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Which Winch Is Which?
By Mike Davenport, EAA 89102, Langley, British Columbia
June 2020 – A few years ago I was faced with an upcoming back operation and I own a 1,500 pound airplane; what has one to do with the other?
Well, how can I go flying if I can’t put the airplane back in the hangar at the end of the day? That was the question that had to be answered before the operation. I mean, really, one must deal with the important issues of life – right? Nevermind how long it will take to get healthy again after surgery but, more importantly, how in heck will I put the airplane away? This flyer’s life is all about establishing priorities.
In front of my hangar is a short ramp that, pre-operation, was never considered to be a problem – back-wise that is. Perhaps the solution would be to install a winch so that I could tow it up that rise and back into the hangar. That raised yet another question: how to rig a winch to tow the airplane up that slight ramp and back inside the hangar? There was another small problem to be solved; because of the layout of our “all common area” open style hangar there are no interior walls on which to mount a winch.
Someone else once said, “Where there is a will there is a way.” Or was it, “Necessity is a mother?” Something like that.
The winch would have to be mounted on the floor, but there is no room behind the airplane because there is another airplane tailed in just inches away.
It quickly became obvious that the winch had to be offset to one side and the cable would have to run through a pulley and thus on out of the door to the tailwheel. A loop around the tailwheel assembly and then the plane could be towed straight back into the hangar. The operator (me) would have nothing heavier to stress his back than the winch controller.
Winching across the threshold.
A quick trip to the local auto parts store supplied all of the necessary parts: winch, cable, pulley, anchor, bolt, and a concrete bit (to drill the hole in the floor). This also required a 12-volt battery as all their winches were for automotive use and didn’t run on 110-volt. Not a problem as we have power in the hangar and I can put my battery tender to use to keep the battery up to snuff.
Getting there — painlessly!
Like all good ideas, this one was so simple that it worked. Because the cable is lined up with the center of the bay and is hooked directly to the tailwheel, it pulls straight back with no concerns about hitting the wing tips on either door frame.
Sometime later a hangar mate offered a larger industrial-quality 110-volt winch for free and, since it would be considered churlish to refuse, I swapped it out with my original from the auto store and that is the one you see in the picture.
It works like a charm and is infinitely controllable and, most importantly, stresses my 76-year-old back not even a little bit.