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.
Brian K says
Based on the title of this article, I envisioned a story about an unapproved (for a Cessna anyway) aerobatic maneuver gone wrong. Glad to see a happy article, and not a sad one.
Ryan Leeward says
I prefer a piece of rubber at the end of my tail to prevent tail strikes. 😀
Bob Cassidy says
With the way the FAA operates everything is illegal even if without question the mods being used in experimental aircraft can be used just fine and safely in certified aircraft. I’ve seen things in certified aircraft and wondered who approved that. Things like electronic ignition system that the automotive industry has been using for years. I have never seen one fail. Yet the FAA will only allow one to replace a magneto that has to be serviced every 500 hours. I have a vehicle that I bought new. It has almost 220,000 miles on it now. I have never had to touch any part of the ignition system. It is just a good thing that the FAA is not in charge of the automotive industry. We would still be riding around in horse and buggies. I would be nice if the FAA would get modern. There are a lot of great and safe equipment out there that should be used.
Henry K. Cooper says
I did the same thing on a 206, using a 1″ wide piece of spring steel with a reverse curve on one end. Drilled a hole (used a lot of drill bits), and screwed it on with the tie down ring using two flat wood washers and a hefty lock washer. Illegal? Yes, but it worked great!