TWTT Sportsman: What Kind of a Job Are They Doing?


I recently got to do a pre-first flight inspection on a Sportsman right out of the 2-Weeks-To-Taxi (TWTT) program. It belongs to Richard Eastman, and it is the number two customer TWTT plane. The plane arrived on an open flatbed trailer completely shrink wrapped. Yeah, really! It was completely wrapped in white plastic. It was quite a sight.


Here is my view of what he got for his two weeks of work.

After unwrapping the plane and filling a dumpster can with plastic wrap we started checking it out. Right away I noticed a number of improvements over my Sportsman. The wingfold hatches have been enlarged to eliminate the little covers that go over the holes where the flap tracks went when you folded the wings with the old-style Sportsman fuselage. The drip pans have also been completely redesigned. These are substantial improvements. Next I noticed that the door hinges have been set in special depressions in the fuselage, which are designed to make them easier to place. The hinges themselves have also been improved. The C-type hinges on the back door have now been replaced with front door-type exposed hinges, which should be much stronger. Next the front door latches have been completely redesigned. They now use four pins such as are found on the rear door to secure each front door in place — no more door dogs and rods running all over the place. The general quality of the fiberglass work is also significantly better than before. They have been listening.

The new plug-and-play wiring system looks good. I can see where a job that used to take days can now be done in a few hours. Without this wiring system and the new semi-standardized panels the TWTT program would not be possible. The panel the Richard got, which is I suppose what you would call light IFR, looks sharp. Needless to say it is all electric.

The firewall-forward installation of the big Lycoming IO-390 engine is also nicely done. I had only a few minor gripes and one small but important one where a screw had been run into the alternator field wire due to too little clearance.

The interior is standard North Country Interiors issue in light grey. Billie Buckingham does a nice job for Glasair customers. What wasn’t upholstered was painted in gray Zolatone.

The TWTT airplanes come out unpainted and unprepared for paint. There is a fair bit of prep work that will be required before any color goes on, but that is as advertised. A little skill and a lot of elbow grease will solve that problem, or you can pay someone else to do it. This is an area that TWTT customers will have to give some attention to if they want their new planes to look sharp. It would be a mistake to think you are going to be able to get a cheap paint job on one of these planes and have it come out OK. It’s not going to happen.

Was Richard’s plane perfect when it came off the truck? Well, no. It had three defects that needed our attention. The worst one was from the trip down from Arlington. 1,200 mile of being shaken by Interstate 5 had taken its toll on the elevator counterweight ribs. Both were severely cracked from the trip. We had to make extensive repairs on both ribs, and we are looking at replacing them in the future. Mikael Via and the guys are revising the packing crate to alleviate this problem. The other two were fairly minor, one being the previously mentioned damaged wire, and the last being some overstretched springs on the tail wheel steering cables. I would say that all things considered that is pretty good. There were also a few items that simply were not quite finished, but these were easily remedied as part of our inspection routine.

My last gripe was that an old style 121.5 MHz ELT was installed instead of a new 406 MHz unit. I know Mikael is trying to keep the cost down, but I disagree with his decision on this one item. The old unit will be junk in less than two years. This just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Was I impressed with the quality and quantity of work completed in two weeks? Yes, I was. Overall quality and completion are very good, even impressive. Things are well thought out and generally well executed.

Everyone’s first impression of the work was very positive.

The Glasair team is to be commended for pulling this off. I for one wasn’t sure they could do it, but the really did. The other nice thing is that they are fixing and improving things as they go along. The improvements they have already made will be a benefit to everyone who goes through the TWTT program or buys a kit. This is light years ahead of what we got with the GlaStar.

Mikael wants this to work and work well. I phoned him on a Saturday about the shipping problem with the elevator and he had guys working on fixing it by the following Monday morning. He is listening and making things better.

No one else has anything like this program. Few TWTT customers likely really appreciate what a unique experience this is, but having done it the hard way, I can see the value and potential in this. It is really amazing.

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Dave Prizio
Dave has so far completed three airplanes—a GlaStar, a Glasair Sportsman, and a Texas Sport Cub. He is currently building his second GlaStar, kit #5062. When he isn't building something, he shares his love of aviation with others by flying Young Eagles or volunteering as an EAA Technical Counselor. He is also an A&P mechanic, Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR), and a member of the EAA Homebuilt Aircraft Council and a regular contributor at Kitplanes Magazine.