Your plane looks very cozy to the mouse population — they will be more than happy to set up housekeeping inside your airframe, and that’s a problem (I speak from experience).
MICE EAT AND DRINK. They eat all sorts of stuff in your plane, including any snacks that get left behind, but also your carpets, your seats, and their favorite, any paper towels you might have on board. Whether for food or nesting materials, the mouse will chew up a storm in your airplane.
FOR SOME REASON, insulation seems to attract the little buggers. I can’t understand why, but they chew at the wires in your plane. If they chew enough, you can end up with expensive and dangerous shorts in your airplane.
WORSE YET, AFTER MICE EAT, THEY EXCRETE. The mouse needs to use the “mouse bathroom,” so to speak, just as you and I do. Naturally, their feces are corrosive to the aluminum alloys used in aircraft. This means if a family of mice or two happens to take up residence in the belly of your airplane, you could be in for some expensive repairs.
WARNING: LOOK FOR THE DANGER SIGNS THAT MICE ARE NOW GETTING FREQUENT FLIER MILES AT YOUR EXPENSE:
- Look for signs of chewing. If you see a paper towel roll or cloth that is chewed up, with little “chew bits” left behind … you’ve got mice.
- Pay attention to strange smells. If it smells like urine in your plane … you may have mice on board.
- WATCH AS YOU TOW THE PLANE. We spotted our first signs of problems when we spotted a mouse staggering away from our plane as we towed it to the flight line for preflight. We didn’t recognize it for what it was until we spotted the paper towel roll later.
DEFENSE: IF YOU SEE DANGER SIGNS, SPRING INTO ACTION:
- SET TRAPS IN YOUR PLANE. We found that by setting several traps, we were able to cull our mouse population quickly.
- CHOOSE YOUR TRAP WELL. Sticky “live” traps are nice, but if the mouse gets a foot stuck only, they’ll run and that “sticky” trap may end up costing you a chunk of your interior as it gets pulled into contact with something important.
- PICK A CHOICE BAIT. We baited out traps with Butterfinger ™ bars … 2 hours later, we had our first kills.
- PUT THE TRAPS ON SOMETHING NOT CHEWABLE. If you are going for the wire-snap type traps, put them on a sheet of plastic or tin foil. The idea is that if the trap catches them and the mouse is killed, the plastic or tin foil will catch and bodily fluids, and keep them out of your carpeting.
KNOW THE ENEMY. Mice will climb up your wheels, and then through any opening that leads inside the aircraft. Mice can squeeze through a crack as small as 3/8″. This means you need to use good preventive measures to keep them out of your plane. The worst time for mice is during the spring planting and fall harvest, as well as the winter months when snow starts to fall. In all these seasons, mice are looking for a warm and safe place to stay, and your airplane — with its many small protected enclosures — fits the bill.
PREVENTION: You can defend against mice by getting a one foot wide by three to four foot long piece of 20 gauge galvanized sheet metal per tire. Put a lap joint on each end of the three to four foot lengths. Stand the sheet metal on its side, circle it around your wheel, and put the lap joints together. Viola! You have created a sheet metal “wall of doom” to protect your wheels from mice. The same applies for tie-downs. Mice will run up the rope, and if there’s a way into your wing at the top, they’ll find it. Use the same deterrents on the rope stations, or use “anti-mouse” or “anti-squirrel” devices on the ropes, which will keep mice from climbing them.
BOTTOM LINE: Mice are little, but they are a big deal. I know of one pilot who left his plane unattended for two years. When he finally got back to the plane, mechanics had to pull about a dozen mouse nests out of the airframe through tiny openings and inspection plates. Once the nests were pulled, several skins had to be replaced, due to extensive corrosion. To avoid this type of headache, you have to be willing to recognize the destructive potential of mice in airplanes and take some simple actions to keep them out.