July / August

See Ike’s Commander in Action

“These airplanes are nothing more than metal, rubber, and aluminum. But they represent those people who over a stretch of time in our history made something incredible happen.” This quote from Commemorative Air Force (CAF) volunteer Gerald Oliver, said while sitting in front of President Dwight Eisenhower’s L-26 Aero Commander, is an astute observation to what makes airplanes so special to us. Oliver was interviewed as part of a feature story and video published by AOPA on the famous Commander that served as Air Force One and shuttled Eisenhower between Washington, D.C., and his farm in Gettysburg, PA. The CAF restored the airplane, which Oliver claims to be the only flying L-26, and the organization now offers rides in the airplane as a way to generate support and show off a piece of living history for veterans and others. You can watch the full video on YouTube 52(12.8%), and read the story in an upcoming issue of AOPA PILOT magazine.

Summer Flight Levels Online Now

Roedie Botes might have the coolest aircraft registration in the world. But ZS-OOM, his 690B based in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, is notable for much more than its go-fast name. After buying the airplane during the Covid lockdowns, Botes embarked on a complete upgrade, and ditched every steam gauge in the panel. That includes custom electronic engine instruments from Electronics International. You can read the feature story 64(15.8%) in the latest issue of Flight Levels Online. Also in this issue, read how Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center the GAM Group 33(8.1%) keeps Australia running with its huge fleet of Commanders, expert maintenance facilities, and extensive parts stock. Aero Air’s Andre Pridgen explains the proper way to replace windshields 36(8.9%), and The Commander Guy, Barry Lane, describes why little differences 39(9.6%) between the models can have big impacts on operations. You can read these stories and many others in the latest edition, online now 63(15.6%).

Maintenance Alert Issued for Cracks in Lower Wing Skin Cutouts

Twin Commander Aircraft has issued a maintenance alert 66(16.3%) for cracking in the lower wing skin cutouts in the forward portion of the main landing gear truss. A longtime area of focus for owners and technicians, two reports from the field noted small cracks extending forward and aft from the radii of the lower wing skin cutouts. The maintenance alert calls for operators to work with a Twin Commander Authorized Service Center within the next six months to undergo detailed visual inspections and either eddy current or liquid penetrant inspections of the affected area. Maintenance facilities are encouraged to report the results of the inspections to Twin Commander Aircraft by calling 919-956-4300, emailing [email protected], or by submitting the card attached to the alert.


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 Online for an excerpt of the book that details the airplane’s incredible history. You can purchase the book directly from the Stars and Commanders website.

Connect with Twin Commander

Love to share your passion for your airplane? Connect with Twin Commander by email and through social media. If you’re not already signed up for this newsletter, click here and fill out the simple form to make sure you don’t miss a future issue. You’ll get the latest news, maintenance information, techniques, and stories from around the world.

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Read the Latest Flight Levels Online

A flight school is probably one of the last places you’d expect to see a Shrike, but for Corsair Aviation in Van Nuys, California, the airplane makes perfect sense on the ramp as a key part of their growth strategy. Corsair recently purchased the Shrike as a tool to expand the school’s light-airplane charter business, and eventually to gain more government contracts, including fire spotting. Read about founder Mike Killian’s vision for the airplane.

Also in this issue, follow along with Twin Commander Aircraft’s Bob Wilson as he visits U.S.-based Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers, and discover what surprised him most about their capabilities. One of those service centers, Winner Aviation, once again has a familiar face at the helm, and he is looking to capitalize on the company’s past success. Go over a post-maintenance checklist with expert technician Rob Louviaux. Learn how to, or how to not, make your own checklist from Barry Lane. Avoid the tax pitfalls associated with charitable flying. Finally, plan a trip to the Bahamas, learn the basics of autopilots, and much more in the spring issue out now.

Parts Availability Improving

Twin Commander reports that the transition of parts sales from the factory to new partner AAR is going well. The two teams have identified a number of process improvements and efficiencies, all of which is contributing to better lead times. “We’re making great progress,” said Value Stream Manager Bob Wilson. “I’m proud of the hard work and long hours the team has put in on-site with AAR to better serve Twin Commander owners and operators.” Staff have been working closely with AAR to improve lead times, and Wilson said parts availability is clearly better than it was just a few weeks ago. He expects that trend to continue as the teams work closely together over the next few months, and as AAR and the Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers strengthen their relationships with AAR. “Ultimately we expect this to be a positive transition for owners and operators,” Wilson said. “AAR will do what it does best and fulfill parts quickly and efficiently, while Twin Commander can focus on engineering and other product support.”

Spring Weather Brings New Challenges

As temperatures around the country begin to climb, thunderstorms are becoming more prevalent, and upper-level icing is a concern. Now is the time to make sure your Commander’s systems are in top shape. Are your boots looking a little worse for wear? You’ll find them in stock at many service centers. It’s also a great time to have that deferred radar work done before we get into the worst of the summer weather. Contact your favorite Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Center for the best price and availability for all your parts needs. Find the full list of service centers online.

Mark Your Calendar for the Endeavor Awards

Flying can be fun, satisfying, practical, and a powerful business tool. But an airplane can also be a great source of good for the community. Friday, June 9, the Endeavor Awards in Los Angeles, California, celebrate the wonderful world of charitable flying by recognizing incredible pilots and organizations that give so much of their time and resources, using aviation as a conduit. This year marks the ninth annual awards and fundraiser, with all the proceeds benefiting Angel Flight West. The black-tie event features a silent auction and night airshow, and is hosted by astronauts Garrett Reisman and Michael Massimino. Go to EndeavorAwards.org to learn more. And if you’re interested in giving back, a Commander is an excellent platform for charitable flying. Read about the tax benefits in the latest issue of Flight Levels Online.

February/March 2023

Wilson Visits Service Centers

One of the most valuable aspects of a Twin Commander Service Center is a close connection to the factory. Technicians receive factory training, use factory approved methods, and are the exclusive providers of factory parts. The people make all that possible. Last week Twin Commander chief Bob Wilson got a chance to strengthen those connections with site visits to three Twin Commander Factory Authorized Service Centers. He spent time at Winner Aviation in Youngstown, Ohio, National Flight Services in Toldeo, Ohio, and Eagle Creek Aviation near Indianapolis. “Our fleet is only as strong as the people who support and maintain it,” Wilson said. “It was my pleasure to meet so many dedicated professionals who have the passion and expertise that make our community so strong.” Wilson said he was impressed by the facilities at each location, but more than that, it was the history of supporting Twin Commanders and the incredible depth of knowledge that really astounded him. “I have complete faith in our Service Centers to do what’s best for the operator, and I am excited to do our best for them from the factory.” You can find a full list of Factory Authorized Service Centers online.

Winter Flight Levels Out Now

Flying is delicate balance of regulations, operating practices, and personal procedures. While the regulations leave no wiggle room, that’s not always true of operating practices and procedures, which are more local or airplane-specific. Then there’s avionics, which combine everything into one—sometimes very confusing—mix. In the latest issue of Flight Levels Online, out now, up your Garmin game by learning how to better program departures and arrivals, two of the more difficult functions of the box. Through a combination of in-flight experience and knowledge gained through reading and watching videos, you can become more comfortable in the buttonology, which leads to more consistent procedures, and ultimately safer operations. Read this story, and more in the latest issue.

An Airplane with a Story

You are obviously drawn to the Commander because of the performance, the range, the useful load, and the way it makes you feel when you fly it. But, we know you love the history and the lore of the airplane, too. There’s no denying that flying a descendant of one of the first certificated civilian twin engine airplanes, one that served as Air Force One, and of course, one that wowed audiences for years through the deft hands of Bob Hoover has a special place in aviation history. You can read the whole story in Dave Duntz’s fantastic book, Stars and Commanders: The Life and Vision of Ted Smith. Duntz had unrestricted access to Smith’s files, his unpublished memoir, and more. Through his research and dozens of first-hand accounts, he creates the ultimate story of the origins of the Aero Commander and its many subsequent iterations. Anyone who is a fan of the airplane will love the book, which can be purchased online.

January 2023

Bob Wilson Takes the Helm

Longtime aerospace professional Bob Wilson has taken the head of Twin Commander Aircraft’s business line within parent company Ontic. The job also includes the responsibilities for the type certificate of the Metro/Merlin range of aircraft, which is now within Ontic’s combined type certificate group based in Creedmoor, North Carolina. Wilson came to the position from Elbit Systems, where he served as the commercial aviation services director. Wilson has experience in hands-on maintenance, maintenance management, engineering, sales, and management. He will be responsible for all areas of Twin Commander’s business, including engineering, sales, service, and support.

Wilson’s appointment to the top job is one of a number of changes Ontic made to Twin Commander staffing as part of its goal to efficiently combine the Metro/Merlin and Twin Commander type certificates under one roof. Pam Moore is now the customer account manager, interfacing directly with customer support needs, while Pam Brown now focuses exclusively on purchasing. Conan Fox, an experienced engineer for Metro/Merlin, will lend engineering support to Twin Commander, especially as the company searches for a new full-time replacement for Alan Wright, who retired last year.

Twin Commander Seeking Tech Rep

Supporting customers, using detective skills to find solutions to complex problems, and identifying areas for improvement. This describes a typical day for most maintenance managers, and it’s also a good skillset for Twin Commander Aircraft’s next technical support engineer.

The factory is seeking a technical support engineer to serve as the primary contact for all technical support tasks related to Twin Commander. The candidate will also act as a primary member of the Service Difficulty Review Board. As the conduit between customers and factory engineering resources, the technical support engineer is in a unique position to help generate improvements and solutions that help the fleet.

According to Ontic’s job posting, the ideal candidate will have a degree in engineering and 15 years of aircraft experience, or 20 years of relevant experience. Hands-on knowledge of Twin Commanders is a plus, as is knowledge of TPE-331 engines. Most importantly, the right person will use a customer-focused attitude to solve challenges by utilizing original drawings and documents.

You can find the job posting online, and apply directly via the website.

Read the Latest Flight Levels Online

If you’ve seen a Twin Commander on YouTube, there’s a good chance it’s been Tim Timmons flying. Timmons is the man behind Flying Wild AZ, a channel where he features dozens of videos about his life flying a 690B for Ponderosa Aviation. The channel has videos about what it’s like to fly medevac, various Twin Commander systems, and more. You can find the full story in the winter issue of Flight Levels Online, available now. While you’re there, learn why it’s important to share good news from component inspections, get the latest on 2023 tax incentives, and brush up on the gotchas of programming  arrivals and departures. You can find these stories and many more in the latest issue of Flight Levels Online.

Share Your Content

Pilots love to share their passion for flight. Whether it’s great photos or video like Flying Wild AZ, we want to see what you’ve shot. Share your fun, educational, or awe-inspiring content with us and we’ll share it with the rest of the community so that everyone can experience the amazement and joy of flying a Twin Commander. Send your photos and video links of your content to [email protected] and thank you!