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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 20:26   #21 (permalink)
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Very cool story, and yes, only in the Midwest! Ah I miss being Stateside....

Videos are fantastic. Sound of the takeoff is epic. You'd know what that was if it flew overhead.
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 22:40   #22 (permalink)
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Before 1958 (I think it is) and the introduction of the 500 version, the Commanders didn't come with the stainless steel/aluminum wing spar sandwich which caused galvanic corrosion and is subject to a 36 month inspection still (unless your remove it with an STC), so the early 520's and 560's don't need it thankfully. I do however have to subject it to a 5year/500hrs prop inspection, which is quite costly. Thankfully mine was done 160 hrs ago and has some time left on it.

I'll look into the autolean feature. Most experts have warned me not to ever lean manually, as it cooks the motors when you add your own lean on top of the barometric autolean system. Perhaps with good monitoring, like a JPI system, one could combine the two for optimum performance.
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Old 22nd Feb 2011, 23:31   #23 (permalink)
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I have flown a 690B. It had Dash engines and performed like a ballistic missile which would outclimb many light jets.
Speed was 290 kts, 100 kts over the fence! Bags of character with quite a cosy cockpit.
An ergonomic nightmare Down side wirh the Dash engines was the engine and prop noise was like a hammer drill. Pilots seats were better Pax areas would give you a headache.
The one I flew had a nasty wingdrop in the stall but that may have been unique to that particular aircraft.
Having said all that loved it as many do for its looks, quirkiness, speed and climb rate as well as its strong build.

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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 02:06   #24 (permalink)
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Yeah, the 690's are rockets, I've heard. Especially with the dash 10 engines. I'd love to have a turbine one day. The earlier 690's had the dash 5 engines and I can't exactly remember what it was, but they have a pretty limited TBO for a turbine or something. There's even a 680V, which was the first turbine they released in the mid 60's. They can be had for not much money, but once again the engines are slightly problematic.
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 07:39   #25 (permalink)
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You're right that is John's machine. AFAIK he still flies it and he is well past his ninetieth birthday. I remember him setting off for Argentina in her when I was a young pilot and he set several distance records in her.

There was a rumour around Elstree a few years ago that when he dies the CAA won't allow the aircraft to go anywhere else due to the number of unapproved mods (boots?)

SNS3 is very right about the icing, no aircraft has scared me as much in ice as the Commander.

I flew over Cambridge on Monday morning in the helicopter and actually called to ask if the aircraft I could see taxiing was a Commander. According to the controller they have two based there.

Such a shame that G-AWOE is the last of her type on the UK register.
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Old 25th Feb 2011, 13:27   #26 (permalink)
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What a fantastic story! I've always loved the Aerocommanders. Even more complicated than an Airbus

My dream has always been a 680FP - folding gear in flat nacelles and 5000psi hydraulics!
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Old 25th Feb 2011, 13:43   #27 (permalink)

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Yeah, the 690's are rockets, I've heard. Especially with the dash 10 engines. I'd love to have a turbine one day. The earlier 690's had the dash 5 engines and I can't exactly remember what it was, but they have a pretty limited TBO for a turbine or something.
The -10's are good engines until something goes wrong, and then you may think you have a parachute on the wing instead of an engine. The -5's give good performance; the airplane responds quickly and flies very nicely on the -5's.

They're not "dash" engines, incidentally. Today they're Honeywell engines, though most still refer to them as Garretts The engine is a TPE-331, with various dash numbers denoting model variations. Thus, the -10 is actually a TPE-331-10, etc.

The TPE-331 is one of the most complex turboprop powerplants out there. Unlike the the Pratt PT6, it gives nearly instant power response, but it can also be a much bigger liability if something goes wrong (and there's more to go wrong).
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Old 28th Feb 2011, 20:59   #28 (permalink)
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520, straight 560, and 680E


Thanks for posting this story! I hope I get to see you two another time, and it sure looks like she is in good hands.

Did you noticed on the video how you can even see the sparks coming out of the exhaust?

Just a clarification, John Houlder's AC is a 680E, which is the same bird Jim Bob has. They have a longer fuselage (10.75 inches) than your bird, and the "E" stands for Extended wings (49 ft instead of 44), plus a whole lot more power: they have GSO-480s, Geared Supercharged (mechanical) developing 340 HP (think how your gas bill would have been with this bird).

Remember that the 720 Alticruiser was basically a 680E with a pressurized cabin and all the supercharged model have de-ice boots. Barry Colleman would be the one to ask which other "bath-tub" nacelles Commanders have them. All the flat nacelles ones have the option of de-ice boots or TKS system.

Since you took such great pictures of your bird, I will share my Dad's straight 1955 (and you will see why 527P is so dear to me as well...); same as the 520 but with GO-480B rated Max 270 Hp. with the swept tail, but same fuselage and wingspan.

I'm new to this site, and I can't attach photos, although Adam obviously managed... meanwhile here is a link to them:


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Old 1st Mar 2011, 00:32   #29 (permalink)
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Wonderful pictures, Peter! And thanks again for coming out to see her off.

What was the reason behind your dads gear up?
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Old 1st Mar 2011, 02:23   #30 (permalink)
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I like the 'augmentator tubes' at the exhaust, a bit like the aircraft equivalent of a Harley Davidson.
Do they actually augment anything, apart from the noise?
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Old 1st Mar 2011, 03:32   #31 (permalink)

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Augmenter tubes augment airflow through the nacelle; they use exhaust gas passing through the augmenter tube as a jet pump to draw more cooling air through the nacelle, and specifically to direct that cooling air for more accurate, efficient intracowl airflow (cooling airflow inside the cowling).

Exhaust gasses are directed through the augmenter tube. and both the exhaust gas flow and the positioning of the tube itself draw air from inside the engine nacelle and cowl area into the augmenter tube to increase, direct, and assist airflow.
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Old 25th Mar 2011, 16:11   #32 (permalink)
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YV-ABE belly up


From what I understand it was a hydraulic failure (most likely a complete line rupture). Jim Metzger posted several times warning Commander pilots on this issue (@matronics.com):

"As soon as the first engine is started, pull the breaker and do no push in until the next start. It is not in the POH but should be. We have been advocating this for years and I have had two members call me to thank me. They were able to manage a complete hyd failure..."

then the issue came up again (Jim M.):
" THIS SHOULD BE A REMINDER TO ALL THE FLAT NACELLED COMMANDER DRIVERS. NEVER LEAVE THE GROUND WITH THE AUX HYD PUMP CIRCUIT BREAKER IN, NEVER, EVER! Even with a ruptured line, there should easily be enough fluid to control the airplane until it stops. The breaker should not be pushed in until the mains are on the ground. There is about 2 pints of fluid in the reservoir below the stand pipe. Of course the offending line would render that brake useless, but the steering would work. It would still be an emergency for sure! ...

... Inspect all of them and dont kid yourself. If they have any corrosion, change them out... DOING THIS (pulling aux hyd) ASSURES THAT THERE WILL BE ENOUGH FLUID FOR BRAKES AND STEERING. PLEASE, LETS STOP BEING STUBBORN ABOUT THIS BEFORE ANOTHER AIRPLANE IS LOST!

Don't really know if my Dad new about this trick... unfortunately I was too young!

Take care,
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Old 16th Apr 2011, 04:29   #33 (permalink)
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Just passed my Multi Engine checkride here in So Cal, so getting closer to flying her home by the day now. Tough as nails Vietnam vet as the examiner who didn't give me an inch up there. I made tons of mistakes, but in the end, and to my own surprise, he was happy enough with me to give me the rating.

Next is some instruction in type (after all the repairs have been done) and I should be good to fly her back to her new home. Hopefully in the next two weeks or so.
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Old 16th Apr 2011, 07:19   #34 (permalink)
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What a great story. Well done. You have a PM.
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Old 30th Jun 2011, 07:54   #35 (permalink)
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Well, here's a little update for anyone that cares.

After being in the shop for almost 4 months, I was getting very anxious to get her out of there. I suppose I wasn't mentally prepared for just how long everything takes with aircraft. A week can go by just whilst you're waiting on some silly part to be sent...

Getting forced out of the shop by an overly keen new owner..

Finally, Morris, the mechanic, said she was getting close. We got a hold of an instructor with some Aero Commander time and he came up with me (IO - we flew a Trinidad there and back). But it didn't work out for various reasons. I knew it was time to call JimBob again who'd helped me ferry it back from Detroit. He's not a certified instructor, but you can't find anyone with more experience in these aircraft.

Had to be jump-started during all tests, as battery was crap. The joys of old aircraft...

JimBob flew down to meet me in Northern California and I'd promised to fly him back up to Washington and get familiar with the aircraft along the way. On the way up the left generator quit, which was annoying, but thankfully I had one more.

Old school, to say the least. I swear that tumbling big AI is original...and it's terrible.

Long story short, the training and familiarisation process contained amongst other things: shutting one engine off and landing feathered, doing insane short grass strip landing and t/o and tons of normal t/o's and landings until it felt right. After half a day it was time to do my first solo takeoff and it went pretty well, if I may say so myself. The weather was terrible. We did most of my circuits in about 800ft ceilings and it was wet, wet, wet.

Up in the wet Washington/Oregon area, one has to contend with drizzle and 800ft ceilings. Feels just like ole Blighty..

Anyway, after JimBob deemed me capable enough not to kill myself, I was let go. Battling with myself, I launched from Portland to the west as the weather looked slightly less c**p that way. It would be an all too familar read in the NTSB report: "Inexperienced pilot, little time in the aircraft, CFIT, etc". I didn't want to be that guy, but at the same time I was dying to get to fly her, on my own, just us, not anyone babbling in my ear telling me what to do. But first I had to get out of Jim's narrow strip with all his ex-Navy and retired Pan Am airline pilot neighbours watching me. I managed, but it was probably not too pretty.

After about 3 hrs of weaving and bobbing around in the valleys of Oregon, I had to give up and land at Roseburg. I'd not come very far in my journey - it had mainly consisted of going down a valley, chickening out and turning into that CFIT guy I desperately wanted not to be. Anxiety ran high. But I wasn't giving up quite yet. Evening was coming and I thought I'd give it one last poke. I found a opening towards the Pacific and managed to snake my way to the coast, but by this time it was almost dark. I tried to get south, but it was jammed with clouds into the sea. I landed at a little field by the coast called Cape Blanco, but soon realised it was nothing there that could provide for me for the night (note to self; always have a sleeping bag in the aircraft, always have some dry food and always keep a warm jacket or pullover there), so I launched to the next one north which was Bandon State. Refuelled and decided this wasn't much better, so I fired up with the aim to go north again to the next really big airport, Oregon State. By now it was dark and and as I taxied out my landing lights, taxi lights and all the interior lights went black! That was a sign as good as any that there'd be no more flying that day. I could barely see the taxiway as I taxied back to the apron.

I managed to rustle up the last motel in Bandon, only to find there was no taxi service in the whole town. I walked about 3 miles in pitch blackness until finally the friendly town cop took pity on me and drove me into town.

Next day, the weather looked slightly better, but not by much. I launched south following the coast. The wet Pacific air that comes in can only rise as the coast is so rugged, so it turns into low lying clouds immediately. It's stunningly beautiful, but not flying friendly. I tracked the coast, bobbed and weaved, often with a mist layer below me and an overcast above and barely any sight of land. The hum of two engines was reassuring and I'd never have dared on one. Finally there was a wall of clouds going down to the sea. It looked a little bit better out towards the ocean, but even with two engines, I'm not brave enough to do a 50nm mile detour, half empty tanks, not knowing if I can make it back into shore on the other side... It was turnaround time. The three airports I'd passed were all impossible to get into with the clouds, as they nestled in the hills. Finally I got into Little River, fuelled up an sat it out. Not a soul in sight on any of these smaller airports.

A Coast Guard Hercules thundered by and I asked him over the radio how it looked towards the south and he said it was getting better, so I decided to give it another try. As I came closer to San Francisco, the same bl**dy wall into the ocean again. Standard procedure in SF, I might add - weather is always crap there. But there was just a hole big enough to fit a Commander through towards the inland, so I took my chances with that wormhole. And lo and behold - inland was pretty clear and the trip back to Stockton was uneventful.

The aircraft ran like a Swiss watch. Not a hickup. If you don't count the electrics, that is. Or the generator... Don't know what the problem is, but the annual is due soon so that will be dealt with then. More downtime to look forward to!

So, how is she to fly? She stores energy really well and a 500ft climb is just a pull back - don't have to touch the throttles or anything. Very stable and much better on one engine than the Seneca I trained on, which surprised me as this is much heavier. My approcahes were always dead on, something I'm not known for being good at with the Cessnas... She's just stable as a rock and makes your job easier. Insane rudder control with that big paddle and we did some slips that could rival a Cub's. And JimBob did a short field t/o that blew me away: 3/4 flap and pull back fully aft on the yoke as soon as she rolls and she's off the ground at about 45kts. I couldn't believe it - pretty impressive for such a big bird. In cruise, I pulled back on the power and ran her about 20-22" and 2500 rpm (geared engines, so the RPM is higher than on direct drives) and this gave about 140kts in speed and about 29gph. This is at sea level - up high I think it would be more like 23gph. Knuckles to the firewall, she does about 160kts in ideal conditions. Certainly not the fastest twin around, but not the slowest either. 23gph isn't bad - I know a few Bonanzas that burn that!

I put 13 hours on her solo in these two first days and I have another 5 planned for tomorrow. It's great to build up the confidence in her and get a "feel" for everything. I trust the main systems completely, now I just wish the electrics and that old tumbling ancient AI could be dealt with.. All in due time. It's easy to try to do too much and all at once. I'll fly her with her avionics and instruments as is for a while and not overextend myself. Just buying gas will take care of that for you all by itself - I'm skint after these two days!

Other problems: We had a broken tach angle reduction gear on the right engine, and that was the reason she burned so much oil. Or at least that's what we thought. Right engine still burns a bit too much oil (albeit less than before) and it spits it out on the nacelle and it streaks back. A quick drain is leaking, so that could perhaps be the cause, but it could be a ring as well. The annual will tell. Tomorrow I will fly down to Aircraft Spruce in Corona and buy some 120W thick oil to see if that helps. Engine runs great, has great compression and produces great power, so somehow I don't believe it's anything fatal.

Here's a very patchy video of my trip back (as I was too busy weaving and bobbing to capture much), but please don't ridicule for the unintentional wink - I was chewing a mint to calm my nerves.

Last edited by AdamFrisch; 4th Jul 2011 at 19:16.
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Old 1st Jul 2011, 07:36   #36 (permalink)
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Thanks Silvaire. Once I'd made my way out to the coast, the door slammed shut behind me. The next day I was tracking a curtain of solid clouds for hundreds of miles. Thankfully I finally found a hole or else it would have been to turn around for the second time that day. And although in America there's an airport every 5 miles, by the coast that's not always the case. They're pretty sparse up there, limiting one's options.

So I think the lesson to be had is that if you really need to go places VFR in these parts, it' best to do so inland and over the desert where the weather normally is CAVOK. The coast is always a bit treacherous. But my god is it pretty.
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Old 1st Jul 2011, 18:26   #37 (permalink)
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The view is indeed very pretty up there Thanks for this wonderful story. I bet it makes many of us who don't have their own plane yet think about getting one too now
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Old 1st Jul 2011, 20:27   #38 (permalink)
Join Date: Sep 2006
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I made it to Corona but like a moron uplifted fuel at El Monte just before I left for over $6.40/gal! I need to pay more attention. In fact, I have no excuse as on my little Foreflight app it gives you the low and high fuel prices at various fields.

I also thought that I'd, in the benefit of full disclosure, would share the costs of owning so far. All these numbers are really hard to get by when you're looking to buy for some reason - it's as if people are cagey and keep that info to themselves. Maybe they're afraid of being labelled as rich bastards that can afford such a frivolous hobby, or something. If I can dispel that in any way, that will be my mission. I want every pilot to own an aircraft! I'm not rich, but I have a decent salary. If I can afford it, anyone with a normal to good job could. Granted, this might not be the case in Europe, where the cost of ownership is slightly higher, but still doable.

Her total bill for all the things that I wanted rectified: $11,864. That's not bad at all. On top of that I bought a new battery for $607 and spent $2200 on pre-buy inspection, $1500 on ferry flying and finally $2700 on instruction (and I got taken for a ride there - could have been done for $700). Plus the Avgas, which probably amounts to $3000 so far. She's in for her annual now and that will obviously add extra, but most of the squawks have already been addressed, so it's mainly a case of opening up all the inspection lids and making sure she's safe. I don't expect the annual to cost much more than $4-5000.

So to recap, the total so far (excluding the annual) has been: $21,871.

Of course it's a lot of money, but cheaper than a coke habit And I know people who are into racing, motocross, go-carting, horses, vacations, boating etc who spend far more than that a year.

Last edited by AdamFrisch; 1st Jul 2011 at 20:43.
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Old 1st Jul 2011, 22:28   #39 (permalink)
Join Date: Dec 2004
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Thanks for the update,
What does it look like inside, can you post some photos of the interior. You mentioned it was a 5 seater, but I can't imagine the layout.
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Old 2nd Jul 2011, 05:11   #40 (permalink)
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I'm afraid I don't have any. I'll try to take some when I next pick her up.
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