The 680FL was the thirteenth Commander model one to be placed into production. The first 15 were manufactured by Aero Commander Inc., as a subsidiary of Rockwell-Standard Corporation at Bethany (Wiley Post Airport), in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; the next 112 by the Aero Commander Division of Rockwell-Standard Corporation; the penultimate 11 by the Aero Commander-Bethany Division of Rockwell-Standard Corporation; and the last 19 by the Aero Commander Division of North American Rockwell Corporation.
All 157 examples were built between March 1963 and December 1969 with serial numbers in the range 1278-1 through 1853-157, although serial number 1261-108 was converted from a 680FLP, serial number 1261-1.
Of these, 47 were initially certified in 1963; 45 in 1964; 18 in 1965; 16 in 1966; 9 in 1967; 17 in 1968; and 5 in 1969.
Originally named the Grand Commander, it was re-named as the Courser Commander in 1968. Three “Courser Liner” Commanders also were manufactured with a cabin door that featured a double-size opening, 47 x 45 inches, to enable loading of freight.
The Model 680FL was the first of the long fuselage model Commanders.
A factory document describes the Model 680FL, under Wing Drawing 5170045, modified for a 8500-lb. wing, as “certified on May 24, 1963 per CAR 3, May 15, 1956, Amendments 3-3 and 3-4. This aircraft is identical to the Model 680F except for a lengthened fuselage. A 44-inch section was added forward of the front spar and 30-inches aft of the front spar. The horizontal was extended. Later in 1963 the C.G. travel was changed to allow 10% MAC at 7000 pounds for the forward C.G. In 1964 the gross weight was increased to 8500 pounds.”
The Model 680FL was indeed certified on May 24, 1963, under Type Certificate 2A4. The first 127 had 340 hp Lycoming IGSO-540-B1A engines, with the remaining 30 examples using the -B1C engine variant. The 93.5-inch-diameter Hartzell HC-B3Z30-2B/9349 propeller was used on the first 75 aircraft, while the remaining 82 used the 87-inch- diameter 9349-6.5 blades.
Gross weight was 8,000 lb for serial numbers 1261-1 through 1459-85, and 8,500 lb for serial numbers 1461-86 and up. However, serial numbers 1261-1 through 1469-91 were manufactured as 8,000 lb gross weight aircraft and became 8,500 lb aircraft when modified per Aero Commander Drawing 6100028. Serial numbers 1441-76 through 1469-91 were modified per Drawing 6100028 at the factory.
Along with the fuselage stretch, the 680FL has an increase in center fuselage height of 2 inches and an increase in tailplane span of just over 18 inches.
Also, the offset, side-mounted control columns used on all short-fuselage Commanders was replaced by straight tubular columns located directly forward of the crew seats. This new control column configuration was a direct adaptation of a design that had just recently been released for the Jet Commander, and these three features became standard on all the subsequent long-fuselage Models.
The Aero Commander Service Center in Bethany introduced the popular picture window to the 680FL. This modification was per an STC that had been designed for them by the well-known engineering firm of Stewart and Pierce in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The beaded or corrugated control surfaces were used up to and including serial number 1547-106. From serial number 1553-107 on they became the smooth or flat skin type.
Originally, the 680FL cabin entry door had a small square window and a door knob, but late-build examples had a larger window with a flush or recessed handle. Also added was the step that automatically deployed when the door is opened.
Fourteen Models 680FL were modified to the Mr. RPM “Turbo 800” (Richard P. MacCoon), under STC SA2891WE. These had the 400 hp Lycoming IO-720-B1B(D) engines, modified with the installation of a Rajay turbocharger system under STC SE62WE, coupled with 80.625-inch-diameter Hartzell HC-A3VK-2A/V8433(N)(B)-4R propellers.
One of these, serial number 1399-25, N80TT, set two World Records on January 20, 1976. One was for “Speed over a closed circuit of 100km without payload,” establishing 408.96 km/hr (which equates to 62.135 miles, at 254.116 mph). The other was for “Speed over a closed circuit of 500km without payload”, establishing 383.04 km/hr (which equates to 310.685 miles, at 238.01 mph). The pilot on both of these flights was Jack F. Chrysler, a family member of the car manufacturing company. A newspaper clipping reads, in part, “Averaging speeds of 252.3 mph at 20,000 ft., with 75% cruise power settings, the speed record for the 500 km record was set flying a closed course between Oceanside and Santa Barbara, California, and for the 100 km record, between Oceanside and San Diego.”
Barry Collman’s lifelong interest in airplanes began when he was growing up in a house located underneath the downwind leg to busy Northolt aerodrome, an R.A.F. base near London-Heathrow airport. As a young teenager he discovered airplane “spotting”–hobbyists’ observation and logging of aircraft by make, model, and registration number. The hobby began to grow into a passion as Collman joined a club of like-minded spotters. At one point he purchased a copy of the January 1966 U.S. Civil Aircraft Register, and thumbing through it came upon the Aero Commander. He was hooked. Eventually he acquired every available FAA microfiche file on Commanders, and since 1995 has made annual pilgrimages to Oklahoma City to sift through FAA records. He now has a database with more than 96,100 records as well as a collection of negatives, slides, photographs, digital images, magazines, brochures, knick-knacks–and a very understanding wife. This series on Commander production history originally was written for the Twin Commander Flight Group, of which he is an enthusiastic member.