the factory that fosters close communication and cooperation, keeping them apprised of the latest developments, procedures, and processes. When it comes to maintaining your Twin Commander, remember that experience matters, and give your preferred Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center a call to schedule your inspection, repair, or upgrade. Find a full list of the Service Centers on the Commander website and for your convenience, they are:

Fall Flight Levels Online Now

Often the legalities of owning and operating an airplane are more complicated than actually flying and maintaining it. The regulations around major and minor alterations and repairs, and the associated supplement type certificates are one of many examples. There are dozens of interesting and useful STCs on the market, but oftentimes one person or a small company creates and develops the item. When that person moves on, the STC can become stale, or abandoned in the eyes of the FAA. The agency has thus developed a process to help operators deal with abandoned STCs. You can read the Commander Tips article in the fall issue of Flight Levels, online now. Also in the issue, discover the top 10 questions posed to Aviation Tax Consultants about operating your aircraft in a proper and legal way while leveraging it fully, and finally, learn the basics of glass cockpits and how they work. Read these and all the latest in the Fall Flight Levels.

Meet Conan Fox

The Twin Commander Aircraft factory team includes a diverse group of manufacturing and engineering experts hard at work for owners. As the technical director of the type certificate group, Conan Fox leads Ontic’s product support engineering efforts, including existing product support, new product development, and more. He manages a small team of engineers and technical representatives who, working with customers, Service Centers, and federal agencies, ensure the safety and vitality of the various models of Twin Commanders. Fox began his engineering career at the British Aerospace (Airbus) facility in Filton in 1990, and has worked for a wide range of airframe, engine, and component manufacturers, including Rolls-Royce and Westland Design Services (part of Westland Helicopter). His primary area of focus has been in structural (stress) analysis and certification. In 1998 he returned to New Zealand to manage the Air New Zealand FAA Part 145 repair station AOG team. In 2000 he moved to the United States as a wing stress engineer on a start-up business jet team, and finally joined M7 on the Metro/Merlin team in 2010. Now with Ontic and Twin Commander, Fox said he loves supporting the airplane and learning more about the community.

Remembering Bob Hoover

This fall marks seven years since the death of aviation legend Bob Hoover. Known as one of the greatest pilots who has ever lived, Hoover’s many accomplishments include the mesmerizing airshow routine he performed for decades in a Shrike Commander. In a stunt that wowed audiences and amazed pilots, Hoover would take off under power, and then shut down both engines while performing his routine, eventually performing a dead stick landing and rolling out to show center. Hoover’s contributions to aviation were numerous, and the mark he left on the Commander community is hard to overstate. Today his infamous Shrike lives on in the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. It sits just as Hoover left it when he taxied the airplane in on its final flight in 2003.

October /November

Fall Flight Levels Online Available Now

Some people seem almost destined to become pilots. But not many are destined to become air attack pilots. For Dale Head, a career as a city firefighter morphed perfectly into a second career fighting even bigger fires from above. Head recently started his own air attack company, and when he did, he knew it had to start with a Twin Commander. You can read his story in the fall issue, online now.

Also in this issue… 

  • Find out why Twin Commander Authorized Service Center Legacy Aviation has been able to entice customers from around the world to come to Oklahoma City.
  • Learn what Twin Commander Aircraft created to make the fuel system safer.
  • Discover the inside story of the 520 and 560 development.
  • Follow along as a lucky group of pilots seeks out polar bears and belugas.

And more in the Fall Flight Levels online.

Hagans Inducted into Indiana Aviation Hall of Fame

Matt Hagans, the longtime owner and CEO of Eagle Creek Aviation, was inducted into the Indiana Aviation Hall of Fame (INAHOF) at a ceremony in Carmel, Indiana on October 7. Hagans began his aviation career at Cessna in the engineering and flight test department, where he played a vital role in bringing the 414A to market, and helping to certify the 340’s known icing capability. In 1984 he purchased Eagle Creek Aviation and grew it into a world-class aircraft services company and one of the most active Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers. Under his leadership Eagle Creek was responsible for developing the STC for the Dash 10 engine upgrade, the Garmin G950 STC, and many other advancements.

In 2021 Hagans merged Eagle Creek with Jet Access to create the tenth-largest Part 135 company in the United States. He currently serves on the company’s board, which has nearly 400 employees, 50 Part 135 and training aircraft, and 75 technicians. The Eagle Creek Aviation brand remains strong and intact as a Jet Access company, and continues to operate at the Eagle Creek Airport near Indianapolis. Hagans has more than 17,000 flight hours in a variety of aircraft, including most of the Twin Commander line.

Pam Moore Promoted to Program Manager

Twin Commander’s Pam Moore has been promoted to Program Manager for the company’s type certificate group. As part of her duties, Moore is responsible for the customer-facing side of the day-to-day operation of the Twin Commander and Metro/Merlin type certificates. This includes managing the strategic growth plans, parts ordering and production, customer service and support, supplier management, and more. “I’m thrilled to continue to serve Twin Commander operators and the service center network in my new capacity,” she said. “My goal is to improve parts turnaround times and get us back to one-day order fulfillment.” Moore previously served as the librarian, handling technical publications and drawings in support of customer service and engineering. She encourages customers to reach out at [email protected] with any issues or questions.

TCA Seeks Input from Fire Operators

The United States Forestry Service has implemented a new rule that requires operators who wish to compete for and operate under USFS contracts to comply with a factory approved enhanced inspection program that is specific to each model of aircraft. Up to this point, Twin Commander Aircraft has developed programs for the 690 and 695 series of aircraft only.

Those operators wishing to work with the USFS in 2024 with a Twin Commander other than a 690 or 695 must contact the factory as soon as possible so engineers can develop a program. Without this enhanced inspection program from Twin Commander, you will not be eligible for a 2024 contact with the Forestry Service.

You must email [email protected] and reference “Forestry Service Contract” and the model of Twin Commander you plan to operate in order to be eligible for the 2024 season. If Twin Commander Aircraft doesn’t hear from you by October 31, they can’t guarantee your eligibility for the 2024 fire season.


Parts Availability Looking Up

Global supply chain constraints and a transition to a new parts vendor have brought big changes and a few challenges to the team at Twin Commander Aircraft recently. But Business Unit Director Bob Wilson said the team is working hard to bring continuous improvements to the situation. “We are meeting with the vendor on a regular basis to ensure they are providing ever-better service to our customers,” he said. In addition to regular in-person meetings with the vendor to ensure better parts distribution, Wilson said the factory is also focused on reducing pricing errors. During the transition a few parts were found to have incorrect pricing, so the staff have been correcting those as they come up. “As consumers, we’re all seeing pricing pressures ease with an increasingly robust supply chain, and I’m confident Twin Commander owners will also continue to see an improvement in the availability of parts and prices, as we work hard to improve the workflow between the factory and the vendor.” Check with your preferred Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center for current parts availability and pricing. The full list of independently owned and operated facilities is online.

FAA Issues AD for All V-Band Clamps

Departing from its historical strategy of issuing airworthiness directives as issues appeared on specific aircraft and engine models, the FAA recently finalized a wide-ranging airworthiness directive that compels all turbocharged aircraft to undergo inspection and replacement of certain v-band clamps. At issue is spot-welded, multi-section clamps that attach the exhaust to the turbocharger housing. The agency noted many failures of the parts over the years, and previously issued ADs that impacted specific aircraft models. With this new AD every turbocharged aircraft is impacted. The AD imposes a 500-hour life limit on the part, or 50 hours if time-in-service is unknown. Anticipating parts availability challenges, the FAA is slightly extending the compliance time with inspections during the first few years after the AD becomes effective.

Check Out the Latest Flight Levels Online

Considering all of aviation’s advances over the last 50 years, one of the biggest must be the global positioning system. Not only does GPS make navigating from point A to point B easier, it is also central to having instrument approaches at small airports all over the country, it supercharges our in-flight weather capabilities, helps with precise fuel calculations, and a host of other things that we now take for granted. If you’ve ever wondered how GPS came about, or how it works, check out Dr. Keith Thomassen’s story in the latest issue of Flight Levels OnlineDr. Thomassen breaks down the history and capabilities of the system in a fascinating way. And put that GPS to use on the epic trip of your dreams with Air Journey, detailed in the latest iteration of Adventure Flying. Air Journey Founder Thierry Pouille details a trip to “the other” Caribbean, including Roatan and Jamaica. These and many more stories detailing ownership tips, maintenance strategies and avenues to upgrade are in the spring issue of Flight Levels Online. Check them out, and surf the full archives for much more today.