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Moving & Repositioning Light Aircraft

– General: When moving the planes, the tow bar or the prop can be used with maybe a bit of help by others on the wing. Actually, even though everyone does it all the time, it would be best to not even use the prop to move the plane and just use the tow bar. But… this isn’t practical of course. Since it’s really often not possible to push back with just the tow bar, we do use the prop, the same as just about everyone else. So in these cases though, try to do so closer to the root, but still not touching the more fragile spinner. And definitely don’t yank anything around near the prop tips.

– Symmetry: Especially with the constant speed props, avoid imparting any twisting movements; just straight back or forward, use the tow bar to steer. it would actually be best to have both hands on either side and do so symmetrically, but as a practical reality, this often won’t work as you need one hand on the tow bar to steer. The point is to do the best you can to keep things even, and no yanking; just smooth and steady.

– Avoiding nicks: Even small nicks in props can lead to larger cracks. They can often be ‘dressed out’ but this is just another bit of work that needs doing. So take care if you’ve got rings or watches or anything else on that could scratch the prop while you’re moving it about.

– Safety/Not Dying: Anytime you touch a prop and potentially move it you risk having it kick over into a start. All it takes is for the engine to move through a spark cycle due to prop movement. (Such as if you left the mags on or a p-lead got broken during a landing or an old switch is starting to fail. I often forget to do this, but sometimes I’ll cycle the switch through off to on before shut down to hear/feel the engine start to quit to confirm the lead is ok.) Remember that all it takes for a prop to start to kick over is a little bit of fuel left in engine and a spark. This, by the way, is a good reason to also make sure when you pull back the mixture to idle cut off on shut down, wait until the prop fully stops before switching off the mags. This is more likely to avoid unburned fuel in the engine.

The point is, just assume a hot prop and don’t move it unnecessarily. If re-positioning for whatever reason, (to place up and down in winter for water drainage or go horizontal for push/pull), do so with the rest of your body outside the arc and just be wary of a start.

– Additional Info: Here’s more about prop safety from the insurance company, which doesn’t want to pay out for broken limbs or dead pilots:

  • https://www.avemco.com/news-events/pirep-blog/hot-props-and-proper-magneto-checks
  • https://www.aopa.org/-/media/Files/AOPA/Home/News/All%20News/2005/AOPA%20Action%20(6)/sa06.pdf
  • https://aviationnewstalk.com/podcast/hot-prop-dangers-how-magnetos-work-and-best-way-to-do-a-mag-check-ga-news-ep-13/
  • https://www.avweb.com/flight-safety/technique/dont-touch-that-propeller/
  • https://generalaviationnews.com/2020/07/16/worn-ignition-switch-and-key-leads-to-fatal-unintended-engine-start/

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