by Col Lyle E. Letteer, CAP | National Safety Officer
[Editor’s Note: Lyle Letteer will be CAPF 2B terminated from the Civil Air Patrol program just a few years after he wrote this article entitled “Why are we damaging our own aircraft?” for the Safety Beacon in June 2008.]
So far this year we have become quite adept in the art of damaging our aircraft while still on the ground. We have hit other aircraft when our wings overlapped the other aircraft by 10 feet, damaged aircraft tails by not having the bi-fold door completely open, taken out wing tip lights and wing tips through the fine art of hitting hangar doors, pushed aircraft into the hangar without removing our car first, and damaged rudders, elevators and horizontal stabilizers by pushing them into T-hangar corners. Three times we have, unsuccessfully, tried to taxi between parked aircraft. We have even hit a fence while parking and run into a building while trying to avoid a set of chocks on the ground. This damage has not been isolated to CAP. We have had two FBOs tow another aircraft into ours and had a Citation jet hit the nose cowling of our parked aircraft. Thank goodness the engine wasn’t running on our aircraft.
Somewhere I read something about being in close proximity to other objects. I believe I read it in CAPR 60-1 para 2-18b(1). It goes something like this:
“Pilots will maintain adequate clearance from all obstacles during all ground operations. When taxiing within 10 feet of any obstacle, pilots shall bring the aircraft to a complete halt, and then proceed at a pace not to exceed a slow walk until clear of the obstacle.”
I might add that if you are the least doubtful of your clearance get a wing walker. If you are alone, shut down, go and take a look, and use the tow-bar that comes with every aircraft in the CAP inventory. Why risk damaging the aircraft? Wings stick out 20 feet from where you are sitting and it is definitely not “cool” to walk into an FBO and announce, “I just ran into another airplane.”
All I am asking for is a little old fashioned Common Sense. There is no reason for all this ground damage to our aircraft. Everyone; please perform a more thorough preflight and post flight. If you find damage to the aircraft, report it immediately using the on-line Form 78. If you find damage on a preflight, report it immediately because the pilot flying last might say “it was OK when I tied it down” and you may get blamed. The same goes for the post flight. If you damage the aircraft, own up to it and let’s get it repaired right away.
Again I ask, for Common Sense when working with aircraft. Flying has inherent hazards and the entire crew should be aware of these hazards. In CAP, we are a team. So if you see a hazard, speak up. No one else may be aware of what you saw. Remember, the life you save may be your own.
Col Lyle E. Letteer, CAP
National Safety Officer