Weather Weary: How to keep outside conditions from damaging your aircraft

Owning an aircraft is a major investment. Even before you buy one, you need to spend countless hours preparing, training, financial planning, and making proper space arrangements in anticipation of becoming an owner. This is why the idea of keeping it safe and in good condition, is not only invaluable, it’s priceless. But things happen, and weather has a way of surprising us when we least expect it. This can often mean some serious damage to a plane, and even more damage to your wallet.

Each year, numerous aircraft are damaged due to the simple fact that they were not appropriately prepared for inclement weather while on the ground. When your aircraft is parked, wind, and even jet efflux, can be your worst enemy. Even in a hangar that’s not properly equipped, negligence in weather preparation can cost you thousands of dollars, and time. It’s important to take a few simple preventative steps to keep your aircraft safe while it’s parked, to ensure that your plane stays in one piece, and to give you piece of mind.

Aircraft, by nature, are designed to fly. This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget that due their aerodynamic structure, even the smallest amount of wind in the wrong direction can lift your plane onto its side, or knock it over. The trick is to use your plane’s aerodynamics to your advantage. Always try and tie your plane into the wind. If your nose is facing into the wind, then the airflow will be distributed evenly over the plane’s surfaces. Make sure that your aircraft is tied very securely, however, as the same airflow can actually lift your plane off the ground, similar to how it would in flight. This is not the type of flight you want.

Make sure that you always employ a proper 3-point tie-down scheme, securing both wings and the tail. Most aircraft parking areas are equipped with fixed tie-down points and will be suitable for the 3-point tie. In the case that they are not, or if fixed tie-down points are just not available, you will need to find physical shelter for your aircraft. Park your aircraft behind something that can block the wind, and is unlikely to move or fall. Make sure any debris near the aircraft is cleared away, as strong winds can lift these things into the air and smash them into your plane.

Most importantly, the best protection against weather damage is to stay aware, and use common sense. If you are next to a plane that is improperly tied down, avoid tying down next to it. If you have a gut feeling that you missed a step while parking, go back and do it again. The time you spend being thorough is nothing compared to the time you’ll spend if you damage your aircraft.

At the end of the day, remember to trust your instincts. If it feels like a bad idea, it probably is. With a good amount of preparation, instinct, caution, and know how, you can keep your plane out of the repair hangar, and in the air. Which, after all, is exactly where you want to be.