Aviation is a weather-dependant business. While heavy rainfall or even snow and ice can still be easily mastered, there are some conditions that pose real threats to the safety of a hangar or airport. Here’s what you should watch out for when tornados, hurricanes, and hail- and thunderstorms are on the horizon.
The dangers of a thunderstorm for your aircraft
When a bad weather front approaches there are many things that can go wrong. And we are not talking about an “Oh, no! Now I have to cancel my picnic”-type of bad weather front, but more of a “I hope my roof doesn’t get blown off”-situation. So these are the things you should brace yourselves for:
- Hail: Hailstones that are as small as half an inch (or about 12 mm) can already have devastating impact on your airplane, ranging from small dents to broken windows and other severe damages that demand expensive repair.
- Lightning: While lightning is very unlikely to damage an aircraft itself, it can be dangerous for people standing around the plane. Any metal connection to the aircraft – like wires or boarding stairs – can carry electricity and lead to massive injuries.
- Wind: This is probably the biggest danger when it comes to storms in aviation. Severe wind is not only able to lift light aircraft up in the air or flip it over. When a hurricane is roaming the land, it brings quite a collection along: billboards, car parts, pieces of wood and pretty much everything else it managed to suck in earlier. These objects get tossed around and become dangerous missiles that can damage an airplane really badly – or rip it apart altogether.
While towing the aircraft into the hangar, heavy crosswinds are the next challenge. Already 25 knots are enough to turn a plane around – all tow tugs aside. Towbars are especially unfit to take it up with such forces.
But even without a cyclone, high wind can be very unpleasant. You might have brought your fleet to safety, but what about your ground support equipment? Did you store it away, too or are your boarding stairs collapsing like dominoes right now? Keep an eye out for them aswell.
Crucial factors when the storm is at your doorstep
It’s always good to have a clear plan for situations like these. Don’t forget that these are the factors you want to meet:
- Safety: Make sure your hangar is safe. This might seem obvious, but if you operate in a tornado-region and have a hangar made of wood, parking your aircraft in the hangar might actually do more harm than good. If you keep the planes outside, make sure to tie them down, if you put them in a hangar, close all the gates properly.
- Space: Try to get as many aircrafts as possible into your hangar. If your hangar is hurricane-proof, it is definitely the safest place for your fleet to be. That might not work with a conventional tug, but there are other ways to use your hangar-space efficiently.
- Time: If a spontaneous storm arises, you don’t have time to lose. It is crucial to move the aircrafts as fast as possible. Roughly 20 minutes is a good timespan to fill your hangar. Your tools and your staff have to work quickly and precise. Make sure, that you can rely on both.
Case Study: How to withstand thunderstorms and hurricanes
The Legacy Jet Center is a full-service FBO at the Tulsa International Airport. Tulsa, Oklahoma lies in the midst of Tornado Alley, an area in the USA where the most tornados occur. When the “twister season” starts they have to be well prepared. That’s why the Legacy Jet Center relies on Mototok. Attaching and detaching a conventional towbar is an incredibly time-consuming procedure. Therefore the highly maneuverable tugs are extremely time-saving when every minute counts:
Furthermore they withstand wind speed of up to 35 knots and thus perform better in crosswind. Time is not the only factor: With Mototok the Legacy Jet Center can use its hangar’s full potential and space, making it possible for even more aircraft-owners to keep their planes safe.
Tips to withstand bad weather at your airport or hangar
Extreme weather conditions require extreme actions – or at least a well-wrought plan. Keep these things in mind:
- Stay always up-to-date with the weather: Forecasts and severe weather alerts are crucial for the aviation business, not only up in the sky. If you know in advance that a storm is coming, you lower your risks to a minimum.
- If you don’t happen to have an enormous hangar, moving more than one aircraft simultaneously is a bad idea. Yes, it is tempting, especially if time is short. But the risk of causing an accident is rarely worth it.
- If your hangar is in fact that big, you should still be very careful when opening more than one gate at a time. The cross ventilation can be extreme and move your aircrafts in ways you would not want them to move (into each other for example).
- You might have done every preparation perfectly, but sometimes nature is too strong for us to control. Get an insurance for every person and object that can be threatened by a natural disaster.
You want even more tips? Check out this post by AOPA!
Conclusion to storm operations
In many regions of the earth the weather and the whims of nature stretch us to the limit – but it’s nothing we can’t master with the right plan and the right tools. One of these tools is a Mototok. Improve your storm operations and get a free consultation today!