Although insurance is surely a nice thing to have, no one wants to suffer through the trauma of losing an airplane and cashing the check. But Rich Wellner recently did. A security camera caught the destruction of his Maule in a severe thunderstorm a few weeks ago. A tiedown rope parted and the airplane was upended at Schaumburg, Illinois.

Lessons learned? There’s no easy takeaways on this one. “1) Park against the prevailing wind 2) There is no 2,” he told us. “I was four miles away under partly cloudy skies and I had no idea that the weather was breaking bad so close by. Could spoilers have helped? Maybe. Could other ropes have helped? Maybe. Could I have moved the plane? If I had, it would have been north to Wisconsin and been hit by a different line of weather, so who knows if that would have helped. As you might guess, I’ve replayed things a lot. And talked with a lot of people. Many of which have given me absolutely terrible advice like ‘next time use chains’ or crazy expensive advice like having a hangar at all four of the bases that this plane regularly inhabits. The only thing that I could possibly adopt as a reasonable practice is to point away from the prevailing winds and hope the backside of the storm doesn’t get me anyway.”


  1. Over the years I had an airplane parked outside in the Mojave desert at or near Edwards AFB, I always took redundant actions to protect my 172 against the incessant and viscious SW winds. I used HD nylon ropes tied tight with a backup of chains left somewhat loose as the insurance policy. The nylon ropes acted like a shock absorber while the chains were the backup. The airplane survived many a very windy day.

  2. Did you HAVE to include that tinkling piano? Couldn’t find any Spike Jones?
    I hope you’re happy that the tears welled up at the closing shot.
    Maybe because I lost my newly refurbished super-low-time 11AC properly tied down on the ramp at Galveston exactly the same way 2 years ago. Avemco was great, handled all the cleanup/salvage/fees, and quickly paid the insured amount… but can’t buy sht for that today….actually CAN buy sht.
    EVERYONE: with post-COVID econ rebound inflation, recheck and adjust your declared values TODAY.

  3. You can tie down an airplane as securely as you want, but Ma Nature has ways of defeating your best efforts. One day a long time ago a local Super Cub, well tied down and facing south (90° to the prevailing winter westerlies), ended up across the road, upside down when a freak gustnado came through from the south. The ropes didn’t break, but the airplane did: pieces of the wing structure were still attached to the (intact) tiedown ropes. And yet, gliders tied down on either side of the Cub survived unscathed.

    I’m sorry for your loss.

    • Yeah, whilst on the hangar waiting list, our plane survived many storms with high winds. It didn’t do so well when an epic hailstorm hit, however. The plastic wing and empennage tips were blasted, and the top of the wing and fuselage had hundreds of dings. Then we got a hangar the next month.

    • that’s the good outcome, with just the plane destroyed, still tied down!

      But that wing attach bracket at top of strut can JUST get damaged in a wind tied down(very common), then, if you go fly without noticing it, and it finished breaking, a wing comes loose, has Killed people up here in Alaska…

      ALWAYS at preflight(and annual/100hr) look up front lift strut from midway point & make sure strut attach bracket coming out of wing is still in line with strut, and not pulled down at an angle.

      2 items to fix that weak point on all high wing pipers and similar planes, made byF. Atlee Dodge (fadodge dot com, now owned by Univair)

      Below are for PA-18, other models available
      Piper Aircraft Tie Down Bracket P/N: 3197 (hurricane tie downs) just do this one, don’t need the one below then


      PA-18 Lift Strut Reinforcment Bracket P/N: 3192-18 others available

      either can be easily installed on a covered wing, by just adding an inspection cutout or 2 in fabric and leading edge.

  4. Even worse – underinsuring your plane. I have a friend that was having his C-182 ferried to Arkansas for repairs after hurricane Ida. The shop was chosen by the insurer, and a pilot came down to fly the plane to AR. The ferry pilot departed just before dark (ferry permit was for day/vfr only) and scud-ran all the way into a mountain in AR, killing him and destroying the plane. Plane was insured for $65k, which the insurer paid, but is about a third of the plane’s replacement cost. The pilot’s (also the shop owner) heirs have no assets available for recovery via lawsuit.

  5. Decades ago one of the Martin Mars was hurled, yes thrown 200 yards, by Typhoon Freda in 1962.

    Scrapped for parts.

    That left only two in existence, which survive today though not very active. One was to go to a museum in the eastern US but gummints fiddling around over arms export controls of the Mars and C-130 parts in trade in the deal delayed it then budgets delayed it further. Never mind the airplane was built in the US and many C-130/Hercules parts and complete airplanes have been exported to Canada. The Alberni Valley region where the Mars is based wants one and tried to block export, but I doubt they can afford storage.

    (Political bureaucrats in the BC government are against using the Mars as fire suppression air tankers, operations in the US have been praised but few any more due to logistics and environmental concerns about risk of transporting organisms between lakes, and newer and large aircraft including form the owner of the Mars (Coulson Aviation). (Perhaps one in the fall of 2020 helped save an observatory again.)

  6. Some years back my long-time companion C-182 came to its end in a brief desert windstorm while on a ramp that used the steel-cable type tiedown arrangement. While the tiedown chains themselves held just fine, the anchor point at one end of the steel cable failed, leaving the plane on its back with intact chains and now-slack steel cable draped over its belly.

  7. The video in this thread showed a hardware-store, cheap tie-down rope woefully inadequate for the purpose. The ropes working loads should at least rate the gross weight of the aircraft.
    Ratchet straps, polypropylene, and cable-type tie-downs are NO-NOs.
    Half-inch twisted nylon rope should be a minimum for tying-down a light aircraft.

  8. George H, well said. We lost 2 gliders in our club in North Florida that were secured with ratchet straps. The gliders were tied down next to each other and the outboard straps on each broke. Both gliders were upside down, one on top of the other.

  9. As a sailor and flyer, I’m often surprised by the thin frayed ropes used for tie-downs. Your typical 2000lb aircraft has a wing that will sustain 6g so a total lift of 12,000lb. Assume each rope carries half of that and you need a rope to sustain at least 6000lb. Assume that knots halve the strength so the actual rope needs to be good for 12,000lb. Add a 50% safety factor for wear and tear and you are looking at a 24,000lb rope. In a good quality polyester rope that gets you to something around 3/4″ diameter.

    3/4″ diameter is clearly pretty impractical so we use a long length of 1/4″ Dynema (high-strength yacht rope) looped around four times. The rope breaking load is about 4000lb so for our 1250lb aircraft I’m pretty confident that something on the aircraft will give up before the rope does.

  10. I flew Feeder Caravans for 25+ years and we used large ratchet straps to tie them down without any problem. I landed in, I think, Monroe, LA one night just ahead of a large line of thunderstorms, pulled up to the FBO looking for a tiedown, locked the brakes, chocked the mains and ran inside to see where I could tie down. The gust front hit just about then, darkened the airport and I couldn’t see the aircraft from 100 ft away. When things calmed down the aircraft was still there, undamaged, but there were three aircraft right in front of it that were on their backs in spite of being tied down, the cable system had failed. I ended up having to crawl into the inverted aircraft to turn off an ELT that was blocking the tower, which was on battery power. My aircraft was faced west into the wind and the damaged aircraft, including a Caravan were all tail on to the wind.

  11. I was responsible for an AN-2 for a period of time, and we had a very strong windstorm coming. I also used to work for a tent and awning company and learning how to stake a tent and secure ropes on stakes with special gripping knots. So I ran to the hardware store and got a bunch of wood stakes and large-ish diameter rope. I had 3 stakes per rope (you put them one behind the other so that as one stake pulls the one behind it helps keep it staked), and that airplane still shifted about a 1ft.

  12. Ah, the risk of transient general aviation. securing your aircraft. At least since 9/11, public airports have a secure perimeter. Been know to carry concrete block just in case.

  13. I agree with Larry. Heavy, twisted nylon rope. Carry your own with you, most stuff at airports has been out in the sun too long and a lot of it was polypropylene crap to begin with. Nylon stretches under load.