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Gulf Coast Avionics Donates Equipment to CAF Aircraft.


The upgrade project will deliver state-of-the-art touchscreen technology and ADS-B compliance to the B-29 Superfortress FIFI and the last airworthy example of the six L-26B Aero Commander 560 piston twins that served as “Air Force One” during the Eisenhower administration.

**Lakeland, FL (July 15, 2019) ** — Rick Garcia, President, and CEO of Gulf Coast Avionics, announced today that the company is donating the engineering and avionics to complete an ADS-B compliant Garmin avionics upgrade solution for the Commemorative Air Force’s (CAF) L-26B Aero Commander aircraft. Affectionately known as Ike’s Bird, it is the last flying piston-twin to ever serve as “Air Force One.”

“We are extremely proud to have the opportunity to take part in this vital effort to develop the ADS-B upgrade for a truly unique and historic aircraft,” Garcia said. “It may be the smallest airplane to ever wear the designation of Air Force One, but any aircraft that carries the President of the United States plays a large part in the history of aviation and our country.”

“The CAF and GCA are far more aligned than some may think,” stated David Oliver, Chief Operating Officer, Commemorative Air Force. “We are both dedicated to seeing the next generation succeed. Our mission is to Educate, Inspire, and Honor through Flight. We are deeply committed to keeping these historic aircraft flying and would not be able to do that without partners like Gulf Coast Avionics.”

“The CAF strives to maintain authenticity with these historic airplanes, but there are very practical reasons to update to today’s avionics. The CAF wants to fly and share these airplanes well into the future,” stated Gerald Oliver, Aircraft Director for the Ike’s Bird Program. “With the advanced Garmin avionics provided by GCA, we will be able to maintain the safest flight possible for our passengers and better secure the aircraft for future generations.”

Gulf Coast Avionics all-Garmin next-generation upgrade includes: • Garmin GTN750 COM/NAV/GPS with 6.9” TFT Touchscreen display • Garmin GTX345 All-In-One ADS-B Transponder with wireless connectivity to the Garmin Pilot app • Garmin GNC225A NAV/COM • Custom-built wiring harnesses • Design, installation and technical support.

“While it no longer serves our country in an official capacity, this special Aero Commander still proudly wears its U.S. Air Force White House livery, representing it’s very important role in our country,” Garcia said. “Its primary mission is to honor our veterans by providing Victory Flights for Veterans who may otherwise find it difficult to climb into and out of ex-military aircraft.”

“There are few aircraft in the world as recognizable or symbolic as the B-29, and we are proud to have the opportunity to be able to assist in the modernization of FIFI’s avionics so that this iconic aircraft not only meets the 2020 ADS-B compliance deadline but continues years of safe operations,” Garcia stated. “We are honored to do our part to keep FIFI flying.”

“Rick Garcia and his team at Gulf Coast Avionics are strong supporters of the CAF’s mission to educate the next generation,” stated David Oliver, Chief Operating Officer, Commemorative Air Force. “Their long-time support embodies the spirit of seeing young people not only get involved in aviation but find meaningful careers and success in life.”

With regards to the installation in the B-29, Garcia explained that the challenge to the Gulf Coast Avionics engineering and technical teams is to integrate the new-generation Garmin G5 EADI and EHSI with the touchscreen GTN 650’s in a way that provides exceptional situational awareness to the flight crews without taking too much away from the historic significance of the B-29’s cockpit.

“Flying a B-29 is complex enough without having to worry about how to tune your radios,” he said. “The all-Garmin solution will reduce the crew's workload while helping them safely navigate and operate from any airport.”

Gulf Coast Avionics all-Garmin B-29 ADS-B compliant avionics upgrade includes: • Dual pilot and co-pilot Garmin G5 Electronic ADI and HSI display units • Dual Garmin GTN 650 COM/NAV/GPS TFT Touchscreen displays • Garmin GTX345 All-In-One ADS-B Transponder with wireless connectivity to the Garmin Pilot app • Custom-built wiring harnesses • Design, installation and technical support.

About Ike’s Bird In 1955, the original factory drawing for Aero Commander, serial number 55-4638 was titled “Ike’s Bird,” and the name stuck. The government ordered 15 twin-engine Aero Commanders. A fleet of six Commander L-26s was assigned to the White House and used exclusively by President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, Cabinet and government officials, Secret Service, family and White House staff. The airplane has the distinction of being the smallest aircraft ever to carry the “Air Force One” call sign.

Many stories recount occasions when President Eisenhower, a pilot trained during World War II, would take the controls of the Aero Commander and enjoy an opportunity to fly.

In 1960, Ike’s Bird 55-4638 was declared surplus and sold out of Air Force inventory. After that, it was used in a variety of training and freight hauling capacities, until eventually falling into disrepair. The aircraft was purchased by Scott Main of Fort Lauderdale, FL in 1997. He spent many years restoring the airplane back to pristine condition as an original L-26B White House aircraft.

In 2019, the aircraft was acquired by the Commemorative Air Force, which proudly displays the airplane at airshows, tour stops, and special events around the country. The general public may purchase rides on this authentic Air Force One. Ride proceeds, along with donations to the Victory Flights for Veterans program will go to support free flights for veterans as a way to honor their service to our nation.

For more information about Ike’s Bird, visit: www.ikesbird.org.

About Gulf Coast Avionics Founded in 1984 and located at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida, and with offices worldwide, Gulf Coast Avionics is a major supplier of avionics, instruments and pilot supplies to customers around the world. GCA is an FAA-approved Class 1, 2 and 3/Limited Instrument Repair Station #UB4R564M. The company offers a full-array of avionics installation and repair services for certificated and kit-built aircraft. For a copy of their catalog or for more information, visit: www.GCA.aero.

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