The answer is, somewhere on a 76-day; 25,670-nmi; four-continent; 27-country; 35-stop around-the-word trek in his 690B Twin Commander.
On May 13 Brad and son Scott rendezvoused with four other aircraft in Quebec City, Canada, to begin a two-and-a-half-month globe-circling sojourn arranged and escorted by Air Journey (www.airjourney.com). Even though Brad has flown the Commander and other aircraft he has owned over the years to a variety of international destinations, he’s a fan of escorted group trips. He’s flown to Iceland and back with a group of aircraft, and last year did a round trip to Africa.
“Having all of the planning and preflight prep done for you and being able to get in the airplane and go takes away about 70 percent of the real work you have to do,” he says. “That’s huge.”
A third-generation Southern California realtor, Brad is a second-generation pilot. His father owned a variety of airplanes over the years that Brad flew in, and flew — a Cessna 170; North American Navion; Piper Comanche 400; Cessna 310, 320, and a 421 once owned by Howard Hughes; a Cessna Citation 501SP that Brad got type-rated in; and a Citation V.
Brad earned his pilot’s certificate in 1972, and spent the next few years in rented airplanes. That proved frustrating, and in 1976 he bought a new Piper Archer single that he picked up from the factory in Vero Beach, Florida, and took to the Bahamas and Caribbean before flying it home to California.
He owned and flew the Archer for 19 years, then moved up to a Piper Saratoga that he had for 10 years.
After witnessing the anemic single-engine performance of his father’s Cessna 310 and 320, and the extreme care needed to fly the 421 with its geared-engines, Brad had no plans to buy a piston twin. Instead, when it came time to move up he put a deposit down on an Eclipse jet.
Not long after, he got a call from veteran Commander salesman Bob Mays, who said that a deal he had been working on involving a 690B Twin Commander had fallen through, and maybe Brad should take a look at the airplane. Though he had no experience with Commanders, he had heard Mays and other pilot friends speak reverently about Commander performance and handling.
“It wasn’t that I was looking,” Brad says, but he agreed to do just that. Mays set up a flight to Bakersfield. Brad remembers that it was a hot day — 105 degrees — and Mays had the tanks topped off. “We jumped in the plane — I’m in the left seat — and just after we rotate on takeoff Bob pulls the right engine back. He told me to just keep flying it. I hardly felt anything different — we were climbing out at 1500 feet per minute. Then Bob said, ‘Okay, you got your engine back.’ It was really solid!”
Brad and his family love to ski, and aircraft performance, especially single-engine performance, is essential at the high-altitude destinations they frequent. The look-see ride in the Commander with Mays got Brad’s attention.
He bought the airplane, taking delivery in Montana — the family has a home in Bozeman. They also have a home in Burbank, California, about 850 nmi from Bozeman. “The Commander has the range for the trip, even with winds,” Brad says, “and when I’m flying over the mountains and at night, I want dependability and single-engine performance. The Commander has it.”
He is just the second owner of the 690B, which has less than 4,000 hours total time. He has had Aero Air convert the Honeywell TPE331 engines to Dash 10T configuration, and has upgraded the panel with a Garmin G600 and GTN750 and 650, an MX-20 MFD, and most recently, dual ADS-B-compliant transponders. Brad uses Executive Aircraft Maintenance in Scottsdale, and Western Jet in Van Nuys for maintenance and inspections.
“My wife, Debbie, and I have thought about a jet,” Brad says. “We’d get there a little faster but use more fuel. And then there is the cost of the inspections. We used to say that when we took the Citation to the shop there was a $40,000 ‘show-up’ charge, and then they’d start telling you about all the squawks.”
Brad uses the Commander for business trips — his company, Jackbilt LA, Inc., has commercial, industrial, residential, and vacation real estate interests in California, Oregon, Utah, Tennessee, and Hawaii — and for personal missions, too. Such as flying around the world.
Brad and Scott were to be joined by Debbie and Luke, Scott’s brother, when they reached Europe. A family friend also planned to join them in Europe. To see where in the world the Howards are, check out the blog written by Air Journey founder Thierry Pouille, who is escorting Brad and others on the trip: