Thursday, March 15, 2012

AOPA's Favorite Aircraft Challenge:
Round 1 Southwest Results and Round 2 Predictions

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

The excitement surrounding AOPA's Favorite Aircraft Challenge is starting to build, and as Round One voting in the Southwest Regional comes to a close, Airplanista wanted to know just how such this fantastic, fun project was hatched. Was a bar napkin involved? Did the process to determine the match-ups involve fisticuffs and hair pulling?

The answers to these questions, are of course no, says Alyssa Miller, AOPA's Director of eMedia. “Chris Ward, our vice president of new product development and interactive marketing, is a huge sports fan,” Miller said. “He tossed out an idea during one of our weekly production/creative meetings of hosting an aircraft bracket challenge contest that would coincide with March Madness. There were plenty of skeptics – honestly, I was one of them – but once pilots around the building started chiming in with what aircraft should be included in the 64, the idea really took off.”
Once the idea moved out of the “what if?” phase, the AOPA team got to work on the many levels required to bring such a project to fruition. “After Chris came up with the idea, and we decided to get the ball rolling,” Miller continued, “we divided the project into editorial and production projects. Chris kept the ball moving on the production end, and I worked with him on an editorial plan to encourage daily voting through Aviation eBrief and AOPA Online with weekly recaps in AOPA ePilot. Our social media experts also got involved to promote the challenge through Facebook and different Twitter accounts once it was launched. We also included a teaser in the Pilot Briefing section of Pilot Magazine.”
Let's continue with a recap of the Round 1 voting as of 3/15 and see if I can pick a few winners for Round 2:

ROUND 1 RESULTS – SOUTHWEST REGIONALS: Voting has concluded for this set of contests, and it was a barnburner. In a close one between the Beechcraft Bonanza and Citabria/Decathlon, the Bonanza advanced, but it was closer than many expected. What was not even close was the Cessna Mustang win over the Embraer Phenom 100/300 with the 'Stang grabbing nearly 75% of the votes. The ERCO Ercoupe put up a fantastic fight against the sleek, tough Cessna Corvalis, but the modern composite ship scored the W. And in another close contest, the tough reputation and high dispatch reliability of the Cessna 208 Caravan overtook the experimental Vans RV-10 to advance.

In a blowout, the durable Cessna 210 creamed one of this writer's favorite ships, the Socata TB20 Trinidad, while another high-wing entry from the plains of Kansas, the Cessna 205/206, easily dispatched the Hughes 300/500 helicopter. The Grumman Tiger, a rather rare but noble entrant, was no match against the decades-old reputation of the Cessna 180/185, with the Cessna taildragger making it into the second round easily. And last, the extreme coolness and high-tech functionality of the Cirrus SR-22 could not make a stand against this regional's toughest competitor, the #15 seeded DC-3, which claimed nearly 80% of this vote.
ROUND 2 SOUTHWEST REGIONAL PREDICTIONS: When the second round launches voting March 19 – 22, there will be many contests that will be hard to predict. The Beechcraft Bonanza will face off against the Cessna Mustang, and we see a high probability that the bizjet crowd will come out en massé to send the 'Stang into the third round. The workhorse of the FedEx rural fleet, the Cessna Caravan, faces another Cessna product, the Corvalis, and due to the massive misspelling of the four-place composite airplane (at least to us Oregon residents), expect the Caravan to take this “War in Wichita.”

More Kansas drama unfolds when the Cessna 210 battles its little bro', the 205/206, and not even Nostradamus could pick this one. I give the edge to the 205/206, which advances only because it has...wing struts. And last, in a blowout, the very capable Cessna 180/185 – despite being the ship that carried Jerrie Mock around the world as the first woman to make that journey solo back in 1964 – will not stand a chance against the full-court pressure and incredible offense of the DC-3.
Coming up next, results of first round action in the West Regionals, and based on what happens there, my predictions for Round 2 of those contests.

Remember to get involved in the fun by clicking here to start voting.