“The Plane Skate” – Keeping A Blown Tire From Becoming A Runway Nightmare

by Michael Wiskus

manage corporate flight departments and own a fixed base operation at the Buffalo, Minnesota airport, on the western edge of the Minneapolis Class C airspace. We manage several corporate aircraft and occasionally lease two or three other aircraft, primarily to move 35 to 40 drillers each week to several sites in North Dakota.

Lately, we have had an ongoing problem with tire failures. Some of the runways in North Dakota are poorly maintained with hundreds of potholes and frost heaves. Most of our failures occur on our return flights home, which is especially difficult because one blown tire closes our entire airport, causing any following corporate aircraft to be diverted to other airports. There, they wait until the disabled aircraft is either repaired or removed from the runway. This single event creates additional costs, loss of employee productivity and even raises a few of the corporate eyebrows. Think about it, what happens when you have seven workers and one pilot stuck in the middle of a non-towered runway at 11:00 at night, and it is 10 degrees below zero, with additional flights trying to land. Not good.

To quickly unload passengers, jack the aircraft, pull and repair the tire back at the hangar, race back to the stranded aircraft, reinstall the tire and clear the runway takes nothing less than an hour plus. And that’s if a mechanic is standing by.

Additional damage and internal stress damage happens when you hook the aircraft up with a blown tire and drag it 200 to 500 feet down the runway to clear at the nearest taxiway. This only causes additional damaged to the rims and undue stress to the affected gear leg and nose gear.

I’ve tried everything from a built up wooden moving dolly, to a rope on the bucket of an old John Deere tractor, to retrieve aircraft from runways following a blown tire. These were just a couple of many bad ideas with horrible results.

That’s when I designed “The Plane Skate” – equipment designed to quickly and safely tow an aircraft with a blown tire off the runway and to the ramp.

I wanted to design and build The Plane Skate to be simple to operate and extremely durable. It also needed to be able to be operated by just one person. So simple that you grab the tug, hook up the dolly, pull it to the plane, line up the tray, and attach the strap and winch, just like you were loading a boat. Once connected to the aircraft, The Plane Skate can tow the aircraft back to the hangar where it can be repaired properly.

The bottom line is safety! I want to be able to get aircraft off a runway within minutes of landing for the sake of the passengers, crew members and any approaching aircraft.

Corporations and their employees like not having to be diverted to a different airport. Accounting likes it because we are not putting extra flight time on the aircraft, and we only have to replace a blown tire…not additional parts.

This is a tool an airport or fixed base operation may only use a handful of times each year, but when needed, The Plane Skate makes your job of getting that aircraft off the runway fast and easy.

To view photos of The Plane Skate in action, see  www.theplaneskate.com.

For additional information, call West Metro Aviation at 763-682-1516 or email: westmetroaviat@aol.com. The Plane Skate sells for $1,695.00, plus sales tax and shipping.

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