SHOULD I COVER MY AIR­CRAFT?

The pro­hib­i­tive cost or ab­sence of hangar space has forced many air­craft to be parked out­side in all weathers. Well that’s okay … isn’t it?

Pilot - - 1980s - ‘Well I keep my air­craft out­side. Surely air­craft are built to with­stand any­thing?’ ‘So what’s the prob­lem with keep­ing my air­craft out­side?’ ‘I just had a new paint job – surely that will pro­tect it?’ ‘I can’t get my air­craft into a hangar. What can I do

Well yes … and no. As far as fly­ing goes, the stresses that air­craft are de­signed to take in flight would have most pi­lots re­vis­it­ing their break­fast, but the truth is that light air­craft are not de­signed, or built, to be kept per­ma­nently out­side. A five-minute chat with any en­gi­neer will con­firm that!

The main prob­lems that will sur­face over time are cor­ro­sion and de­com­po­si­tion of com­pos­ites and plas­tics. Air­craft are made from a com­bi­na­tion of ma­te­ri­als;dis­sim­i­larmet­als,resin­com­pos­ites, wood, plas­tics, paint; you name it and it’s in there. In the pres­ence of mois­ture and sun­light these in­ter­act with each other chem­i­cally. The re­sult can be ex­ten­sive and ex­pen­sive dam­age of one form or another.

Same thing I’m afraid! Paint doesn’t pro­tect Acrylic or Poly­car­bon­ate win­dows and canopies, and they are dam­aged by ex­po­sure to UV rays in nat­u­ral sun­light, caus­ing dis­coloura­tion and mi­cro-crack­ing (craz­ing).

Cover as much of your air­craft as you can pos­si­bly af­ford. It’s that sim­ple.

NO! Se­ri­ously, please don’t. An air­craft cover has to be soft, non-ab­sorbent and it has to breathe, oth­er­wise you are just in­tro­duc­ing another dam­ag­ing as­pect. It has to fit the shape of the air­craft ex­cep­tion­ally well, and it has to have a bar­rier layer in­side to pro­tect the win­dows from be­ing scratched by dirt and bugs. A well-made cover from a man­u­fac­turer that un­der­stands the engi­neer­ing prob­lems of both cov­ers and air­craft will likely cost more in the short term be­cause they will make it prop­erly, but your in­vest­ment will pay div­i­dends in the con­di­tion and value of your air­craft.

If your air­craft is out­side, you need a good cover. It re­ally is that sim­ple.

This air­craft had been parked out­side for 8 years un­moved due to the owner be­ing un­able to fly. I hap­pened to be there the day he un­cov­ered ‘PN’ for the first time and this is the re­sult. We didn’t wash any of the air­craft, this is ex­actly as the cover came off! The in­te­rior was as good as the day it was made (It had been new when the air­craft stopped fly­ing).

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