Charley Hits Florida GA Hard

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Airports At The Center Of The Storm...

When deadly Hurricane Charley tore across the Florida peninsula on Friday, it drove right through what must be one of the highest concentrations of GA aircraft in the country. Newscast after newscast showed videos of trashed hangars and wrecked airplanes, a DC-3 belly-up in Orlando with its wings torn off, a crumpled red taildragger with its tail half-gone. At Punta Gorda Airport, right in the center of the storm's destructive trail through Charlotte County, at least 30 aircraft were destroyed. "So many were in unidentifiable pieces that an accurate count was difficult," said AVweb's Paul Bertorelli, who toured the airfield on Saturday. "Some aircraft were still securely tied down, but had been shredded by flying debris or the shear force of the wind. One Piper Tomahawk remained tied down, but its tail had been twisted off." President Bush arrived Sunday to survey the damage ... and impose a TFR.

An owner, picking through the rubble of what was left of his hangar, said his airplane was blown about 150 feet. It appeared repairable. "The windshield is broken and it's got some dents. I covered the hole ... I guess we'll see," he told Bertorelli. Improbably, in a hangar in the same row, two ultralights appeared untouched by the violent winds. Several rows of recently constructed T-hangars stood up fairly well, with only minor damage apparent. Pilot Jim Morgan took shelter in a hangar during the height of the storm in Charlotte County. The winds tore the hangar apart, sending sheet metal, toolboxes and pieces of airplanes swirling, Morgan told the Associated Press. Morgan said the sound of the destruction was "like a calypso band on steroids." The Category 4 storm, with winds up to 145 mph, killed at least 13 people statewide, and damages are expected to exceed $15 billion. The number of damaged aircraft has not yet been tallied, but from early reports it seems likely to be in the hundreds.