The Rockwell Commander first flew in 1970, by which time Aero Commander was an in-house division of Rockwell, and was intended to be a modern take on the complex single. With a roomy cockpit, a mid-mounted horizontal stabiliser for easy inspection and sleek lines, the Commander cut a distinctly contemporary profile next to its competition such as the Mooney M20 and Beech Bonanza, largely conceived in the 1950s.
However, the Commander had a difficult first few years. Several problems with the original 112, including a problematic tail and poorly fitting fibreglass doors, led to modifications adding weight to the aircraft. As such, the revised design was slower than intended and had a comparatively long take off roll. Later versions, such as the 112TC and 114, largely solved these issues with more power and continued in production until 1980, when Rockwell closed the line after producing 1306 aircraft.
In spite of its initial problems and average speed, the Commander is well liked by owners for its comfort and is often described as the “Mercedes of the sky”. High wing loading results in very stable flight, and long travel trailing arm undercarriage disguises a less than perfect landing.
The Commander had a second lease of life in 1992 when Commander Aircraft recommenced production, and introduced extensive improvements including a streamlined cowling, improved soundproofing and a luxury interior. Around 200 114B and 114TC were produced until production ceased in 2002.
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