|This Twin's No Copy Cat|
|Written by Stacy Ganzer|
From the beginning,” says Daniel DiMattei, “I had an image in mind of how I wanted my Comanche to look. Nothing flashy, definitely not a “copy cat”—something that would reflect how I felt about flying and the image behind the Twin Comanche name.”
As a friend of Daniel’s pointed out recently, he is a “very humble, honorable and down-to-earth” man who would not have told his own story. However, by his own admission, Daniel does know what he wants in an airplane. He has been flying for two years and bought his 1966 PA-30B Turbo Twin Comanche, which he has dubbed his “TwinCo,” on February 1, 2006.
“After researching planes to buy for more than 19 months—from single-engine new and used, to used twin-engines—the Twin Comanche was by far the clear choice,” Daniel says. “It is extremely economical to run, with a respectable 167 knots true at cruise and only 8 gallons an hour per side. It made sense for me to own a twin that is fast and burns a gallon or two more than a single at these speeds.” He also adds that his plane is comfortable and enjoyable when he flies from his house in Long Island, New York to his other house in Spruce Creek, Florida.
The TwinCo was “truly a lucky find” for Daniel, who holds single and multi-engine ratings. The plane had 3,900 hours TTAF (total time airframe) and 280 hours on the right and left Lycoming engine remans when he bought it. It had just gone through an extensive annual that cost $43,000 (paid for by the previous owner).
Daniel’s Twinco was also equipped with a Robertson STOL kit when he bought it. Although he hasn’t had the opportunity to land on a short field or grass strip, Daniel finds it a nice feature to have, just in case. He also appreciates the additional 200 pound gross, despite the 8-10 mph average speed decrease. According to Daniel, because “the components only add 22-26 lbs,” useful load is increased to 175 lbs. He adds that the kit provides a final approach landing speed of 80 to 95 mph, but isn’t something he uses. He doesn’t need the decrease in speed, because the Vmca (minimum control speed) is already 90 mph.
By now you might be asking yourself, if the TwinCo is such a great plane why did Daniel do anything to it? Daniel’s response to that very question is, “I knew my TwinCo’s previous owner had taken pristine care of the plane and every penny I put into an upgrade would be money well spent. I don’t intend on selling it and I wanted it to reflect my image of flying.”
When it came time for the various upgrades—which included propeller Q-tips, all new custom-designed cream leather, new headliners, new walls, navy blue carpet, state-of-the-art avionics, a fresh coat of paint and custom airbrush detailing on the tail—Daniel did his homework. His philosophy, which holds true for so many aircraft owners, is “you get what you pay for.”
The tail art of Daniel’s TwinCo speaks volumes to that philosophy. Daniel contacted various airbrush artists before finally meeting Chris Cruz. “In just a few short conversations,” Daniel says, “he created exactly what I pictured.” Daniel considers Chris “a humble master of artistry” and a true professional with an incredible talent for bringing images to life.” Daniel’s tail artwork contains mirrored Native American faces set against a backdrop of clouds and a flowing American flag. A bald eagle flying between the twin Natives completes the majestic image and adds a decidedly patriotic flavor.
In Daniel’s words, “The eagle is a symbol of strength and superiority in flight. Chris brought the eagle image to the foreground in an almost 3-D effect to make just that statement. Knowing Comanche warriors were very spiritual, Chris ghosted their images in the clouds and faded in the image of the American flag—the symbol that can only mean that there is no greater country in which to live.”
There was a completion timeline of three and a half months, and the work only took two weeks longer than Daniel anticipated. Would he do anything differently? Daniel says: “No. The work done on my plane and the professionals involved in the makeover more than met my expectations. I have a plane that reflects my image of flight. And every time I look out at the wing, I say to myself—‘I’m flying! This is my plane, and I’m flying!’”
Daniel notes that the plane has approximately $60,000 in avionics, $20,000 in paint that doesn’t include the tail art and $14,000 for the interior. When asked if he would be making any future modifications, Daniel says he plans on installing a new instrument panel face.
In response to his favorite thing about flying, Daniel quoted Wilbur Wright: “More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.”