The Twin Commander Flight Group held its 2013 Annual Fly-In and Conference in September at Wilson Air Center at Lovell Field in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Co-hosted by Wilson Air Center and Gary Gadberry of Aircenter, Inc., the weekend meeting drew 25 participants and 10 Twin Commanders.
The conference was held in Wilson Air Center’s new 12,000-sq.ft. LEED (Green) certified hangar, with a Renaissance 500S Shrike Commander on display in the hangar. Event coordinators Jim and Susan Metzger arranged for several presentations on a variety of topics.
John Dendekker of Carpenter Avionics spoke about various avionics upgrades for Twin Commanders, and reviewed ADS-B requirements. Dick MacCoon of Mr. RPM provided attendees with an update on current and future products including a supplemental type certificate under development that, according to MacCoon, decreases fuel consumption on several models of Lycoming engines. Among other improvements, the STC will incorporate a new cylinder design, MacCoon said.
Aviation legal expert Tad Wintermeyer provided insight into regulations and procedures involving ramp checks, including permission required to enter an aircraft and potential scenarios regarding teardown of the aircraft for inspection.
George Erdel, a former FAA maintenance inspector and current Designate Engineering Representative, gave a spirited description of the field approval process, and added clarity to certification of major and minor alterations.
Andy Downs spoke on the documentary film he is producing titled “58 November” about the hijacking of a chartered Twin Commander flown by his father, Brent Downs, on October 4, 1971. The hijackers boarded the airplane in Nashville and demanded to be flown to the Bahamas, but Downs had to land in Jacksonville, Florida, to refuel.
The FBI immediately surrounded the airplane, refused to allow the refueling, and opened fire. The hijacker killed Downs, a passenger, and then himself. The documentary relies on photos, air traffic control communications, and diagrams obtained under the Freedom of Information Act to make the case that the FBI mishandled the hijacking and then covered up the evidence for 40 years. The documentary has been picked up by PBS.
Twin Commander Aircraft Engineering Manager Levan Tabidze presented a “What’s Up?” at the factory. Tabidze also reviewed custom kits, new kits under development, and the status of Service Bulletin 241.
Bob Hancock of Honeywell Engines gave attendees an update on engine issues from Honeywell’s perspective.
Gary Gadberry provided photos and details of his February 2012 crash of a 500U Commander in the Tennessee mountains. His highly personal account of his thoughts, actions, and outcome silenced the hangar-full of people for more than 45 minutes, and gave everyone insight into accident prevention/mitigation, insurance, and personal and legal outcomes.
A maintenance panel comprised of several of the conference speakers was convened to give owners an opportunity to ask questions about caring for their aircraft and engines. Participants shared their experiences regarding maintenance and ownership.
The conference culminated with a dinner and auction at the Blue Water restaurant in Chattanooga.
For more information about the Twin Commander Flight Group see www.twincommander.org.