Which End of A Grass Airstrip To Build A Hangar… Upslope or Downslope?

by Pete Schoeninger
© Copyright 2023. All rights reserved!
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine February/March 2023 Digital Issue

Q) What is FAR Part 134?
A) Part 134 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) is a nickname given to oft violated activities which prohibit carrying passengers a distance for compensation without a Part 135 Air Taxi Certificate. The lure of having a buddy or business associate fly people somewhere for $$ or trade is tempting, but illegal. It is sometimes done in innocence, but the “feds” will jump on the violator if they find out. Getting an FAR Part 135 Air Taxi Certificate is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking.

Q) Is it possible for a powerful airplane to NOT want to nose down if you climb steeply and then let go of the wheel or stick? If so, how?
A) In most flight operations, the Center of Gravity (CG) of an airplane is ahead of the Center of Lift (CL). A negative load on the tail surfaces keeps the airplane from nose diving. In a very steep, unaccelerated climb in a low-wing airplane, it is possible that the Center of Gravity could now be behind the Center of Lift. If that would happen, the tendency is for the airplane to nose up even steeper without input from the pilot.

Q) I am a retired aerial applicator (i.e., crop duster). Next spring, I am going to do some grading on my farm and make a grass airstrip, which is the dream of many pilots. The strip slopes down to the north. My question for you is, where to build a hangar, top, middle, or bottom of the strip? I am leaning toward the bottom of the strip because it will be a little more out of the wind, but a friend told me to put it in the middle. Your thoughts?
A) With a sloped strip, you will usually takeoff downhill and land uphill. After landing uphill, you will still slow reasonably quickly, whether or not the strip is slippery, and you can then add power if needed to get to the top of the strip. But if after landing uphill you must turn around and taxi downhill on very slippery conditions, getting stopped could be perilous. Therefore, I recommend that you put your hangar at the TOP of the hill.
A) Put your hangar at the top of the strip if possible. The hazard of a middle or bottom of the strip location is in winter, you don’t want to be taxiing downhill on snow and ice (which will linger, especially facing north) and be unable to stop. If you are taxiing uphill to your hangar, even on bare ice, you will slowly, fairly quickly, go backwards and be unable to stop, if you reduce power to idle.

Q) Is there a quick way to tell if a 150 HP Lycoming engine has been changed to 160 HP? Is it done often?
A) Yes, it is a fairly common conversion usually done at overhaul time. Common airplanes this is done for include Cessna 172s that originally came with 150 HP engines, and the same with Cherokee 140s and some other airplanes. There is virtually no change in empty weight of the engine, but be aware, a new prop (big bucks) might be required. A very first, but not only clue and not always accurate that an airplane has had the conversion, would be to look at the fuel filler cap labels. The 160 HP airplane requires and should have a label at the fuel tank designating 100LL aviation fuel, or possibly premium Mogas. The 150 HP version can run on aviation fuel rated at less than 100 Octane. If the engine HP conversion has been made, the airplane flight manual, as well as the engine maintenance log, should indicate the change.

Q) Is there a rule of thumb for loss of value for missing maintenance logs? I am looking at a used Cessna 152 with no maintenance records for the 5 years it was in Europe. Maintenance records do indicate major airframe rebuilds a couple of times about 15 years ago, and the airplane has about 20,000 hours of total time.
A) There is no set rule. Each situation is different. For an older airplane with lots of hours and a few smacks, and not much collector appeal, the drop in value of 5 years of missing maintenance logs would not be significant. At the other end of the spectrum, let’s say you’re looking at a 10-year-old Bonanza and the first five years of logs are missing. That would be a major degradation in value. If you plan on selling your newly acquired airplane after owning it a few years, I would be more concerned about value loss due to missing logs, rather than if you anticipate flying to heaven in it.
Regardless of what the logs say, the most important thing a buyer can do is to have a very thorough prepurchase inspection of the aircraft under consideration by an experienced mechanic familiar with that make and model. I have seen airplanes which have had undocumented repairs, some OK and some cobbled. Logs are a story written by humans. The airplane will not lie to you. Get a good mechanic to look closely at the aircraft and hopefully the logbooks if you are considering buying.

Q) Can aviation fuel spills damage paint, or aluminum?
A) Usually not. But if you have a situation where a fuel tank is weeping a bit of fuel from a high-wing airplane and running down the side of the fuselage for a long period of time, that will discolor paint badly.

Q) Why are traffic patterns now usually 1000 ft AGL (above ground level) vs 600 or 800 ft 50 years ago?
A) “Years Ago,” common trainers (Cubs and Champs, among others) often had 65 HP engines. Their rate of climb in the summer with two people onboard was pretty anemic. Now almost all trainers have at least 100 HP and many have 150 HP or more, making the climb to 1,000 ft much quicker. 1,000 feet gives a little more safety (gliding distance) in the event of a problem and lessens noise pollution.

Q) My mechanic noted on my Cessna 182 that there is substantial crazing above the defroster openings. He wants to change the windshield (big buck$.) Can’t the windshield just be ground down a little?
A) A very little bit of grinding is possible, but it should only be done by a very knowledgeable aircraft mechanic with windshield maintenance experience. Bruce Botterman at New View Technologies at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is one such person. Bruce also helped me with this question. Contact Bruce at 920-303-0709. Generally, I recommend changing the windshield in this situation. Losing a windshield can be a dire emergency that you don’t want to risk. I know a friend who had a windshield blow out on his Piper Tri-Pacer many years ago and was barely able to keep it right-side-up on an immediate forced landing.

Q) In the “old days,” there was no regulation requiring a checkout when transitioning from a tricycle geared airplane (those with a nosewheel) to a conventional geared airplane (taildragger) for the first time. Do you know of any pilots who learned to fly in a tricycle gear airplane and then were self-taught and flew taildraggers?
A) Yes, I know of a couple of incidents where good tricycle pilots managed to teach themselves to fly taildraggers before checkouts were required. Today, that is illegal. While I am not a big fan of excessive regulations of any kind, I think requiring a CFI to sign off a tailwheel transition is a good idea.

Q) How did a dealer get my contact information to send me a postcard stating he wanted to buy my airplane?
A) Your airplane’s owner information (you!) is public record. Do an internet search for Federal Aircraft Registry, click on registration N numbers, enter your number, and check it out. Title companies and others can, for a fee, send a list of airplanes specific to an advertiser’s needs. For instance, if you have an improvement for 1978 thru 1998 Beech A36 Bonanzas, and want to test the market for it, you can order that list either in paper or online form.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Schoeninger is a 40-year general aviation veteran, starting out as a line technician as a teenager, advancing through the ranks to become the co-owner and manager of a fixed base operation, and manager of an airport in a major metropolitan community. He welcomes questions and comments about aircraft ownership via email at PeterSchoeningerLLC@gmail.com

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this column is the expressed opinion of the author. Readers are urged to seek the advice of others, including flight instructors, licensed aircraft technicians, airport managers, fixed base operators, and state and federal officials. Neither the author, Midwest Flyer Magazine, Flyer Publications, Inc., or their staffs, employees or advertisers assume any liability for the accuracy or content of this column or any other column or article in this publication.

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