Hurricane season is upon us once again. The official Atlantic hurricane season started June 1 and runs through November 30. Experts are forecasting the 2017 season to be more active than historical averages with regard to the number of named storms. NOAA is forecasting 11-17 named storms, 5 to 9 of which would become hurricanes and 2 to 4 which will be considered major hurricanes. These major storms can cause considerable damage to or total loss of your aircraft. So do you have a game plan for keeping your aircraft safe during this busy hurricane season?
Given the unpredictable nature of hurricanes, even the best-made plans can break down in the face of a storm, but having a plan at least puts you ahead of the game. The first thing you should do is check your insurance policy and make sure it is up to date and you know everything that it covers. Here are just a few precautions you can take to give you and your aircraft a fighting chance during a major storm.
- Don’t take any chances and get out! Make sure you pay attention to the “cone of uncertainty” that is projected by the National Hurricane Center. Each tropical system is given a forecast cone to help the public better understand where it’s headed. If you are able to get your aircraft out of this projected path you have a much better chance of making it out with no damage. Try and keep a list of airports and their contact information so that you can make educated decision on where to go. Just keep in mind you will not be the only aircraft owner or pilot getting out of Dodge. Make sure to give yourself a sufficient amount of time to get to your chosen evacuation airport or FBO.
- If you don’t have enough time to get your aircraft out-of-town, the next best thing is to get it into a safe hangar. A good hangar will be the best protection for aircraft during any severe storm. You are going to want to attempt to secure a hangar spot as quickly as possible because these spots will be costly and they will be gone before you know it. Remember though that hangars are not 100% storm-proof and there is still the possibility of your plane getting damaged if the hangar were to collapse or become damaged itself. So move fast but find the safest and strongest hangar possible.
- It’s Hail Mary time. If you can’t leave the area and there is no hangar space available, the last thing you can do to give your aircraft a fighting chance is to tie it down. Here is a list of procedures you should try to follow if you must resort to tying your plane down:
- Make sure the surrounding area is clear of all debris that could become flying projectiles.
- If possible park your aircraft up wind from all other aircraft. This will prevent them from blowing into your plane if they become loose.
- Move it to the highest ground you can to stay away from flooding.
- Make every effort to park your plane with the nose into the wind.
- Double check that all doors and windows are closed and locked. Also cover all engine openings and pitot-static tubes, to protect them from any flying debris.
- Choke the wheels and deflate the tires to keep the airplane from rolling around.
- Use both an external and internal control lock.
- Most important is to make sure you have top rated ropes or chains and tie down anchors that are in top-notch condition. If you are not using chains, use nylon or Dacron rope because of its higher tensile strength and make sure to not leave any slack when tying off.
Hurricanes and tropical storms can turn an airport into a junk pile in a hurry. Plan ahead and make sure you have a solid game plan in place well before any storms are threatening. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your procedures, aircraft manuals, and local airport/FBO policies. Of course it goes without saying to make sure your family and home is your first priority. Keep this American Red Cross Hurricane Safety Checklist handy when the time comes. Stay informed and don’t wait until it’s too late to take the necessary precautions to keep you, your family, and your aircraft safe.
Statistics and information from NOAA, The Weather Channel, and The National Hurricane Center.