Hurricane preparations include protecting aircraft

September 1, 2010

As residents along the East Coast brace for the arrival of Hurricane Earl, aircraft owners in affected areas should include their aircraft in emergency preparations.

When a hurricane is in the forecast, an aircraft owner’s best option is to move the aircraft far enough outside of the watch area that it will still be safe even if the storm veers off its predicted course. If evacuation isn’t possible, owners can take steps to help protect their property where it is.

Evacuation plans are best made early. The AOPA Insurance Agency recommends owners evaluate multiple evacuation airports and locate a number of different pilots who could relocate the aircraft in the event of an impending hurricane. Some insurance policies cover the cost of relocation, so owners should review what their policy covers (and qualifications for an evacuation pilot) and keep receipts from the relocation expenses, the insurance agency recommends in a hurricane preparedness guide.

Sometimes it’s not possible to get an aircraft out of harm’s way in time. “If the storm track changes, there may not be enough time for a relocation, or if the storm track is uncertain, finding a safe harbor may involve some guesswork and luck. If an aircraft owner misses the warnings, ignores the warnings, is unable to move the aircraft, or is caught off guard by a sudden change in a storm’s direction, he is left with the task of doing all he can to protect his investment,” the AOPA Pilot Information Center explains to members in a subject report.

So how do you prepare your aircraft to ride out the storm? The subject report discusses the pros and cons of keeping your aircraft in a hangar vs. tying down your aircraft and presents a checklist of important precautions to take when tying down an aircraft. The Pilot Information Center recommends taking precautions such as clearing the area of debris, parking upwind from other aircraft with the nose into the wind, and possibly digging holes for the wheels or deflating the tires to help keep the aircraft in place.

Other recommendations include covering engine inlets, the pitot tube, and the static ports; chocking the wheels; installing gust locks to prevent control surfaces from flapping in the strong winds; and attaching a lift fence so that the airplane doesn’t start to take off in the high winds of the hurricane. Find out more in the hurricane subject report.