The past several months have been extraordinarily busy for Cloud Nine. While we haven’t been flying, we have been working on a big change that will lead to other big changes: we’re upgrading aircraft!
In April we sold Sugar Pop, our Cessna 310, and purchased a 1977 Cessna 414. This was not a decision to be taken lightly. The 310 is an extraordinary aircraft, one that is both versatile and economical for its capabilities. Additionally, our 310 was in excellent condition, especially after spending over 5 years maintaining and upgrading it.
Cloud Nine’s Cessna 414
However, I found that we were often turning down missions because of the limitations of the 310. Either the missions took us over the Rocky mountains (which in the 310 was difficult to do on a reliable schedule) or in other cases, the sizes of the dogs would not allow us to fly enough to make the trip worthwhile.
Upgrading to the 414 solves both these problems, along with expanding our capabilities. The 414 is turbocharged and pressurized, which allows us to fly higher and over most weather. The dogs are, of course, always in the cabin with me, so there is no worry of flying too high for them – if the cabin altitude is too high for them, it’s too high for me! Because of the 414′s cabin configuration, we will not only be able to fit more cages, but larger cages, thus allowing us to carry more dogs, and larger dogs. I am conservatively anticipating a 50% increase in capacity, but it may prove higher than that – we will see for certain once we start flying missions.
This particular airplane was an excellent find. With low time on the airframe and having been hangared its whole life (plus being the last year of this particular model), this provides Cloud Nine with a great starting point. The previous owner, who has been flying since the 1940s, has not been flying for the past few years due to medical issues. A friend of mine clued me into the plane’s availability. After a visit, I knew this plane would be an excellent plane that would fit our needs and be within our budget. Although the plane has been sitting for several years, it has been well cared for. I was impressed by how clean it was and by how well everything worked.
It’s official! The previous owner and Ted shaking hands on the deal.
As I type, our new 414 is undergoing the finishing touches on the annual inspection and necessary repairs. Generally when a plane sits for several years, you expect to have a number of things wrong with it. I’m happy to say that, while we did have some things wrong, the overall scope of the annual inspection was far lower than would typically be seen for a plane that had been sitting, a testament to the good care taken of it previously.
Cloud Nine’s 414 Getting Ready to Hit the Skies!
We have put a number of new parts on the airplane, some of which have been mandatory due to them being broken, and some of which have been optional but replaced for reliability, safety, or efficiency purposes. We have put in new fine-wire spark plugs, a new vacuum pump, a new LED taxi light, new battery, two new fuel tanks (this plane has 6!), and also overhauled both airspeed indicators and one fuel selector, among other items in our efforts to bring the 414 back to the skies.
We have been very fortunate to have several companies who have been generous enough to discount or donate parts to Cloud Nine in order to help us get our 414 into the sky so that we can start flying missions. It’s worth noting that when I ask a company for a discount or donation, it’s because I believe they make the best product. I don’t want to compromise on quality for Cloud Nine’s airplane, because quality parts ultimately make the plane more reliable and more efficient. If you own or maintain a plane, I’d recommend looking into the products all of these companies have to offer. I personally endorse them not only because of their I want to take a moment to thank the companies who have helped us by donating or discounting parts to help us get the 414 up and flying:
I am planning to pick the 414 up later this week from our shop, with its first rescue flight scheduled in the very near future! To say I’m excited is an understatement – I’m ecstatic that we are making this change that will allow us to make a greater impact with our missions.
As always, and especially now, we need your help to make our missions happen! As with any aircraft, we expect to have parts fail needing replacement. Additionally, the avionics and flight instruments in this airplane are ancient (they were installed about the time I was born – that is not an exaggeration). Certain upgrades to these are required to meet upcoming FAA mandates, and additional upgrades will need to be made to improve the capability of the aircraft and increase the number of airports we can land at.
Look for more entries in this multi-part blog series talking about our upgrade and what else this means for Cloud Nine, as well as mission stories!