Thoughts on folding or removable wings for keeping a plane at home

Discussion in 'Hangar Flying' started by cluttonfred, Nov 2, 2017.

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  1. Nov 2, 2017 #1

    cluttonfred

    cluttonfred

    cluttonfred

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    The folding or removable wing option to keep your plane on a trailer at home sounds attractive until you start missing opportunities to fly because you only have a limited window and the trailering and folding/unfolding keep you out of the air. Want to go for a quick flight after work or church or what have you? Well, first you have to go home and hook up the trailer, drive to the airport, unload it, park the trailer, assemble it, then start your preflight and leave enough time to do it all again afterwards, instead of just heading straight for the airport. If you have a family and commitments and limited windows of opportunity to fly, you may not fly much.

    It comes down to how much you fly, how far away the airport is in relation to home and work, etc. The reality seems much like owning a good-sized boat on a trailer. If you only use it a few times a year, then trailering to the boat ramp to launch the boat is something you can live with, but if you use the boat a lot then you really want to have a slip in a marina so you can just get in the boat and go. Similarly, I think that there are quite a few Kitfoxes and Avids and Onexes (sp?) and the rest that are kept in hangars and rarely folded as their owners have gone the marina route. Even in Europe, where hangars can be so expensive, amateur- and factory-built Jodels and other European designs with one-piece wings, tip-to-tip, are still quite popular.

    I say this not from personal experience as an owner of a plane with folding wings (I owned one for about a year, never touched it, long story) but after running a web site for almost a decade about a little plane famous for its quick-folding wings and removable tail for easy trailering. I have interacted with dozens of Clutton FRED owners and builders over the years and very, very few keep actively flying planes at home unless they have their own airstrip. Even Eric Clutton himself kept the original FRED at the Tullahoma airport in a hangar next to his Luscombe for the last decade or more that he flew it.

    In my own design sketches I have settled on fuselage-mounted landing gear, easily removable wings in panels no more than 5.5m/18' long and usually much less, ditto the overall length of the fuselage from spinner to tail (sometimes with the rudder disconnected and folded 90 degrees on its hinges), and a tail span of about 2.25m (7' 5") if not removable. All those dimensions are based on the door opening and interior size of a 20' ISO shipping container, so actually more stringent than what is required for trailering, but I don't have to worry about the wear and tear of trailering a plane, especially on its own gear.

    Personally, I think the focus should not be on trailering as such but on storage in a modest space like a shipping container or the corner of a larger hangar.
     
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  2. Nov 2, 2017 #2

    Hot Wings

    Hot Wings

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    It does depend on the individual situation. But storage no matter where it is takes space. That space is owned and/or controlled by someone. That someone generally expects some form of compensation for it's use. In the case of some greedy airport boards that means one plane per hangar, by regulation, and maybe even payment for other than transient tie-down. In my case shipping containers are specifically forbidden.

    If I could share a hangar for a modest fee I'd probably do that rather than trailer, but even then you need folding wings to make it practical in the typical "T" hangar. So you still have most of the folding wing factors in play to go flying - other than the side trip to fetch the plane/trailer from it's city storage location. I can see that being a bigger significant for someone that lives in a larger city where it might be a 30 minute plus drive to get the plane. I'm lucky. It's only 20 minutes from anywhere habitable to the airport. But it's still 300 miles to what most people would call a city.:gig:

    I think your boat analogy is a good one. My brother has a sail boat. Its a real pain twice a year hauling it to the lake and setting up. If I lived on an island off the coast of British Columbia or Costa Rica :cool: I'd have one, and probably a sea plane. Other than that they are just too much of a hassle to make them enjoyably. A Hobi or such being an exception. Drag it to the lake and be on the water in 10 or 15 minutes. A canoe is even better. Just toss it on the car roof and drive to the nearest pond or stream. Setting up is little more than carrying the paddles and cooler to the water.

    So in conclusion to this rambling morning post:

    It's all about simplicity and speed. A hangar on a private strip is unbeatable - same as a dock/boat house on the front lawn.

    Folding wings have to be a single man operation that can be done easily in any wind comfortable to fly in less than 10 minutes - preferably less than 5. Setting up the pre-flight so the majority of it can be done during the unfolding process would help speed things up. Electric fold with automatic spar lock pins would be nice.......:think:

    Edit: Another Chicken or Egg thin;

    If there were more folding wing aircraft we might see a change in the way hangars are built as well. The typical "T" hangar is built the way it is because it is the most efficient use of space to store a conventional plane individually. Planes with folded wings can be stored in a rectangular slot with an off the shelf roll up door. This would be a LOT cheaper to build than a "T" hangar and we could store 5 planes in the same space as one the way we do now. 4, in 10 foot wide slots gives enough room for a small work bench and some related storage.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
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  3. Nov 2, 2017 #3

    Tiger Tim

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    I bet this would be pretty easy to trailer around or jam into a container or whatever:
    [​IMG]
     
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  4. Nov 2, 2017 #4

    BBerson

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    Why can't you trailer the plane to work? And then fly at any of the interesting new airports in the area.
    I owned almost a dozen airplanes, all tied down year round except the Grob which was tied down year round sometimes and sometimes only for the summer. Most planes are 12 hours to assemble. The Grob is two hours to assemble. I don't mind the two hours, the problem is wing weight is back breaking.
    I don't understand the mind set of insisting on a hangar. Just repaint it every ten years. And I don't understand not having 30 minutes to assemble an airplane after building it for 5 years.
     
  5. Nov 2, 2017 #5

    cluttonfred

    cluttonfred

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    Yup, but I think you'd need a 40' container for that Lacey M-10. Still, it's a neat concept and something that might be worth pursuing. See this 1963 Popular Mechanics article on folding-wing planes. The more things change.... I think the M-10 was a bit too weird for people when it came out, but something similar made to look more attractive could be just the thing for a "container plane." A Davis DA-2 has just a 19' span and 18' length, so it ought to be possible to get a side-by-side two-seater using the Lacey wing down to 20' container size. It could even be a shoulder-wing or mid-wing design with a little creative thinking.

    If there were several light aircraft, factory or homebuilt, available that were designed to store in a 20' container, I could see getting a group of people together to pitch to the airport authority (and take it to the town council or what have you if they balk) with a proposal for a suitable building, whether actual shipping containers or just a normal building divided into narrow bays. Garages are a lot cheaper than hangers since they don't need big clear spans. It could still be quite attractive so they wouldn't be able to block it as an eyesore. Or maybe you could disguise it as a wood pile and they wouldn't notice. ;-)

    IMG_0264.jpg 1f987d6d30069c6d8b1a9bf62c245d5b--garage-house-plans-shed-roof-garage.jpg 5153da97e338b879e293deca3b0f7d17--timber-frame-garage-timber-frames.jpg b9e803138a154b3e56288105d05ddd4b--hunting-cabin-deer-hunting.jpg
     
  6. Nov 2, 2017 #6

    skier

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    I'm not sure folding wings are a realistic or sufficient answer to avoiding the need for a hangar. As you noted, there are many aircraft with folding wings as an option and many of those are still hangared (or tied down) at an airport. There is too much inconvenience in folding the wings, trailering the aircraft, unfolding the wings, ensuring rigging, etc. for it to be a practical solution. an extra 30 minutes of effort (15 minutes to offload and assemble and 15 minutes to disassemble and load onto the trailer) can be a huge deterrence for a 30 minute (or even 60 minute) flight.

    Assume that since you're trailering the aircraft you now fly out of the closest airport available (20 minute drive from your house). You now have 40 minutes driving, 30 minutes assembly/disassembly, 15 minute preflight, 60 minutes flying = 145 minutes ~ 2.5 hours for 60 minutes of flying. The folding/unfolding just added 25% more time to your flight (2 hours to 2.5 hours). The numbers look even worse for a quick after-work stress relief flight for fun (ref: 30 minutes flying).

    In my opinion, the best option is a plane that can be tied-down outside without much concern. Around here (New England, not far from the shore) the best option (in my mind) is a sheet metal aircraft that has sufficient corrosion protection. My budget just went from $600/month for a hangar to $15/month for a tie down. If the plane has folding wings I would be able to take the plane home once per year to do its condition inspection inside my garage. In that case a quick-folding option isn't a necessity. 30-60 minutes to fold/unfold once per year would be acceptable. Having to remove the fuel from the wings would also be acceptable since it is only once per year.

    Would you leave a plane with wood wings outside where it would be exposed to a lot of moisture (rain, humidity, etc.)? Many of the small, affordable, aircraft are wood designs or have wood wings. Look at Fisher Flying Products, Flybaby, Minimax, cub replicas, Kitfox, Avid, etc. If a hangar were reasonable around here, I would seriously consider buying a minimax/flybaby/FP-XXX/Klob/Dream Classic/airbike/etc. for $5,000-$7,000.
     
  7. Nov 2, 2017 #7

    TFF

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    20 ft or 40 ft most airports will not let you have them. Not saying some won't but there is 8 airports not including the Class B airport around me and none will allow it. Crop duster strip maybe. As for 20 or 40, why would you buy a 20? Too heavy to move as the 40 is. They cost about the same. Go for more room. If you really are planning to ship a plane international, just make sure it breaks down enough. 40 ft could still move family belongings along with plane without piling stuff on the plane.
     
  8. Nov 2, 2017 #8

    Tiger Tim

    Tiger Tim

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    That's probably a good point. What would the challenges be in designing an airplane that's meant to live outside year round in all climates?
     
  9. Nov 2, 2017 #9

    cluttonfred

    cluttonfred

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    It's a great point and something I haven't really considered as I really prefer working with wood. I suspect that it's likely to mean strict attention to drains and limber holes and for water and access panels for easy inspection and lots of meticulous surface preparation and painting and priming, not fun stuff like pivoting wings! ;-)
     
  10. Nov 2, 2017 #10

    choppergirl

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    My plan was to leave my folded wing plane in the trailer, and park it in my friends back yard, one mile away from the local EAA airport.

    When I want to fly for a week, I drive the truck to her back yard, hook it up, and pull it to the airport.

    One serious 90 degree turn coming out of her driveway, with a truck with 20ft trailer, but it is possible for me to do some landscaping and an extra ditch pipe to change that into a no brainer soft turn.

    Park the trailer at the EAA airport, pull out the plane, undo its wings, and fly it.

    When I land, tie it down to the ground somehow, and leave it for the evening, tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day, or all week long, or two.

    I'm thinking if I'm a member, and they like me, they won't be pissed off if I leave my trailer and airplane parked out on their grass for a week or two. Who cares? As long as I'm not in the way of anyone. They got plenty of grass. And as long as a windstorm doesn't come along while my plane is tied down, I'm golden. I watch weather.com so no problem there.

    When I get burned out from my binge of flying, fly it one more time, fold it up, put it back in the trailer, drive it back to my friends back yard, unhitch it, and drive the truck home.

    Good plan?

    How amenable are airports to leaving your trailer and airplane parked and tied down there for a while, while you are actively flying it?

    I know they don't mind during fly ins, but what about the rest of the year?


    If I'm comfortable leaving both chained up over night elsewhere, that would cut down on a lot of the folding and unfolding and driving back and forth every day.

    Most pilots are guys, and an unattended slow big pink plane would be the last one on their mind to steal. They wouldn't want to get caught dead in that thing. Painting your plane pink as a deterent to theft.

    I'd just jump on the motorbike, drive to the airport, untie the plane, do a walk around, and go fly...

    If the forecast looks like for sure rain, zoom to the airport on the motorbike, and stuff it back in the trailer...

    It's not as convenient as having your own airstrip or a hanger and being able just pulling out your plane and flying it, but maybe it's as close as I can get until I made friends with someone with a big empty barn on a big empty farm, and it zero's out monthly hanger rental, land taxes, and spending $15K to buy a mowed field, both of which I will never afford.

    Just the friggin gas to feed the thing and the truck is going to be expensive enough, and about all the expenses I want, period. Plus, well, premix oil. I'm not paying nonsense money for anything else.

    Whether my plan works in has yet to be tested IRL. By the time I finish my plane at this rate, I may not even care about flying any more *shrug*.... flying might actually scare the living sh*t out of me. Wouldn't that be ironic? Then it becomes a colorful pretty lawn ornament for barbecue get togethers.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
  11. Nov 2, 2017 #11

    BBerson

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    Of course I would leave a wood airplane outside! My Chief was half wood and and had never been in a hangar in it's 30 years of living in Alaska before I restored it 1976. (1946-1976). I replaced some of the wood and kept it outside year round. I suspect the new owner in 2006 may have replaced some wood, fabric, cables, etc. So the half wood Chief is now 70. How long do you need?
    There are about 5000 airplanes tied outside around Anchorage, Alaska where I grew up immersed in aviation. Almost nobody has a hangar in Alaska. Almost nobody is without a hangar in lower 48.
    Why is that? I guess because ordinary people have airplanes in Alaska. They drive old cars to the airport to work on old airplanes outside where anyone can stop to talk.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
  12. Nov 2, 2017 #12

    Hot Wings

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    The all climates part.

    I've seen tie downs (good ones) ripped out and control locks blown off resulting in significant damage. Snow in places can accumulate fast enough enough to break wings. Blowing sand can ruin a windshield or prop in a matter of hours and it doesn't take much longer to ruin a paint job. Even less for polished aluminum.

    The last time I was in Texas one of the locals apologized for the high (20-25 mph) winds. Our reply was "What wind!" A lot of urban centers, where hangars are expensive, are located where they are because the early settlers chose those locations partly for the good weather.

    If the plane checks out I should be the owner of an Avid sometime this weekend*. I'm not particularly excited by the type but it has 3 features that make it desirable. It's local, an Experimental, not certified, and it has folding wings. I can build a trailer for it for the cost of 2 months hangar rent. Maybe three times the hangar rent if I want to cover it with an EMT/boat shrink cover. For me the $3000 I'd spend on hangar rent is worth not being able to do those 20 minute spontaneous flights.

    For that same $3000/year I can add heated work space at home - or install ADS-b - or rent a 4 place when I want/need one. The Avid looks like it will consume around $35 in direct operating costs per hour. Adding hangar rent to that for 50 hours a year almost triples that number.


    * Haven't told the wife yet :para:
     
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  13. Nov 2, 2017 #13

    BJC

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    With a stall speed of 15 MPH at gross, and an empty weight wing loading of just over 2 lbs per square foot, it would be very risky to leave your airplane tied down outside.


    BJC
     
  14. Nov 2, 2017 #14

    Dana

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    Even if you don't want to tow the plane all the time, folding wings make it possible to keep the plane at the airport in an enclosed trailer where hangars are unaffordable or unavailable. I kept my Kolb in the trailer and paid the outdoor tiedown fee, which was 1/4 the cost of hangars, which were unavailable anyway. 10 minutes to fold/unfold. In the winter I trailered it home to save the tiedown rent, and trailered it to the airport on the occasional warm day.

    Dana
     
  15. Nov 2, 2017 #15

    cluttonfred

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    Airfields that welcome sailplanes are used to having lots of them stored on or near the field in trailers, might be worth asking for the same deal for a small powered aircraft in a trailer?
     
  16. Nov 2, 2017 #16

    autoreply

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    I fully concur.

    I've assembled and disassembled sailplanes for weeks on end. Single-seaters can be put together in about 10 minutes. (Open trailer to airworthy, including preflight). Assembly itself takes about 5 minutes if it's routine.

    That's a great alternative for a hangar. Through-the-fence though quickly gets ugly. Most folding-wing powered planes are simply not designed to be both safe and fast and they suck at one aspect (or both).

    A truly well-done powered aircraft with a folding wing should have huge market potential in the more densely populated areas like the west- and east coast of the US and much of Western Europe.

    Also:
    2585-a-cricri-is-taking-off-from-the-roof-of-a-car.jpg
     
  17. Nov 2, 2017 #17

    cluttonfred

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    Does that work like the Me 163 Komet, jettison the hatchback on takeoff?
     
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  18. Nov 2, 2017 #18

    Victor Bravo

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    Add my vote for the wing fold or quick disassembly versus a "weather-proof" airplane. Even if left at the airport, a wing fold mechanism will allow the airplane to more easily use a proper airplane cover (Bruce's Custom Covers, et al), and probably make it easier to secure against wind.

    As a fellow sailplane pilot, I can vouch for the fact that a modern sailplane can go from trailer to flight line in less than 30 minutes. That includes a preflight, assembly, and taping.

    Take a look at the Spacek SD-1 for an example of a trailerable powered aircraft that meets the "well done" aspect that Autoreply mentions. I suspect that the Luciole is very similar.

    The decision of whether it is better to take the airplane home or leave it in a container at the airport will vary from one individual owner to another. And even if the airport will not allow a row of 20/40 foot containers, the fact is that a standard T-hangar or square hangar can be used to store more than one folding airplane. So IMHO there is a significant value for a folding airplane regardless of whether it is taken home, tied down, in a container, or in a hangar. The smaller footprint can be converted into monetary savings and/or better aircraft protection no matter where the airplane is kept.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
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  19. Nov 2, 2017 #19

    Tiger Tim

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    That's relatively rare though I do concede it happens. Might be a good job for the insurance company to deal with.

    Where are you that this is happening? I've lived in some snowy places but the worst I've seen are a couple Cessnas that end up on their tails each winter.

    Canopy cover and prop cover.

    Maybe a good excuse for a wrap?

    Everybody wants polished aluminum until they have to live with it anyways.


    It looks like I should have saidmost climates but my point remains, outside could be an option for storage. I keep my car outside, after all, and it's held up fine for the last ten years.
     
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  20. Nov 2, 2017 #20

    Topaz

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    For me, and I suspect many others in more-urban or even sub-urban areas, the problem with on-airport storage is cost, pure and simple. A hangar out here can be upwards of $500/month in many cases (I'm sure there are exceptions) and that prices me right out of flying, once the cost of using, maintaining, and insuring the airplane itself is "thrown in". The cheapest tie-down I know in SoCal is at Skylark Field (CA89), at $40/month, and that's way less-expensive than most, which are over $100/month at the places I've looked. For a tie-down! But Skylark is an hour-and-a-half drive from home, each way, and that's going to eat into my flying more than a 30-minute assembly at the much closer Corona Airpark (AJO).

    I agree with the notion that on-airport storage in a shipping container is probably the optimum solution, but I haven't even asked Corona what they'd charge to let me store a shipping container on-site and, if it's seen as bypassing their hangar revenue, I'd wager it's not going to be cheap. I could park a shipping container on Skylark for the small price of their tie-downs (the airport manager is reasonable that way), but again, an hour-and-a-half drive just to get to the airplane.

    My case is probably atypical, but I find myself totally nodding in agreement with Matthew on this one. I need and want something I can stuff in a trailer and tow home behind the truck at the end of the day's flying, and store in the driveway. Taking it back adds no more than the time required to hook up the trailer to the truck (~5 minutes? Maybe?), and the rest of the time-sequence is absolutely no different than if the container were stored on the airport.
     

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