Sunday, September 20, 2009

Protecting the seaplane from wind and storms.

Our seaplane has no wheels and we have no water access to a hangar as yet. I dream of building a hangar on our lake lot, but most of my dreams like this are just not practical. I would probably spend fifty to a hundred thousand dollars to protect a fifty thousand dollar airplane. Whatever I build to protect the plane cannot reduce its utility by making it tougher to get it into the water and flying.

When I originally bought the plane it lived out of the water on a pontoon boat trailer. This got the plane out of the water, but left it vulnerable to trees, wind, and limbs. It also put the plane really high off the ground making it tough to tie down and tougher to preflight and fuel. The real clincher, though, was how tough it was to get onto the trailer in a high wind situation. Storms come up pretty darn quickly in Alabama. Usually the first indication is the gust front, and by the time that gets to us, we are already in trouble for threading the needle to put the plane on the trailer. It sits best on the trailer with the tail towards the trailer tongue, so that means a turn around on the water as well. I never had any issues or damage while doing these manuevers, although I personally got wet a few times. It became clear to me that I needed to keep the plane closer to the water and better tied down.

I built a U shaped dock to hold the plane which gave me multiple points to tie it up and tie it down. I then built a ramp in the middle of the slip and attached a winch and cables to lift the ramp/platform and the plane out of the water. This whole deal cost me a couple of weekends and about $2,000 including the wood, floatation foam and the winch. I was very proud of my engineering feat when I finished. This dock has provided me and the plane with years of protection and support. It has held up through several hurricanes and countless storms and boat wakes.

I am about to need a new winch, and my cabling corrodes and gives out every two or three years. The dock provides a great place to work on, fuel, and preflight the plane, and it has multiple points for tie downs. The support platform keeps the floats mostly out of the water and it keeps them stationary to the dock. When docking the plane, the platform acts like a ramp and keeps the floats from bashing into the back of the dock. The dock also weighs enough to hold the plane down during a storm, so it is secure at the dock. I can relax a little more when I hear about storms heading for Lake Martin. I still worry but just not quite as much. I still wish for a hangar.

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