Robert Melnick of Denver got the surprise of a lifetime on February 5 when Phil Boyer, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, presented him with the grand prize in AOPA’s Commander Countdown Sweepstakes for 2005: a completely refurbished 1974 Commander 112A aircraft.
“I’m completely flabbergasted!” said Melnick, soon after being told that he was the aircraft’s new owner. “I’ve never won anything.”
The Denver jetCenter at Centennial Airport provided hangar space and assistance leading up to the giveaway. Melnick, 50, and Alexandra, his 15-year-old daughter, arrived at the FBO that bright and windy Sunday morning, believing they had been selected to appear in an AOPA promotional video. Within minutes, Melnick was shaking his head in disbelief as Boyer handed him the keys to the airplane.
“There’s one person I have to call,” said Melnick.
Glen Endsley, a fellow AOPA member who was Melnick’s high school math teacher and the flight instructor for his first flight nearly 30 years ago, answered the call right away.
“You’re not going to believe this,” Melnick said. “The airplane AOPA is giving away–the Commander–I just won it, so we can go again!”
Melnick, who works as a sales manager for a local Porsche Audi dealer, lost a leg as a teenager but went on to learn to fly. He’s since chalked up nearly 350 hours of flight time, and he recently sold his interest in a 1977 Cessna T210.
“I flew that 210 nearly 100 hours and was sad when I had to let it go,” he said.
AOPA Pilot Associate Editor Steve Ells, who oversaw the Commander project, took Melnick and his daughter for a quick flight around the airport’s traffic pattern. Winning the Commander reenergized Alexandra’s desire to fly.
“I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend than to win an airplane,” she said.
The Commander boasts a state-of-the-art “glass cockpit” from Chelton Flight Systems, all new avionics from Garmin, a factory-overhauled engine from Textron Lycoming and a completely updated look, thanks to a paint job designed by Scheme Designers and executed by Master Aircraft Painters. More than 50 companies or organizations contributed time, effort, materiel and expertise to make the Commander Sweepstakes a success. (A complete list of vendors is available at www.aopa.org/sweeps/2005/contributors.html.
Better luck next time
For its 2006 sweepstakes, AOPA is giving away a fully refurbished 260-hp 1967 Piper Cherokee Six. Thanks to numerous contributors, the airplane is going through the first stages of its transformation from a well-used family wagon to a luxury travel machine with the latest in avionics, engine and airframe speed modifications.
The aircraft will be on display during AOPA Day at the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In and throughout the weeklong fly-in and air show, April 4-10, in Lakeland, Fla. Would-be winners can also see it at the AOPA Fly-In and Open House on June 3 at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Md.; at EAA AirVenture, July 24-30, in Oshkosh, Wis.; and at AOPA Expo, Nov. 9-11, in Palm Springs, Calif.
Anyone who joins or renews membership in AOPA during 2006 is automatically entered in the Win a Six in ’06 Sweepstakes. Complete rules, eligibility requirements and alternate methods of entry are available at www.aopa.org/sweeps/officialrules.html. Anyone interested can track the progress of the 2006 Sweepstakes restoration online at [http://www.aopa.org/sweeps].