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Thursday, December 23, 2021

Any Sheds Available?

What's Up by LeRoy Cook

Flying wasn’t always easy last week, but pilots managed to pick their times and get in a few trips aloft. As is typical of the boundary between fall and winter, there’s a wind shift and air mass change every other day. One day we have 70-degree temperatures, brought in on southerly breezes, and the next there’s a freezing wind out of the northwest.

And so, there were a few visitors in, including a Cessna Skyhawk from Fort Scott, along with a Cirrus and a Piper Warrior. Dr. Ed Christophersen was over from New Century in his Piper Archer and Mike Golden flew an approach in his Cessna Turbo 210, down from Olathe. I ventured over to Ottawa in a Cessna 150 and Joshua Cooke flew a practice mission in a Cessna 150, as did Rebekah Knight. Randy Miller was out in the Cessna Skyhawk.

As anybody who’s been an airplane owner knows, there’s a chronic shortage of hangar space just about everywhere in the country. Butler gets calls weekly, wanting to know if there’s any hangar space available for rent. We’re always full, with a waiting list and it’s the same at our neighboring airfields. The solution would be to build more hangars, but there doesn’t seem to be a willingness to invest, when a quicker return is available in non-airport construction. Don’t look for government facilitation; trust fund money has to be spent on public interest improvements like runway and lighting. Hangars are not a priority for government agencies. What we need are aviation-minded private venturists to work with cooperative airport boards, making builders welcome. More based airplanes mean more activity, subsidizing the public airport for the non-pilots so it doesn’t need to be a drain on general tax revenues. 

We’ve been told that Harrisonville has committed to a major runway reconstruction project next year, which will cause the airport to be closed for most of the year, leaving the dozens of tenants scrambling to find a spot to tie down or get inside at other airports, which will be tough to do. Why the work can’t be phased in so the closure wouldn’t be so long, I don’t know. Why have an airport at all, if it can’t be kept open for use?

One of the questions I get asked a lot is, “how much ground does it take to make a private runway on my own property? It says in my plane’s owner’s manual that it can take off in 800 feet, so is 1000 or 1200 feet enough?” I always have to explain that handbook numbers are generated by experienced test pilots, with brand-new airplanes, flying off perfect smooth runways, not rough turf. Better double the book numbers, and then add a safety factor, taking into account sloppy pilot technique and aging airplanes.

Last week, our quiz wanted to know what aeronautical event took place on December 17. It was, of course, the birth of heavier-than-air aviation, when the brothers Wright flew their airplane just before Christmas in 1903. I didn’t get in my traditional honorary flight Friday, but we flew virtually on the computer. Our question for next week is, why do airplane tires have grooves in their rubber, since they don’t need traction to start moving, with a propeller providing motion? Send your answers to