Lesson Learned

Here is an important lesson. After my flight from the Canadian border to the eastern tip of Long Island, I was wiped out. I parked in the pitch black at night on an unfamiliar ramp. I did my usual parking job, carefully on the painted T and with the pair of the little red metal chocks under the nose wheel.

I was involved in trying to find the way off the field to my ride, and involved in herding the boys with their luggage. I didn’t remember the gust lock. That probably contributed to my problem. Also, if the tail looks low in the following photograph that’s because there’s a bunch of stuff in there for the cross-the-country: the oxygen machine, approach books, and the propeller lock (unused, but illegal not to have if you are in Massachusetts overnight).



There were thirty knot winds that night. When I returned to to the airport the next morning to check in and make sure it was an okay spot to park the plane, it was in the position in the photograph. The wind had probably pushed the tail down and allowed the nose wheel to jump the chock. Then the airplane weather-vaned, turning on its castoring nose gear into the wind as much as it could.

Directly out of frame to the left are three more planes. This could have been a very costly mistake to make. I fired up and taxied into the wind into the adjacent spot. I have a great set of tie down straps in the plane.

I chocked both mains and tied it down tight. I installed the gust lock. The wind was blowing hard enough to take my baseball cap off. I had talked to a guy at the FBO the night I parked, at 11pm. He made it sound like he was going to go check on the plane and get it properly secured. I should have taken the fifteen minutes in the pitch black to get it tied down. The wind shifted ninety degrees that night and picked more than twenty knots.

They say piloting is the art of trading your luck until you have enough experience that you don’t need the luck. I was lucky that night. Not with the thunderstorms, that was all airmanship and hard work, good planning and crisp communications with ATC. I was lucky my six figure investment didn’t careen into a couple other six-figure items and make us all unhappy.Tie it down.

About Colin Summers

I am an architect, programmer, private pilot, husband and father. A couple of those I am good at.
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