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Aircraft Tie Down

Storm & High winds, Part I

There are a number of places on this planet where, if you would park your aircraft, you need to take extra measures to make sure the aircraft survives the weather or high winds. Airports close to the sea or large bodies of water, and for example in New Zealand when north-westerlies are blowing or locations where tornadoes are common, are known for these dangers. In fact, small aircraft parked outside during high winds or storm will need some form of protection against the elements.

Any aircraft parked outside should be secured after all operations for the day are finished, and if necessary between operations. This will make sure that your aircraft is safe against unpredicted local weather. High winds can cause for thousands of dollars of damage to aircraft, sometimes even beyond repair. These claims ultimately result in higher premiums for the owner and we should do everything to avoid this.

Storm protection

Your best option is to move the aircraft out of the area where a storm or other windy phenomenon is predicted by meteorological services. Provided there is sufficient warning and that you can fly the aircraft away safely. The next best thing is to seek shelter in a storm proof hanger. If not available, then the only thing you can do is to find a place where the aircraft is out of the prevailing winds and tied down properly.

Parking spot

Helix tie down

A number of airports have limited fixed tie down points either in the grass or on the tarmac, and these are generally reserved for local aircraft. You will have to talk to the airport manager if one is available for use. Use caution when parking near buildings as flying debris can cause unforeseen damage. Localized eddies (turbulent rotating winds due to buildings and other obstructions) may cause difficulty and damage for ailerons and elevators if not properly locked.

If all else fails you can try to park the aircraft behind some cars, let them break the wind and be used as an anchor point at the same time (but be sure to warn the owners). A truck would do fine, being heavy and big.

tie down points

The location of the tie down points at an airport is usually marked by either white or yellow paint on the tarmac, painted truck tires or other methods of aircraft tie down (check the AIP for details).

Anchor points

Normally there would be three anchor points per aircraft available for tie down. The spacing between the anchor points should allow for wingtip clearance between aircraft of similar size, IE the fuselage length (or wingspan) of the largest expected aircraft plus some extra meters/feet clearance.

The tie down should protrude no more than one inch above the surface or be below or equal to the surface, this is to protect the tires. Holding strength must be a minimum of 3000 lbs (1400 kg) per anchor point for a small single engined aircraft. Light multi-engine aircraft anchor points must be able to hold 4000 lbs (1800 kg).

Parallel cables

Some airports provide parallel cables passed through U-bolts. The tie down ropes are attached to the wire rope with anchor shackles. This allows for a variety of aircraft of different sizes so that loss of parking space is at a minimum. An advantage is that ropes provides flexibility and can take the wind gusts without damaging the aircraft.


Tie down

The most commonly used pickets are the coiled type (helix) and the crossover tubes with steel stakes. Carry at least six stakes, three crossover tubes and enough rope in a bag with a hammer (think weight and balance here). The stakes are preferred above the coiled types, these helices are difficult to get into stoney ground and get loose easily when the ground is soft or becomes wet. Do pay a visit to an outdoor shop, they can advise on pickets and ropes as they are used for big tents too.


As mentioned before, ropes should be able to withstand at least the same force as the anchor point, 3000 lbs (1400 Kg). Do not use Manila rope, it shrinks when wet and can rot. Just use nylon or Dracon rope. Using chains to tie down is also not recommended as they do not have the elasticity to dampen wind gust loads and this will damage the aircraft.


If chains are to be used make sure the chain is attached to the aircraft with a rope and fit them without any slack in the chain. Regularly inspect the ropes as they can and will loose strength with age presenting a danger when needed the most and expected the least.

Written by EAI.

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