July 3, 2014 - It’s stated clear as day on Page 13 of the FAA’s EAA AirVenture Oshkosh NOTAM: “All aircraft must be tied down.” And it’s an official rule that all visiting aircraft are secured via tiedowns. However, the manner and equipment in which pilots tie their aircraft down are not equal, and that has Gene Morris, director emeritus of the EAA Vintage Aircraft Association, on a mission.
“One day at AirVenture 2013, I made a survey in the Vintage area,” he wrote in an e-mail to EAA. “There were some 70 rows of tiedowns, which included 216 airplanes. What I found was 69 of the 216 were not what I would call properly secured.” Morris, EAA 81175/Vintage 1877, also provided several photos as evidence of shoddy tie down practices.
Of those 69 improperly secured airplanes Morris counted 39 tied down with what are frequently referred to as “doggie” stakes – those notorious cheap spiral metal corkscrews used for pets. Even worse, in seven of those instances, the airplane lines were secured to the little ring that’s fastened by a small rivet.
“I cannot see how these stakes would even hold a doggie, let alone an airplane with a 40 mph wind,” he stated. He’s right: There have been several instances in which these pet stakes have failed, causing damage not only to an owner’s aircraft but others in its vicinity.
Several commercially available tiedowns are available, including The Claw; however, they weaken greatly if not deployed properly. The tie-down rope needs to be vertical from the aircraft down to the tiedown itself. Morris saw several examples of improperly deployed Claws in Oshkosh last year.
If you arrive at Oshkosh sans tiedowns, you can rent them from EAA Chapter 444, which shares Morris’ mission of properly tied-down aircraft. The chapter supplies what they claim is the best system for the Oshkosh grounds: 18-inch pieces of metal reinforcement bar (rebar) that the chapter creates and then rents, along with rope, to aircraft owners from the Tiedown Shack just off the North 40 at Oshkosh.
Chapter 444 stake sets are rented for $25 a set, and users recoup $10 when they turn them in at the end of the show. Proceeds are used to fund youth scholarships to the EAA Air Academy.
Morris plans to be on patrol for suspect tiedowns again this year, so if you plan to use one of those doggie stakes, don’t be surprised to find a stern but friendly note on your airplane.