Monday, May 3, 2010

Protecting the seaplane from birds

We have three kinds of critters that attack our plane. We will take them on one at a time.

Birds like planes. They have lots of places to perch. Planes have many orifices in which build nests. Planes are generally tougher for bird predators to get into. Birds are experts at building nests. They pick a spot and they start bringing in materials. In our neck of the woods, pine straw is the chosen building material.

Hangar doors are pretty good at keeping out most birds, assuming that they are closed and attached to a fairly secure hangar. The next best bet is a set of cowl plugs. I purchased a set from Bruce's Custom Covers for less than $100. These are nicely made to fit your plane and generally have your N-Number embroidered into the cover. They even have little idiot flags that stick up beyond the cowling to signal that you should not start the engine with them installed. I imagine the spinner would catch on the string that holds the plugs together and it would rip them out and toss them aside, before they could let the aircooled engine cook itself, but I know of instances where pilots have taken off with the plugs intalled only to cook the engine. So use these during a post flight and don't forget to remove them during the preflight.

I have still had one bird nest problem even when using the plugs. The bird went in through the hole in the bottom of the cowling where the hot air gets out of the engine and the nose wheel would protrude, if I had one. I am very happy with my plugs and I use them religously. My only issue with them now is they matched the old paint scheme and they have the old N-Number on them. I can live with it. The plugs that came with my plane were just cut out pieces of foam that someone drilled a hole in for the rope that tied them together. The vinyl covered plugs are much nicer and neater to work with. Do a thorough preflight. Look for telltale pieces of pine straw around and on the plane. If you find some, investigate thoroughly.

The other problem planes have with birds is the droppings. These are corrosive to aluminum and at best they can stain your paint. I had bird stain all over the wings of my Cub from where the previous owner let this happen and did not clean the droppings off quickly enough. I have not found a solution for fixing the paint. Statues and blow up representations of predatory birds and snakes in the vicinity of your plane will help scare off some of these intruders. If you have droppings on your paint, deal with them immediately. Damage can start in 24 hours.

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