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Owner's Corner

Lloyd Stephens, Aircraft Owner WVFC

The Knot You Need To Know 

I used to know a pilot who lived in Alaska.  He knew there was a storm forecast one night with high winds, so he went to the airport to make sure his plane was tied down securely.  The next day he came back to the airport and discovered that the plane next to his had apparently not been securely tied down. It had lifted up in the wind and had landed upside down on top of his plane.  Unfortunately, his plane was totaled.  He was--to put it mildly--not a happy camper.

Winter is the season when the majority of storms hit the west coast.  These storms frequently feature driving rain and significant winds.  Paradoxically, some of the best flying days of the year are the periods between these storms.  You may fly in beautiful weather on Saturday, but when you tie the plane down, you need to tie it down securely, because by Sunday night it can be “blowing up a storm” and you may be the last one to fly it before that storm comes in.  As an airplane owner I worry about the security of my plane in a storm as, I’m sure, the other owners do too.  Airplanes are expensive, and not easily replaced.  Airplanes are also made to fly, and in high winds they can take off on their own, like the one in Alaska--that’s why we tie them down.  If a storm with high winds is forecast, I will frequently come to the airport to ensure that my plane is securely tied down, but I can’t do that all of the time.  The club tries to check on planes, as well, but the bottom line is that we rely on you, the members flying the planes, to make sure that the plane is securely tied down after you fly it.  This doesn’t mean just throwing the rope over itself a couple of times--it means that you tie a secure knot that is going to prevent the airplane from moving very much in high winds.  You should know that if you don’t tie the plane down securely and it is damaged or causes damage to another plane, you may be held responsible, at least for the not-in-motion deductible on the insurance policy. 

The reason why I’m writing this is that I have frequently seen failures to adequately tie the planes down.  Recently I came to the airport after a storm to find the tail tie-down on my plane tied like this:

This is not an adequate knot.  In fact, it is not a knot at all.  It is not secure and offers little or no protection for the aircraft.  All I had to do was pull on the rope a couple of times and the “knot” came completely loose.   Although the club does not require you to tie a specific knot, as long as the aircraft is tied down securely, the best knot to use--and the one we want you to use--is the WVFC “club” knot.  (If you are an instructor, you need to be teaching this knot!!) 

Because many members of the club are not real good at knotsmanship and were using a variety of inadequate knots to tie planes down, some of the instructors at the club have developed a “club” knot which is the recommended way to tie down a WVFC airplane.  This knot is similar to a bowline.  I have found this knot to be easy to tie and to release and it offers excellent security.  I’m always happy when I find my plane tied down using this knot, because I know it’s secure.  The way you tie it is as follows:

1.  Take the loose end of tie-down rope and put it through the tie-down ring from left to right.  (If you are left-handed or want to do it right to left, see the video link below.)

2.  Take the part of the rope attached to the tie-down and twist it upwards (clockwise) to make a small loop about 8-10 inches from the tie-down ring.  Take the loose end of the rope and put it down through this loop, then pull the loose end until the rope is tight.   (Photos 2 & 3) 

3.  Take the loose end to the left, over the top of the rope, and around to the back of the knot you are tying.  Then put the end through the large loop formed between the tie-down ring and the knot, and then down under the part that you previously ran over the top of the rope.  The loose end should now be parallel to the part of the rope attached to the tie-down.  (Photos 4, 5 & 6)

4.  Pull the loose end until the knot is tight.  Then tie the loose end off with an overhand knot.  It’s that simple.  And it’s secure.  (Photos 7 & 8)

Here’s a link to a video by John Felleman showing how to tie the “club” knot.  John is left handed (I’m right handed), so the video shows him tying the knot the reverse way--starting by pulling the loose end through the tie down ring from right to left--but it’s really just the same knot.   

If you can’t figure out how to tie it from the video or from my description, talk to an instructor, or contact me ( and I’ll come to the airport and show you how to do it. 

Remember: as the pilot in command, YOU are responsible for making sure the plane is tied down securely--with all three tie-downs--after you fly it.  Just do it--all the time, regardless of what season it is.  It’s not that hard.  The airplane, the club, and the owners, will appreciate it.  Thanks!


2 & 3

4, 5, & 6

7 & 8