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An aircraft tie-down is a device or system that is used to secure an aircraft to the ground in order to prevent it from moving or shifting during windy, inclement weather or during maintenance. Tie-downs are typically used when an aircraft is not in use or when it is being stored for an extended period of time. We typically have to tie down our aircraft when we are away from our home field as hangars are not readily available at many small general aviation airports. Aircrafts not properly secured may suffer structural damage during high winds and storms.
There are several different types of aircraft tie-downs available, including tie-down rings, ropes, straps, and claw-like mechanisms. Tie-downs are typically attached to the aircraft using metal rings or other attachment points, and are secured to anchors in the ground using ropes, straps, or other fastening methods. The ground anchors may be concrete blocks with rings, chains, or anchors you drive to the ground yourself, depending on the tie-down kit you are using. The specific type of tie-down that is used will depend on the size and weight of the aircraft, as well as the conditions in which it will be stored or parked.
Factors To Consider When Choosing Aircraft Tie-downs
There are a few factors to consider when choosing aircraft tie-downs. Some of the best light aircraft tie-downs should be:
1. Strong and durable: Look for tie-downs that are made from high-quality materials like stainless steel or aircraft-grade aluminum, as these will be able to withstand the elements and the weight of the aircraft.
2. Easy to install: Tie-downs should be easy to install and remove, so look for ones that come with simple instructions and all the necessary hardware.
3. Safe and secure: The most important factor when it comes to aircraft tie-downs is their ability to hold the aircraft in place.
4. Flexible: It's a good idea to choose tie-downs that are flexible enough to accommodate a range of aircraft sizes and shapes.
5. Compact: Tie-downs should be small and light enough to carry in small planes without adding excessive weight
We will discuss the following 3 light aircraft tie-downs:
ShockStraps are a brand of tie-down straps that are designed specifically for securing applications, including aircrafts. The ShockStrap Cam Buckle Tie-down is made of strong, durable material and, with a 1” (or 1.5”) polyester webbing with over 4000 lbs of breaking strength and 500 lbs of working load limit.
ShockStraps are designed to be easy to use and can be quickly and easily attached to the aircraft's tie-down rings. They are also adjustable, so you can adjust the tension on the straps to suit the specific needs of your aircraft. This model of tie-downs also have a retention clip added to the hooks which is a nice feature. The ShockStrap’s bungee portion is also made from sunlight, salt and moisture and material. The hooks, ratches and cam are yellow zinc coated making them more rust resistant. This product is ideally suited to for exposure to the elements.
The ShockStrap comes in various lengths. We use the 10’ version for our high-wing light sport aircraft which is more length than enough. This is our go-to tie-down strap. I find this is well-made, high-quality product and very easy to use. Since this has hooks on both ends, one to hook to your aircraft’s tie-down ring and one to the ground ring or chain, it takes seconds to tie-down your aircraft. This system worked very well during a big-storm where we had to leave our planes out in high 80+km/h winds and heavy rain. Below is a picture of our Flight Design CTLS tied down with ShockStrap to ground chains at Ottawa International Airport, CYOW.
The one disadvantage is that you must have ground anchors available at your tie-down spot since this system does not have any anchors. Due to this, I often also carry the FlyTies anchor tie-down system on our trips. Both the FlyTies and The Claw are are anchor and rope-based systems.
FlyTies Aircraft Tie-downs are ideal for unpaved surfaces and for where ground anchors or tie-down points are not available. Flyties are strong with 1200 lb holding strength per stake. The kit contains 3 Aluminum hubs with forged steel eyebolt. Each hub has 3 stakes which are driven into the ground at at angle. The kit also comes with an extractor tool for stake remover which works well, and also includes ropes. The kit has a lifetime guarantee and weights less than 9 lbs making it one of the most popular kits amongst General Aviation pilots.
The disadvantages I found are:
The ropes are fairly short and weak. If you have a high-wing aircraft, you will have to purchase a longer set of ropes. I also found the rope ends started to fray after just a couple of uses
Need a decent size hammer to drive the stakes down into the ground
It is premium product and there are less costly alternatives
I have often combined the ShockStrap tie-down with the FlyTies ground aluminum hub as the anchor when no ground points are available.
The Claw C-100 tie-down system is similar to the FlyTies earth anchoring system. The system contains 3 “Claws” which staked into the ground with 3 spikes and a center ring for the tie-down point. The system comes with 3 claws, 9 stakes, a 1-piece 30-ft rope (which would need to be cut as needed). It also has 1200 lbs of force capacity per claw. This kit, including a hammer, weighs only 8 lbs!
The downside of this is that it is also at the high end of tie-down systems in terms of pricing, however it looks to be well built with positive feedback from the pilot community.
When selecting tie-downs for your light aircraft, it's important to choose high-quality options that are designed specifically for aircraft and can withstand strong winds and other adverse weather conditions. In addition, the type of tie-down should also be considered based on your specific tie-down situation and type of aircraft.