How This Pilot Maintains Her Hangar
by Crista Worthy
Back when my Cessna 210 was based in Santa Monica (SMO), I couldn’t even get a hangar. Oh, sure, I put us on the waiting list as soon as we bought our plane. A couple of years later I checked to see where we were on that list. “Uh, you’re number 44,” the woman at the airport office said. “And how many hangars, on average, become available each year?” I continued. “About one,” was the reply. So, in other words, I could get a hangar in 44 years.
Having our plane parked outside near the end of the runway at a seaside airport meant it was exposed to corrosive salty fog, ultraviolet rays, jet exhaust, bird poo, dust, pollen and rain. I cleaned it weekly. One spring, I noticed a lot of bird droppings on the prop. Sure enough, two birds had built a nest in the engine compartment. So, take it from someone who kept a red airplane outside for a decade before moving to a city where hangars are plentiful: buying or renting an aircraft hangar may cost more than a tiedown, but it is so worth it! Your airplane will be protected, be worth more when you sell it, and you’ll have peace of mind.
Here are some basic care tips.
- Get HangarBot.
For real peace of mind, buy a HangarBot system. You’ll be able to secure and control your hangar from almost anywhere. You can view live streaming video any time, capture still photos, detect motion, receive alerts when the hangar environment changes, and monitor or control hangar temperatures—you can even open your hangar door from inside your airplane if it’s cold or raining so you stay comfortable.
- Be Kind to Your Hangar Doors.
Airplane hangar doors are big. Relatively speaking, the hinges, rails and motors that guide and power them are small. Use extra caution when operating them in windy weather, as a half-open hangar door can catch the wind like a sail. Check all moving parts often and inspect for rust, dust, cobwebs, loose screws and debris. Keep moving parts well lubricated, and contact a professional repair service if the door becomes warped or the motor seems to be straining to open or close the door.
- Think About Your Hangar Floor.
First, keep your hangar floor clear. You don’t want to trip over something, knock something over and possibly even damage your airplane. Don’t leave tools, hoses, electrical cords and boxes out where they can get in the way. I used to have an aircraft detailing business, and I often worked inside my mechanic’s hangar. They had retractable reels for their cords—brilliant idea!
Consider a new finish for your floor. A brilliant, new polymer floor will not only show off your plane to its best advantage, it will reflect light back up onto your plane for better visibility while you’re working on it. It will also provide slip-resistance, help control static to protect sensitive avionics, protect from impact and abrasion by dropped objects and protect the concrete slab from chemical spills. Reputable floor systems include HangarSpec, ArmorPoxy, and Elite Crete, among others.
Keep the floor clean. Use Windex or Simple Green for small spills and drips. Some people use leaf blowers to blow dust out; I prefer a broom and the occasional mop job to keep the floor sparkling.
- Everything in its Place.
Foreign Object Damage (FOD) is a leading cause of aircraft damage. Usually, we think of FOD as something to watch for outside the hangar, on taxiways and runways. Sure, you’ll want to check for rocks, screws, nails or other debris outside your hangar door, but keep things tidy inside as well. Provide designated containers and storage spaces for parts, supplies, tools and trash.
Store your aircraft thoughtfully, too: chock the wheels, even in the hangar, so the plane won’t shift position or roll around. Park the plane with flaps up—with a high-wing, you’ll be less likely to smack your head (ask me how I know). Flaps are also less susceptible to damage if retracted. Close the cowl flaps, vents, windows and doors, so bugs stay out of your airplane.
You’ve worked hard to earn you pilot’s certificate, airplane and now a hangar, too. Protect your investments with these simple tips, and you’re on your way to a lifetime of adventure with your airplane. Now go fly!