Neil Rosoff’s research led him to the conclusion that a later-model turboprop Twin Commander had just about everything he was looking for in his next airplane: twin-engine safety for flying over high terrain and at night; excellent performance and benign handling characteristics in the event one of those two engines checked out; truly excellent performance with both engines operating; generous fuel capacity coupled with miserly fuel flows at altitude to yield long-range legs; and a grin-generating, “pilot’s-airplane” personality. There was just one thing missing…
Rosoff had always wanted to learn to fly, but business and family took precedence. With his two children grown and gone and his successful IT staffing business sold, it was time for Rosoff to fulfill his dream. He started flight training at Essex County Airport in northern New Jersey, and spent long months learning the basics in Cessna 152s and 172s. At some point he realized that “these were not the airplanes I wanted to use for my mission –– flying to Cleveland and Milwaukee to visit my children.”
He looked around and discovered the Cirrus SR22. He was immediately drawn to it, so much so that he wanted to buy one and finish his training in it. The owner of the flight school balked –– primary flight training in a fast, slippery, technologically advanced aircraft? But Rosoff was convinced. He bought a new Cirrus and hired an instructor who, over the next 18 months guided Rosoff through his Private and Commercial certificates and instrument rating, all in the SR22.
Training in the Cirrus meant Rosoff was born into and weaned on performance and technology. “I loved the airplane,” he says, and over the next two-and-a-half years he flew it “all over the place.” Its one shortcoming was ice protection. His SR22 was equipped with a TKS “weeping wing” deice system, but it was not certified for flight into known icing conditions. Rosoff found he was cancelling flights that would not have posed a problem in a more capable airplane.
The obvious solution was to get a more capable airplane. He looked at TBMs but concluded that a Piper Meridian was a more cost-effective choice for his mission. Rosoff began the transition to pressurized flight-levels flying in a turbine-engine airplane. What he did not have to transition to was the Meridian’s Garmin G1000 panel.
Rosoff and his wife, Lori, have two children, and much of their flying in the Cirrus and then the Meridian was to visit their children –– a son in Milwaukee, and a daughter in Cleveland. When their son, Henry, moved to Seattle to take a job as an on-air reporter for KIRO, Rosoff could see the writing on the wall. What had been a one-stop 750-nmi trip from New Jersey to Milwaukee would now be an all-day, three-stop, 2400-nmi flight in the Meridian. It was looking like time to take another step or two up the aircraft capability ladder.
Rosoff took another look at the faster, longer-range TBM 850, but like the Meridian it has just one engine. Rosoff liked the idea of having a second one when crossing the formidably tall cumulo-granite from Colorado west. He looked at the King Air 90 series, and at Twin Commanders. He quickly concluded that the King Air is slower, less fuel efficient, and more expensive than comparable Commanders. All signs pointed to a Commander, specifically a later model with Dash 10T engines and long-range fuel.
But there was just one thing…
Rosoff had been flying the Garmin G1000 for more than five years, from training in the Cirrus to long family trips in the Cirrus and the Meridian. He knew the panel, he was comfortable with it, and he wanted it in his next airplane. But it was not available in the Commander –– or at least it had not been. In researching turboprop twins Rosoff looked around for airplanes with advanced Garmin panels, “and this popped up,” Rosoff says. “This” was an Eagle Creek Commander 1000 retrofitted with a Garmin 950 panel, identical to a Garmin 1000 except for the S-TEC 2100 Digital Flight Control System in place of a Garmin autopilot.
Rosoff was intrigued. Jim Worrell, a salesman at Eagle Creek Aviation Services in Indianapolis, arranged for Rosoff to fly the prototype Garmin Commander from Naples, Florida, to Indianapolis with Eagle Creek CEO Matt Hagans. “With the exception of taxiing that thing –– which is an art –– I found it not that much different to fly than the Meridian,” Rosoff says. “Between the reputation of the airplane, the conversion, and the dollars involved, I really liked the plane. So Jim and I went shopping and found a 690D Commander 900, with the clear understanding that I was buying it to convert it to the Garmin panel.”
Along with the new panel, Rosoff had a new interior installed and the airplane repainted. “Eagle Creek did a lot of work,” Rosoff says. “They totally gutted it.” With just 1,000 hours since overhaul, the Honeywell TPE331-10T engines were good to go. “So for all intents and purposes I have a brand new plane,” Rosoff adds. “New panel, new paint, new interior.”
Rosoff also opted to equip the airplane for RVSM certification. Flying as high as possible eastbound from Seattle will maximize fuel efficiency, and make possible easy, one-stop return flights to New Jersey, Rosoff says.
After taking delivery of the airplane Rosoff spent three months flying with instructor Hugh Davis, building confidence in the Commander. One area that didn’t require much attention was the panel. “I don’t know if I would have bought a Commander without the Garmin 950 conversion,” Rosoff says. “It was an easy transition from the Meridian. The panel was important. I had a lot of muscle memory, I knew where things were. It made the transition pretty easy.”