NINTH TWIN COMMANDER UNIVERSITY DRAWS
Some 50 Twin Commander owners traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona, in early May to attend the ninth biennial Twin Commander University. The unique gathering of owners, authorized service centers, and Twin Commander factory representatives featured three days of continuing education seminars with the focus on owning and flying Twin Commander aircraft.
“The University is a major event for the Twin Commander community, and we began planning the 2009 University more than a year ago,” noted Twin Commander Aircraft LLC President Matt Isley. “Earlier this year we became concerned that the economic recession would adversely affect participation in the University. So when we convened in early May at the Westin-Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, we were extremely pleased to enjoy solid attendance from our owners and operators as well as from our authorized service center network.”
About half of the owners who attended flew their Twin Commanders to Scottsdale Airpark, parking at Executive Aircraft Maintenance (EAM), one of 15 authorized Twin Commander Service Centers in the U.S. and six international.
EAM hosted a Friday evening dinner party in its hangar on the northwest side of the airfield for University attendees. A selection of Twin Commander models were arrayed around the hangar doors for guests to inspect, including a pristine 690A that Aero Air, Inc. in Hillsboro, Oregon had just completed. It featured an upgraded panel with dual Garmin G600s, new interior, and new paint.
The day before the University seminars got underway, Twin Commander Aircraft met with its service center partners to discuss technical issues and survey activity. “The consensus among our service centers is that business is down somewhat compared to the last few years,” Isley reported, “but they said their Twin Commander customers are still flying and the service centers are staying busy with inspections, upgrades, and maintenance," he added.
“We are seeing renewed interest in fuel-efficient Twin Commanders from government operators,” Isley said. “In fact, just prior to the University, Eagle Creek Aviation Services in Indianapolis delivered a new Grand Renaissance Twin Commander to Kern County, California, which will use it as an air attack platform for fighting wildfires. And immediately after the University, Eagle Creek began work on a new Grand Renaissance for the Mexican Navy.”
University attendees included an unusual number of first-time participants, including commercial and government operators from Japan, Mexico, and Canada.
ACROSS THE COUNTRY ON 370 PPH
The Ninth University featured a number of new seminar topics, including one called “Fuel-Efficient Flying.” Commander 1000 owner Jay Obernolte profiled his nonstop flight last October from Big Bear, California, to the NBAA convention in Orlando. Cruising at FL 350 in the RVSM-certified 1000, Obernolte used long-range power settings to average 285 knots true airspeed on the 1,848-nmi, 6.3-hour flight, burning an average of 370 pounds-per-hour/55 gallons-per-hour (total—both engines) of jet fuel. He landed with 705 pounds/105 gallons remaining.
A panel of five long-time operators including two individuals, a corporation with a fleet of six turboprop Twin Commanders, and two government operators led a session on the “Twin Commander Ownership Experience” during which they explained why they initially chose Twin Commanders and why they continue to operate them. Performance, efficiency, reliability, flying qualities, and visibility for pilots and passengers were cited as the airplane’s strong points compared to other aircraft that panelists had evaluated.
WX RADAR TRAINING
Radar Training International’s Erik Eliel conducted a six-hour airborne weather radar training program on Thursday for owners and operators, and followed it up the next day with a 50-minute session called “Arrive Alive.” Eliel, who flies for a major airline and has become the nation’s leading expert on airborne weather radar training, reviewed potentially hazardous weather conditions, including abnormally low ambient temperatures resulting in barometric errors, that can affect arrival procedures.
The 2009 University marked the retirement of Jim Matheson, who oversaw Twin Commander Aircraft for the last 17 years and owned the company for the last three. Isley was named president following the sale to Firstmark Corporation. Matheson was honored in a ceremony at the Friday evening dinner.
“The University exceeded our expectations on all counts—content, attendance, and the enthusiasm shown by our owners and operators,” Isley noted. “This is an active community, and they responded to our efforts to design a program intended to provide useful insights on owning, operating, and maintaining Twin Commanders. We’ll be back in 2011 with more of the same.”
TWIN COMMANDER OWNERS GIVE UNIVERSITY A THUMBS UP
A survey of Twin Commander owners who attended the Ninth Twin Commander University last May showed overwhelming support for the program and satisfaction with the University “campus”—the Westin- Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale.
Survey respondents were asked to evaluate each of the 11 seminar sessions held Friday and Saturday, as well as the six-hour “Airborne Weather Radar Course” that was held on Thursday. The course, taught by radar training expert Erik Eliel, earned the highest average rating of all the University sessions, 4.9 out of 5.
Following close behind was Helmuth Eggeling, whose four-hour “Flying the Engine” seminar earned an average survey rating of 4.7. Eggeling is Honeywell’s Pilot Advisor, and his seminar focuses on TPE331 pilot operating tips.
Louis Meiners of Advocate Aircraft rated an average 4.6 for his “Business Flying and Taxes” session, and Eliel received the same rating for his 50-minute “Arrive Alive” session on dealing with weather in the terminal area.
Other University seminar sessions and how they fared among survey respondents:
• “The Twin Commander Ownership Experience”: 4.5
• “Watch Out for Gotchas”: 4.4
• “The New Garmin G600 for Twin Commanders”: 4.4
• “Fuel-Efficient Flying”: 4.4
• “Fleet Support and Upgrades”: 4.3
• “How to Talk to Your Twin Commander Technician”: 4.2
• “Right-Seater Briefing”: 4.2
Some 76 percent of owners at the University turned in completed survey forms on which they evaluated various aspects of the event. The apparent smoothness and ease of the University registration process and the Westin’s convenient location less than two miles from Scottsdale Airpark and next door to fine shopping and dining each earned an average rating of 4.8, with 5.0 being the highest possible rating.
The Westin itself, in particular the service and amenities, earned an average score of 4.9 out of 5. The resort’s staff earned high praise for its attentiveness and service.
“We know Twin Commander owners believe the University to be an important contributor to their overall knowledge of and proficiency with their airplanes,” commented Twin Commander Aircraft President Matt Isley. “The fact that they rated every University session higher than 4 out of a possible 5 says a lot about how targeted and useful the program is to owners. We’re very pleased about that, and also about how highly they praised the venue for the event. We felt the 2009 University was a great success, and the survey responses confirm that.”