Friday, April 17, 2015

Pilot concerned about hangar maintenance • Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK), Maryland

Alex Hamilton recently displays a propeller damaged by rust, which he said was caused by wet conditions in the hangar.

A tenant at Frederick Municipal Airport is raising concerns about the condition of the hangars as he gets ready to move his plane to Hagerstown.

Frederick resident Alex Hamilton leases a hangar in the south section of the airport, where many pilots use tarps to keep rain from leaking through the roof onto their equipment.

His hangar is bare-bones, made of corrugated metal.

On a recent visit, he showed off a propeller that rusted because of wet conditions and pointed out holes where animals had made their way into neighboring hangars.

Airport commissioner Jon Harden said he was not aware of complaints about the hangars. But it is unclear how many users, if any, share Hamilton’s concerns because the airport does not keep records of complaints.

The airport has no formal complaint intake system, according to staff, but instead addresses each issue on a case-by-case basis.

Most often, staff receives and resolves complaints by phone, assistant manager Nick Sabo wrote in an email. Most of those are related to aircraft noise or aircraft believed to be flying too low.

“In almost every case we are able to explain the airport’s operations and what they likely saw or heard,” he wrote. “This settles the vast majority of complaints we receive.”

Harden said he would request that staff begin tracking complaints.

On the issue of the south hangars, manager Steve Johnson said staff responds to issues quickly.

“We have not received notice from a south hangar tenant about the condition of their facility that was not addressed in a timely manner,” Johnson wrote in an email.

The city of Frederick is responsible for maintaining the structural components of the hangars: the doors, door tracks, locks and so on, according to Johnson.

He added staff will sometimes go beyond those responsibilities and handle wildlife or uneven pavement problems.

But Hamilton said that much of the hangar maintenance is done by tenants. He painted lines on the area in front of his and poured concrete in a different hangar he previously rented.

He enjoys the active community at his local airport, but he recently signed a lease in Hagerstown, where his hangar would have drywall and electricity.

“This is a really cool little airport,” Hamilton said, adding that he would like to continue housing his plane there.

He spends about $230 each month on rent, he said. In Hagerstown, he would pay just a few dollars more each month for a hangar he considered nicer.

Storing his plane in a drier environment would likely reduce his maintenance costs, he said.

A pilot might spend $2,500 each year on maintenance, and Hamilton said he found he had to do more maintenance on his plane when it was parked in Frederick because of the moisture in the hangar.

Bob Zajko, a Frederick pilot, also keeps tarps up in his hangar to keep water out, but he said he is happy with it.

He would much rather have an inexpensive hangar than a new, expensive one.

“They’re actually built pretty well,” he said of the older hangars like his, built in the 1940s or 1950s.

“Most of them have dirt floors.”

Zajko did note, however, that he has had problems with his door sticking, and last winter, his plane got stuck outside the hangar because a puddle of water turned to ice.

There is a chance that the south hangars may be removed in the future, according to Johnson, but that would not be for many years. Zajko said he would like to see the hangars stay.

“It’s certainly better than parking the plane outside,” he said.

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