You put in hundreds of hours getting your plane from “project” status to showpiece and now you’re ready to take it to a fly-in for exhibition.
From your arrival to departure, there are many steps you can take to ensure your plane’s safety at a fly-in.
Let’s start at the beginning: Be aware of the taxi procedures when you arrive. Study the airport layout beforehand. Review the hand signals. If you do not understand the instructions you are given, stop. Taxi a little bit slower than you would normally, especially if there are lots of people around. Some of them may be aviation impaired and may walk with their backs to the planes or on taxiways instead of on footpaths and could step into the line of a wing.
Once you’ve parked, you may breathe a sigh of relief. But realize that there are several things you can do to ensure your plane will leave in the same condition it arrived:
- “Do not touch” placards are a must. Most fly-ins will provide these in the form of cardboard sleeves that are slipped over the propeller. Warnings not to touch the aircraft are also published in fly-in programs. Volunteer security personnel also may patrol the grounds to make sure visitors follow the rules. Note: Non-authorized contact is more likely to happen in show display areas as opposed to camping areas since most people who camp are familiar with aircraft etiquette and know better than to touch another person’s plane without permission.
- Use tiedown equipment designed for aircraft. A crowded fly-in is not the time to experiment with a clothesline. If your plane comes loose from its moorings in a high wind or blast of prop wash, it could hurt someone or damage other aircraft or even buildings. If you use single stakes, insert them into the ground at a diagonal. A stake inserted on a diagonal takes more wind force to lift out of the ground than one driven straight into the ground. You may want to invest in the “claw” type of aircraft tie down. Instead of a single stake in the ground there are three set at different angles. As the name implies, it resembles a claw. According to people who use them, they are easier to install and remove, yet provide sturdier protection than the one-stake systems.
- Use bright orange surveyor’s tape or something similar to make the tops of tiedown stakes and propeller blades more visible. This helps keep people from accidentally walking into them. The tape can be found at many building supply stores.
- Make sure gust locks are installed correctly.
- Use foam to cover sharp edges, such as the trailing edge of a wing. Foam covers used to insulate water pipes work very well. They are lightweight and are easy to snap into place. If someone walks into a wing, there is less of a chance of injury.
- Use some type of windscreen or panel cover to keep the avionics in your aircraft from baking in the sun.
- Take all the expensive portable items, such as yoke-mounted GPS and headsets, out of your cockpit. Either lock them up or hide them well. Although most people are honest, there are some folks who see large events as an opportunity to steal.
- If your airplane does not require keys to activate the ignition, invest in a fuel shut-off lock. This keeps your plane from being an easy target for thieves. If your plane requires keys for ignition, keep them out of the aircraft. You may also want to invest in a throttle lock. Since fly-ins are very crowded, someone could steal your airplane when you are not around and it could be hours before you find out about it.
- Do not leave anything near your airplane that can be thrown, such as a football, Frisbee, a model glider or even extra tiedown stakes. Also don’t leave any cleaning products with a spray trigger around. One unsupervised kid is all it takes to do damage.
- Be careful of the position of your propeller. In camping areas experienced campers recommend that you turn the propeller so the blades are vertical. If someone walks between rows at night they are less likely to hit the blade.
- If you are camping with your airplane and using a pop-up style tent, open it away from your plane. The tent’s support rods can be hard to handle and will scratch a paint job if they get away from you.
- Do not set up your camp stove under your wing.
- If you cannot stand up straight beneath the wing, you may want to rethink putting your tent there. When you are half asleep there is a good chance you are going to stand up and hit your head.
- If adverse weather, such as high wind, strikes, do not try to “save your airplane.” If the wind is blowing hard enough, the plane could flip over and land on you. The plane can be replaced. You can’t.
- Supervise the refueling of your aircraft.