Transporting my first plane
I just acquired a 108-1 that needs some attention before it can fly and, after spending much time lurking around the internet and talking to people, elected to bring it home in a box truck. I wanted to create a post detailing my experience and laying out the options in the hopes of getting feedback on what I could do better if I ever have to do it again and also hopefully make it easier for the next rookie transporting their first airplane.
The first question I had to ask myself was "trailer vs box truck?" I had a friend who would let me borrow a trailer but I have very little experience towing and snow was forecasted along the Front Range the week I was planning to drive so I started looking at box trucks. I have more experience with bigger vehicles than trailers so that swayed my decision as well. In the end, a 26ft truck from Enterprise was the best option, even though they don't allow one-way rentals. I "only" had to drive about 800 miles one way and the Enterprise truck with round trip mileage, diesel, and a pro-rated weekly rate wound up being about half of the price of a one-way Penske. Definitely chalk it up to the hidden cost of aircraft ownership, but I'm glad the plane was out of the wind and weather for transit and now I can say I've lived the adventure!
No matter what you chose, the 11 foot width of the elevator means it won't fit and its not legal to tow, so the elevator and horizontal have to come off. A 108-1 is 24'6" long with the engine and spinner on. This means, that, short of removing stuff, the 26 ft truck from Enterprise, Penske, or Uhaul is the best bet. That isn't too difficult to achieve in the field. I have talked to people who've used Uhauls and noted that the lower deck height is helpful but the raised wheel wells inside mean you have to load the tail first, leaving the weight of the engine behind the axle. Penske's trucks are dock height, ie the floor is close to five feet off the ground: hello lifting! Enterprise trucks are dock height as well but come with a lift gate which turned out to be a really great feature!
I was able (with help!) to load the plane nose forward into the truck. The wheelbase would have cleared the door to the truck no problem, but in order to get the wheels to not hang halfway over both the sides of the liftgate, I used a large ratchet strap to pull them together a couple inches. We rolled the wheels onto the liftgate, held the plane in place while raising the liftgate to a height where the cowl would clear the back of the truck, then rolled the plane forward the rest of the way (the hinges on the liftgate acted nicely as chocks to keep the plane from rolling backwards.) Then one person lifted the tail while another raised the liftgate all the way. The plane rolled nicely into the truck. Getting the wings up and down with the liftgate was also handy as we used the gate to lift the person holding the front of the wing, then lowered it, then raised the person holding the back of the wing, which helped a lot since the wings are a little heavy and awkward being so long.
One disadvantage to the truck was that the bottom 10 inches of the sides are a solid baseboard, so while there are both metal and wood attach points all the way up the sides, there isn't anywhere low to anchor your straps other than screwing them into the floor. I also wish I had brought a solid old stump or something with which to prop up the tail because the wood I used ended up taking a beating from the leaf spring attach hardware during a few particularly rough patches of highway (lightly loaded box trucks bounce a lot in general and in particular, this one had a bad harmonic on concrete highways.)
I struggled with the wings and how to transport them. I have no experience making things with wood, so I didn't go the wing cradles route. I thought about hanging them from the sides of the truck but couldn't make that work well so I ended up acquiring some long rectangular cushions from a friend's RV that were pretty firm and resting the wings on the cushions while holding the wings to the sides with diagonal straps. That worked out well enough but I'm not sure I would go that route again if I could find a better way (and I'm not sure if I risked internal damage to the wings that way), so I'd be curious how other people have dealt with wings.
I checked the straps every hundred miles the first few hours and then after every stop. Tightened a couple of straps a couple of times. Got the plane home, and now I'm staring at it wondering where to start.
I'd be curious what others' experiences of transporting aircraft are and what kind of pro's/con's, tips, and gotcha's the money saving trailer option would entail.
I have to figure that out this Spring also.
A trailer is easiest to work with, nose forward, use tarps and tape to seal openings. Use lots of packing, I like home depot but the more the better. Secure to hard points. I have moved 4 aircraft this way with no issues and is easy to check the load in transit. Box trucks are weather proof but can be challenging. If you give yourself plenty of time to just load it goes better. Most things go wrong because you rush the loading, usually because you under estimate the time for disassembly.
@aliebfriedearthlink-net Thanks Andrew! I definitely encountered that! Like painting, 90% of the work hauling planes seems to be prep and how well you do that determines your success! I was really lucky that the wings were already off this one before I got there, but the prep and loading still took a lot longer than I anticipated and I could have been more prepared!
I did Penske from Maine to Texas, and a Local box truck with the lift for an local airport change.