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Working around aircraft in a hangar involves special safety precautions for both your personal safety and that of the aircraft. In aviation, attention is usually focused on in-flight aircraft accidents and injuries. “Hangars can be hazardous as well,” points out Richard Gomez, VP of education for MedAire, a business that provides hangar safety training. “Potential injuries range from tripping on grates in the hangar floor, to inhaling or being burned by chemicals used for cleaning and servicing airplanes,” says Gomez.
One of the biggest differences between aircraft and other powered vehicles is the presence of propellers. Always avoid walking within the arc of an aircraft propeller, even if you believe the power to be disconnected and the magneto switches off. If a magneto ground wire is broken, simply nudging a prop can cause it to suddenly swing into action, injuring anyone or anything in its path.
The Hangar Floor
Aircraft hangars can be a minefield of tripping hazards, including electrical cords, air hoses and floor grates. Whenever possible, use overhead retractable electrical cords and air hoses. For any lines that are not temporary, use duct tape or carpet pieces to cover cords in high traffic areas. Hangar floors should be kept clear of rags, small boxes and other debris that could be sucked into the engine or prop, or thrown into the hangar by prop wash during an engine start.
Avoid wearing hats with bills, such as baseball caps, when working around aircraft. Move slowly when standing up or turning to reach for a tool. Leading and trailing edges on the wing, protruding antennas, wing struts, temperature probes and lowered flaps are just a few of the items which can cause a nasty bump on the head or worse.
Working Around Aircraft
It is easy to damage the skin of an aircraft when carrying ladders or pushing carts in a crowded hangar environment. When working on an engine or inside a cowl area, remove jewelry, pens and small tools in your shirt pockets—anything that could fall into cylinder fins and intake areas of the engine. When moving planes in and out of hangars, confirm that the doors are open wide enough to allow comfortable clearance for tail fin caps and navigation lights on the wing tips.
Switches and Controls
Great care should be used when activating cockpit switches when the plane is in the hangar. A flap switch and a landing gear switch can look very similar. One will lower the flaps for an inspection; the other will drop the plane onto its belly, bending one or more expensive propellers in the process. Double-check the markings on each switch each time the master power switch is on.
Medical and Fire Equipment
A first aid kit and fire extinguisher should be kept within easy reach in the hangar, and you should know how to use this equipment. Smoking should absolutely never be allowed inside an aircraft hangar. Unseen explosive vapors can be emitted by fuel tanks and batteries that are being charged. Plus, there are numerous cleaners used in aircraft maintenance that are highly flammable.
Based in central Oregon, Gary MacFadden started writing in 1972 as a "stringer" for several Montana newspapers. He has written six books about bicycle touring and has been published in "Outside," "Wilderness Camping," "Adventure Cyclist" and other publications. MacFadden holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Montana.