Towing a dead plane in the air?

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Dav8or, Mar 17, 2014.

  1. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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  2. VictorValencia

    VictorValencia Pre-Flight

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    Interesting question.

    In the case of a glider there's an airworthy aircraft towing another airworthy
    aircraft. The "dead" plane is technically not airworthy anymore so the feds
    may frown upon this. Not sure though.

    A glider is designed to operate normally without an engine. If the towing aircraft
    had to release the glider for some reason it's no big deal (unless at a very low
    altitude). Releasing a "dead" airplane could prove more problematic since
    it cannot glide nearly as far un-powered.

    It probably would work fine if nothing went wrong. God help ya though
    if something goes wrong and the feds start investigating.

    Victor
     
  3. c177tx

    c177tx Pre-Flight

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    I have seen the picture of the 206 being pulled off that beach in Mexico. Rope was tied to the prop. The picture is hanging at Texas State Aviation located at HYI.
     
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  4. N801BH

    N801BH Touchdown! Greaser! Gone West

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    First post......

    Welcome to POA...:cheers:
     
  5. Tim

    Tim Line Up and Wait

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    That sounds like the one I know about and the FAA here knew the people that did it but it was in Mexico. I saw the pictures.
     
  6. c177tx

    c177tx Pre-Flight

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    Ok, I went by Texas State Aviation and took a picture of the picture hanging on the wall. The Instructor at Texas State personally had talked to one of the pilots involved in this incident in Brownsville Texas and had received this photo from him.

    I just can not post pictures here I guess
     
  7. c177tx

    c177tx Pre-Flight

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    Ok, let me try this

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Lindberg

    Lindberg En-Route

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    Cheap way to train for engine failures?
     
  9. Dav8or

    Dav8or Final Approach

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    Finally, what I was looking for. Proof that it had been done. Everything else has just been stories. Funny that all the stories seem to involve Cessna high wings. Seems like from all accounts, it works just fine like I thought it would. I would think that with a little bit of proper engineering, it could be a routine way moving dead planes for repair.
     
  10. N801BH

    N801BH Touchdown! Greaser! Gone West

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    That is the key point to success... The tow rope is hooked to the prop, where the normal forces are applied in a running plane.....

    Hook that same tow rope to the landing gear ,or other parts of the airframe not on certerline and you will witness a plane crash....

    Make that TWO plane crashes:yikes:......;)
     
  11. Henning

    Henning Ejection Handle Pulled

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    :confused: During WWII while not common, it was far from unheard of to tow a fighter back to base after landing in a suitable field after an engine failure. The pictures I've seen typically had a C-47 as the tow plane.
     
  12. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    That's gotta be hard on engine mounts. Engines don't jerk with ropes getting slack.
     
  13. Dav8or

    Dav8or Final Approach

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    I suppose you could carefully position the planes by hand to take out all the slack, or a special tow rope with a spring/dampener in it could engineered. If it weren't for the FAA, I wonder if this could be developed into commercial service to move planes, rather than trucking.
     
  14. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Just looks to me like a new way to buckle a 182 firewall... Just in the other direction.
     
  15. Dav8or

    Dav8or Final Approach

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    Gotta wonder about the difference in air speeds here. What's the rotation speed for a C-47 vs. P-51? Cruise speed of the C-47 vs. whatever is needed for a P-51 to safely stay aloft. Might be some tricky flying your the fighter pilot.
     
  16. tonycondon

    tonycondon Gastons CRO (Chief Dinner Reservation Officer)

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    shouldn't be too much jerking around on the rope once they are both airborne. minimizing that on the takeoff isn't too hard either. Cezzna's have plenty of drag so picking up a bunch of slack in the rope in flight is highly unlikely.
     
  17. Henning

    Henning Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Not really too effectively, when I was doing that stuff, if the airframe was in condition to take to the air, we'd just go out with a 'loaner' engine, do the swap and I'd fly it out. Most of the time that's the simpler and safer way to do it, and it's covered by the insurance.
     
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  18. c177tx

    c177tx Pre-Flight

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    The story behind the picture I posted was that the 206 had to land on a beach in Mexico South of Brownsville due to engine problems. They did not wish to leave it on the beach very long as anything left on a beach in Mexico would shorty be picked clean. So they found another 206 in Brownsville, flew down to the beach tied the rope to the prop of the dead 206 and some how put the rope through the fuselage of the tow 206, same story with the block of wood and an axe ready to cut the rope. The plane was successfully towed to Brownsville.
     
  19. Dav8or

    Dav8or Final Approach

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    Really??!! How much do shops charge in hours to do a complete engine swap? That's really faster and easier than attaching a tow rope to either a prop, or crankshaft? The insurance part I get. A proven business with a record of success would have to emerge before the insurance companies would come on board.
     
  20. Henning

    Henning Ejection Handle Pulled

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    We'd swap an engine in a day to a day and a half and a ferry permit would be ready when I was. See how long it takes to get the permit to tow. You have to get the FAA onboard before you get the insurance onboard, and some of those fields I wouldn't want to be using anything but a 1200hp or better Ag plane to get it out, those aren't exactly cheap to operate.
     
  21. Greg Bockelman

    Greg Bockelman Administrator Management Council Member

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    It's a hell of a lot safer.
     
  22. ChrisK

    ChrisK En-Route

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    I saw my local flight school drive up 3.5 on Friday with an engine they removed from another plane, spend the night in a hotel, swap the engine in about six hours, and both plane and truck be home in time for dinner. If you have an engine available, that does seem one hell of a lot easier.
     
  23. Dav8or

    Dav8or Final Approach

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    Oh, I get the hassle with the FAA and I realize that in today's regulatory climate that this is all hypothetical in this country at least. But what if this were a well established practice like glider tow, or banner tow is? I think with proper engineering, it could be. Imagine if no one had ever towed a banner behind a plane before and you went to the FAA with the idea now, how far would you get with that one? You would also have lots of pilots telling you it would be terribly unsafe and crazy to do.

    I agree the turbine Ag plane would make the ideal "tow truck". No doubt expensive to operate, but with today's labor rates, I still think it could be cost competitive with sending two guys out to swap an engine, or to disassemble and pack onto a truck, or trailer.

    One question though, if you swapped the engine out on a dead plane, why do you need the ferry permit? Isn't the plane then airworthy again as long as you have an IA sign off on the swap?
     
  24. Dav8or

    Dav8or Final Approach

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    Aren't gliders towed every day and no one seems to think that is really unsafe? Which is more unsafe, gliding behind a turbine Ag plane on a well engineered tow rig, or flying behind a temporary engine that was slapped in as fast as possible in the field?
     
  25. Dav8or

    Dav8or Final Approach

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    Aside from FAA bureaucratic entanglements, I really don't see how in any way, that is easier.
     
  26. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Understand and knew that. Just saying, the average doofuses attenpting this probably aren't necessarily going to be highly experienced tow/towed pilots... And motor mounts weren't designed for such things...
     
  27. Henning

    Henning Ejection Handle Pulled

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    As for cheaper, I'm nor seeing it, the labor rates are not that bad. Often the loaner engine isn't the correct dash number for the plane, hence the ferry permit.

    Then there is still the insurance issue. Glider tow operations happen off a runway typically with plenty of room. Getting a plane out of a pasture can often be tight to the fences or trees, with the towing method you're risking 2 airplanes rather than one. I can pull the wings off most light GA planes and load it on a trailer in a day, to a day and a half, about the same time to swap an engine.

    Towing isn't impossible, but it is rarely the most feasible method of doing it, and even more rarely safe to do.
     
  28. murphey

    murphey Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    You didn't get the joke on the jpg. If you're not from Texas or nearby, you don't understand Aggie jokes, and Mike's too busy getting his IFR to defend Texas A&M.
     
  29. Henning

    Henning Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Bottom speed differential isn't that great an issue, stall on a P-51 is around 90mph, stall on the DC-3 is about 65mph with a 200mph cruise. You wouldn't have to climb the DC-3 in the transitional take off phase before the P-51 was ready to fly, plus the P-51 could put in flaps to close the gap even further.

    Remember, rotation speed is a minimum speed to leave the ground, not maximum. Even at 150 you'd have no problem in the P-51.
     
  30. ChrisK

    ChrisK En-Route

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    I'm not starting from the assumption that you have a pre-fabbed sling for towing. I guess if you had something that you could hook up that was reliable, fine. I was comparing this to the engineering effort of coming up with a solid reusable mechanism that could work for a number of single engine airplanes. I also assumed that using tiedown ropes was not a good solution :)
     
  31. Dav8or

    Dav8or Final Approach

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    Well I was assuming the dead airplane was at an airport, not a farmer's field, or a sand bar in Idaho. As to the insurance, there would be solid engineering and training for this operation. Both the tow pilot and the "glider" pilot would be professionals train for this job, so the insurance company might not be so uptight.
     
  32. Henning

    Henning Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Insurance companies are always uptight, what do you think the premium for this operation would be? If the airplane is on an airport, why the heck would you want to tow it out? Just hang the engine. I just can't imagine this as a profitable business model. It would probably be cheaper to get a helicopter and sling load a plane than to tow it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2014
  33. gismo

    gismo Touchdown! Greaser!

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    As you well know, all that would take is for the towed airplane to transition from a climb to a descent, picking up speed more quickly than the towplane. :yes:

    Towing from the prop might cause a different problem if the prop decided to windmill. :yikes:
     
  34. N801BH

    N801BH Touchdown! Greaser! Gone West

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    Not that far fetched of an idea..

    Since any plane that needed a tow would have a dead engine, the simple way is to make a pick up hook that fastens to the crank hub and it would not be hard to engineer a "quick release" latch on it... Most all planes can have the spinner and prop removed without even having to remove the cowling. And with the prop missing, the drag goes WAY down and the chance of it windmilling is zero... Besides that, the prop flange is a SAE#2 on 99% of the planes so you would not need alot of different "pull hooks"

    I also agree you would need a high HP AG plane to safely do the tow. And I bet you could arrive at the scene where the disabled plane is and have it hooked up and dragged into the air within an hour or so.... IMHO...
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2014
  35. WhiskeyPapa

    WhiskeyPapa Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Dead plane doesn't look properly positioned for a tow--wonder if the pilot had any glider experience?
     
  36. tonycondon

    tonycondon Gastons CRO (Chief Dinner Reservation Officer)

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    based on my experience with transitioning power pilots to gliders, the fact that they are in the same general vicinity of the towplane is evidence that they have aerotow experience. "low tow" is commonly taught for XC aerotow. helps avoid slack issues.
     
  37. brcase

    brcase Pattern Altitude

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    I like that idea, attach the sling to the prop. Is it sling load or a Tow? :yesnod::yesnod:

    Towing gliders with a helicopter is not a new idea.

    Brian
     
  38. wby0nder

    wby0nder Cleared for Takeoff

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    Tony Condon can provide a link to a great story about someone aero towing a Cessna single. Hey Tony!
     
  39. zaitcev

    zaitcev En-Route

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    This reminds me, LII (head test unit for SovietAF) tested Me-163 by towing it behind something like SB (a twin bomber) in 1945-1946. Mark Gallai was at the controls. In his memoirs he mentioned that at one point he ended with a "hung" cable and landed dragging it. Fortunately it didn't snatch on anything, of consequences would've been deadly.
     
  40. tonycondon

    tonycondon Gastons CRO (Chief Dinner Reservation Officer)

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    did that, on page 1 :)