Watch Those Turns – PART 1 – When Wings Meet Hangars

YOU’D THINK PILOTS WOULD BE SMART ENOUGH TO STAY CLEAR OF HANGARS. I would think so, since when I’m the pilot in command, I’ve managed to slip past any number of obstacles in my life, and have never bumped a parked airplane, person, or hangar with my airplane while taxiing. I guess I always thought of this as my job – you know, to SEE AND AVOID things both on the ground, and of course, while in the air.

APPARENTLY, SOME OTHER PILOT’S DON’T HOLD WITH THIS APPROACH. The other day I was walking towards my hangar at the local airport. I chose an end-unit, since it was closest to the end, and had the shortest walk. Call me what you will, but since I was one of the first guys to pony up the deposit on a hangar, I was also one of the first to get my choice when they opened up.

ANYWAY, as I walked towards my hangar, I noticed there appeared to be a scrape on the south wall. Sure enough, when I looked, you could clearly see a heck of a scuff in the wall of the hangar, and from the height of the damage, I had to guess that a high-wing airplane had made it.

A CALL TO THE AIRPORT MANAGER revealed the painful truth. While trying to park at the local air show, a pilot had become distracted, and his wing tip had managed to make contact with the hangar I rented. The damage to the plane was limited to the wingtip and nav lights, with a small crease put into the hangar to serve as a perpetual reminder of the importance of watching where you are taxiing!

The plane left uneventfully, and fortunately, the airport manager didn’t feel it necessary to assess any damages. THEN THERE WAS THE SECOND CASE, where someone in a plane winged the door of the same hangar, in around the same place. YOU GUESSED IT – A PILOT IN A HURRY TRIED TO GET AROUND ANOTHER PLANE, AND HIS WINGTIP CAUGHT THE HANGAR DOOR. Again, the damage was cosmetic in nature, but two hits in a year do cause us to think that people might be taxiing with less than the usual care that is warranted.

SEE AND AVOID applies more than just in the air – contact with stationary objects on the ground can cause significant damage to your airplane. For example, if we asked the WHAT IF question.

WHAT IF the pilot in question gunned the engine, causing the plane to pivot on the wingtip and plow right into the hangar…..the damage in this case would have been far more severe.

WHAT IF the pilot had been carrying more speed, causing the plane to impart more force on both the wingtip and the hangar. When push comes to shove, a moving airplane will generally yield to a fixed hangar! The damage in this cause would have been more severe.

WHAT IF the pilot had stopped when seeing the close hangar, and asked his passenger or some of the line staff to spot the wing tip for him….then this whole series of sad events would have never happened!

WHAT KIND OF PILOT ARE YOU? Are you a thrill-seeker who takes chances on the ground and “thinks” you can get around something, or are you a responsible pilot who stops if they aren’t certain, and gets someone to help? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment if you manage to slip through a narrow gap, or do you avoid them, choosing instead to have a line person guide you in? If you are one of the former pilots who tends to take chances, take note of this lesson, and join the latter population who tries to do things right. While a chance encounter may only bruise a wingtip, in a worst-case situation, taking this type of shortcut could cost you far more, including your LIFE!