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Vintage Airplane Article 2007

The original article appeared in Vintage Airplane - Vol. 35, No. 12 - December 2007.

A Pristine Beech Sundowner
by Keith Greene with Dana Heimos

In early 1997 I started looking for an upgrade in aircraft performance and a possible project to work on.  I had a Beechcraft Sundowner and thought I should move up to a Sierra.  I finally found one I thought would work: a 1970 A24R located in Michigan.  I answered the ad and started the information-gathering stage.  There were some missing logbooks and an admission that the plane had been damaged in an off-airport landing in 1993.  To keep my interest going in the project, I was able to get tons of information from previous owners and Lycoming.

 

The next step was to go to Michigan and look at the plane.  Memorial Day weekend worked fine, so off to Michigan I went.  The plane had a recent paint job when the owner reassembled it in late '96.  It also had a three-blade prop, and the interior had been redone.  It had the look of a good, solid plane that needed a little extra loving.  After a 30-minute flight I was considering an offer.  I took several pictures inside and out and started my journey back to Arkansas.  During the next week, after giving a lot of thought to what I may have to spend to get the aircraft up to my standards, I made an offer based on delivery to Fort Smith, Arkansas.  There was a counteroffer, and a deal was made for delivery in the first part of July.  Two days after the plane was delivered, the air maintenance personnel started doing an annual inspection, and my world went south in a hurry - concealed damage, faulty repairs, illegal logbook entries, and a grounded aircraft by the FAA.  The next seven months were painful times, and each week it seemed that the situation got worse. 

 

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With no help from the FAA and a lawsuit that barely covered the legal expense, I decided to go forward and get the plane back in an airworthy condition.  The engine went back to Lycoming, and Tac Air repaired the aircraft.  The plane was back in the air in February of 1998.  In April of that same year, the nose gear collapsed on a night landing in Clarksville, Arkansas.  We came close to losing the plane to the insurance company, but saved it by paying extra for the repairs.  An engine teardown after 36 hours was a heartbreaker.  By July of '98 it was back in the air again-this time for a good while.  I put 300 hours on the engine and managed to save enough to start the next phase of paint, glass, and interior.

 

I started in the spring of 2004, and it took until December that year to finish the work.  All in all, a close to a seven-year project that produced a lot of pain and anguish, which is forgotten every time I fly the plane.


Keith Greene,  EAA 429541;  Alma, Arkansas

 

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