Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I'm learning why it might not be a good idea to call a place with turf tie downs and taxi ways home for the winter. Snow removal is a big problem.

Yesterday was 'good' Pennsylvania winter weather. Temperatures above freezing, winds below hurricane force and much of the snow/ice had retreated. I went out to the airport around 11:00am with the intent of doing some basic air-work and a few landings.  123 props to get the burp, about 15 gallons (3 hours) on board and no ice on the airframe. I still had to negotiate snow drifts to get the tie down straps and cover off and perform the exterior walk around. Carefully manipulating my balance to get inside without getting snow on anything, I buckled in and pulled out the checklist. She started after 6 props and hummed nicely.  This was to be the best part of the day.

Warmed up and ready for taxi we moved about 6"s and stopped. Full power to taxi just didn't seem reasonable, and she wasn't moving even with that. Slow exhale.

Shut her down, unstrapped and got out to take a look. The left main was up to her wheel pant in a ditch. It became abundantly clear why former owners had placed wooden pads in the ground for tire support. The PiperSport has a narrower stance so the only wheel supported for her was the nose.  I couldn't push her out. Slow exhale.

One of my other hobbies is woodworking. I always have a few pieces stored in the garage waiting on the next project, so I cut a 6' 1x6 into 3 pieces, grabbed a small garden shovel, my screw driver and some work gloves and after a little lunch headed back out. First I took the pant off and insured no damage was done, then I worked with the shovel and my pocket knife to try and clear a path. I couldn't push her out. Slow exhale.

Sat in the car for a bit. Obviously I needed some help, so I called the office and Ashley said she would send someone out. I remembered why Pennsylvania is nicknamed "Linebacker" country. Troy was at least 6'4" and ~220#s. I'm pretty sure he could have lifted the LSA out of the hole by himself, but graciously allowed me to help by pushing on the nose. Done, no problem. Five minutes later he was back in his warm equipment shop and I was sitting in the car figuring out what to do next.

Surveying the current spot, if I could move the airplane about a foot to the left I could get the left main and nose on former blocks and use one of my freshly cut boards for the right main. So I filled the ditch with ice (plenty of that) and decided to taxi forward enough uphill to allow me to reposition the airplane.  Carefully manipulating my balance to get inside without getting snow on anything, I buckled in and looked up to see my car sitting on the taxi way in front of me.  But that's OK because I'm not going to go that far anyway. Right. Slow exhale.

I moved the car and, carefully manipulating my balance to get inside without getting snow on anything, I buckled in and pulled out the checklist. Took a bit longer to start, probably really didn't need any choke. I moved forward slowly and tapped the right brake to straighten her out. Nope, just continued to slide left. Mashed both brakes and stopped. Close enough. Glad I moved the car.

With the tow bar attached it was easy to move back into the position I wanted. All 3 wheels are now out of the mud and I decided to remove the other two wheel pants. After getting two of the six screws out of the right main, the next screw got obstinate. Having gone way into debt on patience I decided to replace the two removed and call it a day. Strapped, covered and secured I headed for the house.

Hey, no damage, I got a start and a 'run-up' and whole lot of exercise. And I continue to learn how much I really don't know about aviation.

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