Expedient Scaffolding For Bush Flying

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Pablo Edronkin

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What do scaffolds and aircraft have to do together? Well, whenever any sort of flying machine needs maintenance, they have a lot in common, but one thing is to do that inside a hangar, with a qualified mechanic and all the tools of the trade at hand, and quite another is to attempt such a feat in the middle of nowhere.

The maintenance requirements need not to be huge for any bush flyer to face a real engineering problem: Even trivial things like attempting to pour fuel on a high-wing airplane equipped with a conventional landing gear could become problematic if the plane is standing on a slightly sloped terrain, protected from movement only by a pair of chocks.

In some faraway hangars you will also have to improvise a little.
In some faraway hangars you will also have to improvise a little.

If you ever tried to reach the extrados of such an airplane under such circumstances you will immediately realise what I mean, and if you don't, you can imagine how complicated could be to get a 20 kg avgas container up there. And it is indeed not advisable to step on the landing gear or anything else if it is not recommended by the manufacturer.

Under such circumstances you will have to produce some sort of expedient scaffolding, an easy task per se, but there are some cautions to be taken, especially the fact that any improvised structure placed near an aircraft should be very stable, because you don't want to place your precious fuel or yourself over something that looks as solid as a kitchen table, only to see things flying around and hitting - say - your even more precious plane's windshield, or something even more expensive, sensitive or fragile, like the fabric with which many planes are covered.

You can take advantage of any vehicle or cart, for that matter, but make sure that someone standing outside the vehicle is guiding the operation as you come close to the plane because a driver inside a land vehicle may feel only a slight bump, but your flying machine could get seriously damaged by careless close-quarters driving. Moreover: if the terrain is sloped or the soil slippery or unstable in any way, the land vehicle used should also be kept in place by means of its own chocks.

Refuelling an airplane is sometimes a complicated job; notice the grounding at the landing gear.
Refuelling an airplane is sometimes a complicated job; notice the grounding at the landing gear.

Remember that anything placed near an aircraft should be tested for its stability. Be careful and you will never damage your plane. And lastly, don't forget to ground your plane before refuelling it or performing maintenance; it is easy to overlook this detail, particularly under adventure conditions.

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