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Word of the Month: Hangar

Hawk One Sabre
Former Marine Corps Hangar No. 2, Tustin, California, over 1,000 feet long

How often have you read the word "hanger" when the author really meant "hangar"? Just to set the record straight, for those of you with a problem with this spelling, a "hanger" is something you hang stuff with or from. Since you almost never see an aircraft hanging from anything at all, "hanger" is just plain wrong!

Okay, so where does the real word "hangar" come from and how widely can it be used? Well, there's a clue in that the French word for hangar is hangar! There is a pretty rich use of French terms in aviation like empennage, fuselage, and so on. It seems that hangar was used since the 14th century in middle-French to mean some sort of shed or an enclosure near a house. Before that it may have come from Germanic haim-gard (fence around a group of houses). Haim is still used in Scotland to mean "home." It was natural, then, that "hangar" should be the word used by the French to mean "somewhere you park your plane." The rest of us could have used "shed" and thought no more about it, but then we would not have had a nice article like this to read!

Whether you store your aircraft aboard a ship, an aircraft carrier, or on dry land, the place you keep it or do maintenance is always called a hangar. Some of the largest hangars have been constructed for airships, with some over 1,000 feet in length like this one.

These huge hangars are often used for special events like world indoor model aeroplane gliding records. Finally, if you Google "aircraft hangar" you get 800,000 results. If you look for "aircraft hanger" you get 151,000 hits, so roughly one in five gets it wrong. Hopefully none of those people are pilots, but a quick look reveals that people who sell them, rent them, repair them, and own them, get it wrong repeatedly. The funniest reference was someone asking the question, "Why is an aircraft hanger called a hanger?" Well, we all know that answer, don't we?

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