by Pete Schoeninger
Q: Why didn’t you mention in the last issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine, your usual annual recommendation of having my mechanic remove my wheel pants for winter operations, like you usually do?
A: Yes, Leon, I caught hell from several sharp readers like you. You’re all correct… I should have repeated that recommendation. And I could have added, think twice before taking off from a slushy runway into cooler air. It is possible for your wheels to freeze in position, and when you land on a bare, paved runway, you could blow a tire. I’ve seen it happen. In a retractable gear airplane, it may be a good idea to recycle the gear a couple of times after taking off from a sloppy runway, as the gear can freeze in place retracted, which happened to me once in a 182RG.
Another reader asked why is it that Cirrus aircraft owners never remove their wheel pants. For that question, we deferred to Cirrus Aircraft Great Plains Regional Sales Director Gary Black. Black checked with Cirrus Aircraft’s chief engineer, who stated that their wheel pants are designed to minimize snow or slush build up. There is an aft bulkhead to the wheel pant, and the gaps on the front and sides are large enough to minimize trapped snow. “Our history of leaving these on in 20 winters in Duluth attests to it so far,” says Black.
Q: While traveling “Out West” last summer, I noticed several airplanes tied outside that had gust locks installed, some of which looked homemade. Are they a good idea?
A: If you anticipate storing your airplane outside, yes, they are a good idea, especially for certain airplanes which are more susceptible to controls sustaining damage than others. Your mechanic can tell you if your airplane is particularly vulnerable, and give you some advice on store bought or homemade gust locks. But remember, BE SURE to remove any gust lock before flight!!
Q: On the same subject, it seems to me there is more wind damage to high-wing airplanes from gusty winds or thunderstorms, than there is to low-wing airplanes. Why is this?
A: A properly secured airplane should sustain pretty strong winds without damage. An unsecured, high-wing airplane not tied down might tip over a little easier than a low-wing airplane, as their center of gravity may be a little higher than a low-wing airplane (wing with fuel above cabin vs below), and low-wing airplanes often have a wider main gear stance. In either case, it should be a moot point as a prudent airplane owner/pilot should always secure his airplane when left outside, and should have a tie-down rope kit on board. Also, it’s a good idea to call ahead to a destination to make sure either hangar space or tie-downs are available if there is a possibility of wind significant enough to move your airplane around. (That means any kind of wind to a Cub, but only near hurricane winds to a 747.)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Schoeninger is an aviation consultant and aircraft appraiser who lives in Wisconsin. He is an experienced fixed base operator, aircraft salesman and airport manager. Email your questions about all things aviation to: Pete.Harriet@gmail.com. For assistance with aircraft appraisals or fixed base operator and airport management consultation, call 262-533-3056. Any answers provided in this column are the opinion of the author and not necessarily this publication, or its editor, publisher, owners and affiliates.