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Providing adequate protection for your airplane from the environment is very important and there are many ways to accomplish this objective.  This article reviews the different alternatives for airplane protection and provides a selection of sources for these products.

The biggest environmental threat is the sun.  The suns heat, and relentless ultraviolet rays attack and quickly deteriorate your airplanes paint, upholstery, tires, windshield, avionics, dashboard, controls, and all other exposed plastic surfaces.  In addition to the sun, moisture from rain, mist, fog, snow, and hail can cause metal parts to rust. Exposed aluminum will oxidize. And in the worst cases, moisture can seep into your fuel system, which we all know is very dangerous.  

Other environmental threats such as wind blown sand, hail damage, bird and insect can obstruct critical avionics sensors, control surfaces, and potentially damage your airplanes exterior.  And of course we must take into account the biggest environmental threat of them all, the local airplane burglar / vandal.  

The very best solution to protect your airplane is to put it in an airplane hangar.  There are many types of airplane hangars available including: T-hangars, FBO hangars, gang hangars, corporate hangars, portable hangars, and shade hangars. Make sure you get a hangar with that fits your airplane comfortably (to avoid hangar rash).  If it is a tight fit or you just like convenience, it is very useful to paint a “center line” on the ramp leading up to your hangar, so you can back your airplane into the hangar, right down the middle, every time.  It is also helpful to nail your rear chocks down to the floor so you back into the exact depth, every time you park in your hangar.

Individual T-hangars
T-hangars typically have common walls and are part of a long building. T-hangars are the best solution for protecting your airplane because you do not have to worry about “hangar rash” from other airplanes parked next to yours. T-hangars a commonly “T” shaped, but sometimes they are rectangular as well.  

FBO and Gang hangars
If all you can get is space in a large FBO or gang hangar, then make sure to check with the owner and users about  what the policy and rules are regarding hangar use and resolution in case of hangar rash incidences. If you get a space up front near the door and the hangar is not too crowded with other airplane, a gang hangar can be a good solution and generally, the monthly rent is less than what is paid for a T-hangar.

Corporate hangars
Corporate hangars are generally reserved for storage of business airplanes like small jets and turboprops.  They are usually quite large and often feature attached offices, lounges, bathrooms, etc.  Many times corporations work with the airport authority and an airport developer to build a corporate hangar.

Portable hangars
Portable hangars are typically individual T-hangars that have been prefabricated into modules at the factory, and then transported to the airport for installation.  The concept is the same as mobile homes.  Portable hangars have a few deficiencies and advantages not shared with conventional hangars.  Portable hangars are typically installed  directly on the tie down ramp using “earth anchors”, therefore you may be subject having water run across the floor when it rains, and sometimes there are large gaps between the floor and the sidewall because of the uneven mounting surface it is easy for dirt and debris to blow into your hangar.  In addition, portable hangars are often installed on a temporary basis, and subject to be moved when needed by the landlord.  If you get a portable hangar be sure to check into the land lease conditions very carefully.

Because portable hangars are “portable” they can sometimes not be subject to all the building permits and regulations that pertain to conventional hangars.  By sidestepping the permit process, portable hangars can be put in quickly and inexpensively.  Be very careful with this issue as it varies county to county and many airports are no longer allowing portable hangars on the field without proper building permits.

Shade hangars
Shade hangars are simply a roof help up by poles.  There are not too many of them around because they cost about 75% as much as a conventional row of good T-hangars.

Unless you are building a new hangar, you will likely not have a choice of what type of hangar door you have but if you do, you should consider the pros and cons of each hangar door type.

Sliding doors   
Most all T-hangars use sliding doors. These doors have rollers on the bottom of the door that follow a channel on the floor, typically a grove or a raised “V”.  Sliders also incorporate a guiding track at the top. Larger sliding doors are multi-panel and stack to the side.  Pros for this door type include:  easy to use, reliable, inexpensive, easy to repair, and strong.  Cons include:  in most cases the open door usually slides in front of neighbors hangar, doors sometimes gets hung up due to debris or malfunction of lower track and roller assembly, mostly manual and heavy to push open.

Bi-fold doors
A bi-fold door folds in half horizontally and then raises up vertically, powered by an electric motor and lifted by cables.  The bi-fold door is one of the oldest powered door designs and they work quite well if you get a quality product.  Pros include: all electric operation, very strong, quite reliable.  Cons include: somewhat high cost, loss of vertical clearance, and difficult to operate and open if a malfunction occurs.

Overhead doors
Overhead doors are like bi-fold doors except they don’t fold vertically in the middle.  They move in the same fashion as a typical overhead found on a residential garage. Generally an overhead door is lifted with a counterweight that is attached to the door by cables and an electric motor is used for movement.  Pros and cons are similar to a bi-fold door except vertical clearance is improved.

Stack doors
Stack doors are constructed of vertically folding fiberglass skinned panels that are connected with hinges, feature a truck roller assembly on the bottom and guide rollers on top. Stack doors are opened by pushing each set of panels to the side of the hangar, were the doors neatly “stack up” in an accordion fashion.  Pros of the stack door include: quick and easy to install,  easy to open.  Cons are:  complexity of bottom truck roller system, must be operated manually (pushed), and not as strong as some other designs in sever weather conditions.

Side-wall Curtain doors
Side-wall curtain doors are similar to conventional stack doors except they are suspended from a top roller and track assembly goes across the front of the hangar and curves around the front inside corner of the hangar and continues parallel to the sidewalls, inside the hangar. Pros of hanging doors include: very low cost, simple to open, good for small hangars.  Cons include:  loss of space and storage on the inside walls of the hangar, and not as strong as other designs in sever weather conditions.

Here are three tips that will make your hangar even better:

1.    Put a low speed fan in the hangar, up toward the ceiling and blow air across the bottom of the ceiling.  Keep the fan on all the time.  It will reduce condensation and reduce heat in the hangar.

2.    Get a few cans of compressed foam in spray cans and use it to plug up cracks and gaps in your hangar.  This will help keep dust and insects out of your hangar.

3.    Install an ultrasonic insect and pest device.  This will keep rodents and insects out of your hangar and out of your plane.

If you cannot obtain a hangar the next best solution is to use airplane covers and sunshields to protect your airplane.

Airplane covers
Airplane covers are made of fabric and wrap directly on the outside your airplane.  The most important cover to get is a cabin cover to protect the interior of your airplane.  In addition to cabin covers, cowl covers and wing covers are also available.

Sun shields
Sun shields fit inside the airplane and cover the windows, effectively blocking the suns rays from penetrating the cockpit.  Sun shields are typically made of a reflective and insulated material which also helps to keep the interior of the airplane cooler.

Sources for airplane protection:

All hangar types Erect-A-Tube www.erect-a-tube.com
All hangar types R&M Steel Company www.rmsteel.com
All hangar types Varco-Pruden Bldgs. www.vp.com
All hangar types Nunno Corporation www.nunnosteel.com
All door types DP Industries www.dpindustries.com
Bi-fold doors Schweiss www.bifold.com
Stack doors Stack Door www.stackdoor.com
All door types Wilson Doors www.wilsondoors.com
Airplane covers Kennon A/C Covers www.kennoncovers.com
Airplane covers Cunningham Covers www.cunningham.com