A Top-Notch Restoration Down Under

By Darek Sygidus

Darek posing with his fabulous upgraded Arrow III.

I have had a passion for aviation since I was a kid. I loved mili­tary aircraft and always made models. As I got older, I started with some basic remote-control planes, but I let it go to fin­ish school and socialize. I started a business here in Australia with my brother in commercial structural steel, and in 2006, we began racing jet sprint boats, which we continued doing for 13 years. I became an Australian champion in the Group A field in 2011, and then we moved into the Superboat Class. I raced until COVID-19 hit, and then racing ceased for nearly two years.

In 2020, I spoke to a friend who was a pilot in the ’90s. He said, “Why don’t you give flying a go?” and he passed his books and flight computer on to me. I tried to book a trial instruc­tional flight (TIF) with a school, but a couple weeks later they were in lockdown. So I found another flight school, InterAir at Essendon Airport Melbourne (YMEN). I took my first TIF with Norm, an InterAir pilot, and I was hooked.

I started my training and got my recreational pilot license (RPL). Then I juggled training with work, and now I have com­pleted my PPL and am flying a lot.

Maybe the Fastest Plane Sale in History?

The story of how I found and bought my plane is a bit un­usual, to say the least. I had booked a Cessna 172 training air­craft to take my wife to Tooradin Airport (YTDN) for lunch at a restaurant called Wings and Fins, a fly-in seafood restau­rant in Western Port Melbourne. The weather was perfect, but when we arrived to take the plane, I was told that because the weather was good, the plane was now booked for training.

I was upset and told my flight instructor that I needed my own plane. He said, ‘Well, there’s one over there.’ I replied, ‘OK, I’ll take it.’ I purchased the 1977 Turbo Arrow III and started looking at the modifications I wanted done. My budget started at about $100,000, but I ended up spending over $350,000. The more I studied the project, the more I wanted to do, so I decided to go all in. This is an overview of the work I’ve had done:

  • Interior stripped and replaced with new leather seats and panel.
  • All cables and hydraulic lines changed.
  • New instrument panel installed, featuring a G3X 10-inch and 7-inch, two GTN 650s, a GTX 345R, a G5, a GMA 350C, and a GFC 500AP with 3-axis.
  • Past-TBO engine replaced with a new Continental TSIO-360FB1B.
  • Paint stripped back to original skin and given a new coat.
Darek decided to replace the original, past-TBO-engine with a new Continental TSIO-360FB1B.
The new engine in its shipping crate, ready to be installed.
The new engine mounted and getting prepped for use.


When I bought VH-PZX in May 2021, the engine was past TBO and needed an overhaul. Being a young, fresh pilot as well as an ex-boat racer, I knew the engine must be replaced with a new one if I was going to fly it with my family and give them the confidence that the engine has no underlying issues. I’m the first one in our bloodline to get a pilot’s license, so you can imagine a lot of people are intimidated by and slightly fearful of small aircraft.

Darek upgraded his panel to an all-glass Garmin suite. It’s now so well-equipped that even commercial pilots admire it.
VH-PZX’s original steam gauge panel.


The engine replacement started a chain reaction, and that’s when my spend went higher than anticipated. Since my primary consideration for the avionics upgrades was safety, I thought I might as well get the best technology available for this type aircraft. Garmin products are user friendly, and the touchscreens make navigation easy, re­ducing the job load so you can monitor the engine and air traffic communication. I was going for the G3X Touch with some steam gauges, but then the guys convinced me to just take all the steam gauges out, replace them with new technology, and get rid of the vacuum pump all to­gether. This panel upgrade is so amazing that most com­mercial pilots tell me that it’s more advanced than any aircraft they’ve flown.

Control Cables and Hydraulics

Once I decided to fully strip out the panel, we went ahead with all new control cables, hydraulic lines, and any other items that needed replacement, which was pretty much ev­erything. We couldn’t believe what great condition the parts were still in after 40 years. That’s a credit to the tremendous quality of workmanship from Piper in the ’70s, when it was built. However, because I’m in construction, and we test and tag all our cables and chains annually, I got them all replaced, including all the pulleys.

Although the original cables were still in good shape, Darek had them replaced with new ones to be extra safe.

Interior and Exterior

I then started on the inside with the upholstery. I Googled some new aircraft interiors and gave them the design I wanted, including green stitching and the old Piper logo, as it matched the new yoke badges.

Next was coming up with a plan for a new ex­terior paint design. I started flying in Cessnas, as pretty much every pilot in the world has, and I liked the Cessna TTX and its color scheme. So I engaged Scheme Designers to do something similar, but with alterations so as not to infringe on any copyrights. The paint scheme is very modern, and it makes the Arrow look like a new aircraft. I haven’t had anyone dislike the color scheme, and it matches our houseboat at Lake Eildon that I designed and built with my brother.

The plane’s worn, dated interior was completely gutted to prepare it for a completely new interior.
The interior is already looking better at this stage.
The headliner and side panels are nearly complete
New seats with custom Piper logos being installed.
The brand-new interior gives it a sleek, modern look.
The first step in the repainting process was to strip the old paint.
A coat of primer was applied before adding the color coats. to strip the old paint.
A much larger tail number was incorporated into the new design.
The green topcoat is being applied.
The plane shows off its shimmering new colors.
The finished paint job has turned VH-PHZ Into a work of art.
Darek loves the paint scheme so much that he used it on his houseboat too.

Upcoming Upgrades

I have now ordered and taken delivery of a Merlyn Auto Wastegate, Turboplus Intercooler, and GAMI injectors. As the new engine has only 34 hours on it, I’ll wait to install these items at the annual.

More Thoughts on VH-PZX

The upgrades on the avionics make PZX a pleasure to fly. It flies and looks amazing, and with the addi­tional true airspeed (TAS) with retractable and con­stant speed unit (CSU), it gets us to places quicker than when I used to fly the Cessna 172. Based on the upgrades and avionics, I think this is the most advanced/en­hanced 1977 Piper Arrow III flying today. I’m so proud of the work put in by everyone involved in this project, and I would like to give a big thanks to all who assisted in making this dream come true for me.

Aviation in Australia

Australia is a great country. I was born in Poland and arrived here when I was 5. I didn’t know how to speak English, so I went to English classes on the weekends. Being just 5, I picked it up quickly and off I went into the Aussie world.

Living here is awesome, but I haven’t flown too much my­self around Australia yet, but I have been in commercial aircraft with over 100 flights for racing, work, and holidays. We recently attended the Avalon International Airshow in Melbourne
(air­show.com.au/airshow2023/TRADE). What amazing support in the aviation world! There were over 170,000 people attending over six days.

My mission is to be a safe and knowledgeable pilot. I take my training very seriously and can’t wait to fly my plane throughout the country. Everyone’s dream here is to drive or take a caravan/motorhome across Australia, but I want to fly it. I would like to take six months off and take my lovely wife of 20 years on an amazing adventure around this beautiful continent.


  • InterAir Pty Ltd., Australia (interair.com.au)
    The aircraft was hangared there with the previous owner, who also works there. They completed all the work except interior and paint, although the interior was fitted there. This is my flight school, and it also services large jets. Director Ernie Shapanis personally assisted me through the whole process with his amazing team to get the project completed. His engineers have an amazing work ethic, and it was a pleasure to work with the team to get this plane flying again.
  • Airpower Inc. (airpowerinc.com) (Darryl Taylor and Steven Vacek)
  • Scheme Designers, Inc. (schemedesigners.com)
  • Ascot Auto Trimmers 1/9-11 Howes St, Airport West, VIC, Australia
  • Aircraft Painting Pty Ltd Aldinga, SA, Australia
  • Aldinga Aero Aldinga, SA, Australia (aldingaaero.com.au)
  • Turboplus Aircraft Systems Inc. (turboplus.com)
  • Merlyn Products, Inc. (merlynproducts.com)
  • Nord Engineered Products LLC
  • General Aviation Modifications, Inc. (gami.com)
  • Knots 2U, Ltd. (knots2u.net)
  • Punkin Head Air Sports, Australia (punkinheadair.com.au)

After seeing lots of YouTube videos for training from the U.S., I suppose the main difference is that we don’t have anywhere near the amount of air traffic America has. Congratulations to all the pilots in GA in the USA, who are so professional with their calls and alertness in busy airspace.

A Shout Out to Those Who Helped

Norm from InterAir is the first person I have ever flown with and the person from whom I got my RPL wings. I have now been training with Ted Shelley and Ahmed Ibrahim for my private pilot license (PPL). They’re professional pilots on their company’s King Air, and I appreciate them giving me their time to complete the PPL in my own aircraft. I would really like to thank the whole InterAir team for their dedication in construct­ing my plane and training me.

Suzanne Evans at Merlyn Products advised me that my Mer­lyn Wastegate was the last one of its kind, as the new design will be done through Jonathan Nordhagen from Nord Engineered Products LLC. He was an engineer there for over 18 years, and he has taken over the design awaiting FAA approvals.

Jeff and Joy from Turboplus Aircraft Systems, Inc. provided the new intercooler kit, and they were amazing to deal with.

John Paul Townsend of General Aviation Modifications, Inc. (GAMI) provided forms for the injector upgrades, we provided the information, and the parts were ordered.

I ordered and installed the vortex generators from Knots2U.

These upgrades were purchased based on research and ar­ticles found in Pipers magazine and Piper Owner Society on­line articles and posts. The articles I researched agree that these upgrades are beneficial for safety and performance, so I would recommend them to any Piper owner.