Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention.
That is certainly the case for Pete and Shiley Nelson from Challis, Idaho. The husband and wife have owned and operated Middle Fork Aviation in the backcountry of Idaho for more than two decades.
I met up with Pete and Shiley at the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering in Anchorage.
“I have something to show you,” mentioned the straight-faced Pete at the Friday night vendor party. Shiley handed me a business card for Middle Fork Mods. Seeing the quizzical expression on my face Pete said, “Stop by our booth and I’ll show you.”
It turns out, when you fly Cessna 206s into and out of the backcountry — not to mention repair them — you learn a thing or two. For Pete, he learned that when a Cessna tail hits the ground, the tiedown ring – connected to the aft bulkhead – often digs in and twists, causing a great deal of expensive damage.
Pete showed me a few photos of damaged tails. They weren’t pretty. And that’s what the Cessna Tail Slide from Middle Fork Mods aims to eliminate.
Rather than dig in, the Cessna Tail Slide is designed to do exactly what the name implies. From the Middle Fork Mods website: “Our Patented Cessna Tail Slide is designed to slide across the surface and gently lift the tail at the same time.”
As I stood at their display for a few moments, I watched a few pilots come by, look at the Tail Slide, then a few photos, and then saw the “Aha moment.” Each nodded in agreement and asked to which models it fit.
“The approved model list (AML) includes every Cessna 182, 206, 207, and 210, from the first one manufactured in the 1950’s to the new ones rolling off the assembly line today,” Pete said.
The Cessna Tail Slide is manufactured in Challis, costs $1,500, and includes the Tail Slide, mounting hardware, one set of paint stencils, and approval paperwork, including the STC. Installation time averages six hours.
For anyone wondering about Cessna’s 172 line, Pete admits that’ll be tougher to design, because “everything is a bit smaller and harder to access.” But likely that’ll be the next Cessna model for the Tail Slide.
As I said in an earlier column, good things are happening all around. You just have to look around. The Cessna Tail Slide is yet another example.