We asked aircraft cover guru Ron Kensey of Kennon Aircraft Covers in Sheridan, Wyoming, why on earth his wing and tail covers are made of mesh instead of tightly-woven nylon, and what those funny bumps on the top are there for. Ron showed us some interesting photos and gave us a real education in aircraft cover design.
February 9, 1998
Ron, in past interviews, we've discussed using sunscreens and
cabin covers to protect the cockpit from the damaging effects of the
sun, and using insulated engine
covers together with preheat systems to avoid cold starts. What other
benefits do aircraft covers offer?
The next most cost-effective purchase are covers that protect the
wings and horizontal tail the aircraft surfaces that are most
directly exposed to the sun.
Why don't you just make a total airplane cover...something like a
We would like to, and we are often asked to. But it's easier said
than done. A car is compact and built so it doesn't catch the wind. An
airplane is much larger and more awkward in shape, and is poised to
catch the wind. If a strong wind catches a parked aircraft, it will
fly...but not far.
look at this picture. It was sent to us by a customer in Palmer, Alaska,
whose plane was parked not far from this one. The wind blew, and this
floatplane flew. But like I said, not far.
The customer told us he was sure glad that he had a set of Kennon's
Spoiler Mesh Wing Covers on his airplane! His plane didn't
What do the Spoiler Mesh Wing Covers do?
Our covers include raised spoilers on the leading edge of the wing
cover. They disrupt the airflow over the top of the wing, thereby
destroying the lift. So even in a strong wind, your airplane won't fly
without you. You can see the spoilers quite well in this photo of a
Piper Super Cub that is wearing a set of our wing and tail covers.
Our unique mesh design keeps snow, ice and frost off the flying
surfaces because those particles are larger than the openings in the
mesh but they "breathe" and don't trap moisture the way nylon covers
do. They are our most popular winter cover for use in high wind areas.
They are also excellent insurance against wind damage any time of
You build covers for specific sections of an aircraft. How much of
a plane can you cover doing it that way?
Practically all of it, if you're so inclined. But for practical
purposes, most owners cover only the most critical areas. What those are
depends on the type of airplane, the geographical location, the season,
and how much time the owner is willing to spend putting covers on,
taking them off, and storing them.
So what do you suggest?
Yes. First, keep the cockpit cool and dry, using either internal sun
screens or an external cabin or canopy cover. Next, begin covering the
areas that are most directly exposed to the sun the top of the wings
and horizontal tail. This is especially crucial on a fabric-covered
aircraft because it can greatly prolong the life of the
You're saying that fabric-covered aircraft that are tied down
outdoors should always be covered?
Absolutely! Here is a picture that another customer sent us.
This Maule is tied down in British Columbia. Dr. Gerke had used our
Sunblocker Wing and Tail Covers and our wrap-around cabin cover. But you
can see the discoloration of the fabric on top of the aircraft where it
was not covered.
The cabin cover actually did cover a lateral area across the cabin
roof, and you can see clearly in the photo how the covered area escaped
sun damage. Needless to say, Dr. Gerke came back to us to cover the
remainder of his plane.
It looks like there's a longitudinal strip up the centerline that
isn't discolored. Was that strip covered somehow?
No, that is a peak or ridge on the top of the Maule's cabin. It has
extra-thick reinforcement, plus the sun doesn't hit its sloping sides
quite as directly as it does the flat horizontal surfaces on either
side. That's one reason we're pretty sure that the discoloration was
caused by the sun, rather than by acid rain. In British Columbia, you
wouldn't suspect acid rain anyway.
What's the material you use to build wing and tail covers?
For year-around wing covers, we use a material called "Sunbrella"
the same soft, woven acrylic canvas used to build boat tops and awnings.
We use this material because it "breathes" and because it withstands sun
exposure very well.
By "breathes" you mean it doesn't trap moisture?
Exactly! Trapped moisture caused mildew and corrosion. That's why we
don't use Nylon or similar materials. Besides, Nylon doesn't hold up
very well in sunlight.
How do the wing covers fasten to the aircraft?
Every set is made specifically for the particular make and model of
aircraft involved. Typically, the cover is fitted to go over the
wingtip, and then fastens under the wing with a bungie cord, with a loop
tied at the end to soft nylon hooks sewn onto the trailing edge of the
What about colors?
Sunbrella comes in lots of colors. We have selected a light gray for
building most of our covers this year. I really like it because it goes
with almost any paint scheme and doesn't show dirt. Other colors can be
Summing up, by covering the windows or canopy, the wings and the
horizontal tail, you have most of the critical areas of the plane covered,
Yes, those are the most critical areas to protect from exposure. But
there's also one more that most owners forget: the prop blades. They are
perhaps the most critical flying surfaces on the aircraft, and we think
it's a good idea to keep them covered...particularly since our prop
covers cost only fifty bucks.