OK, who made the tail strike?

As Air Mod continued its extensive belly-cleaning, work progressed toward the tailcone. Under all the gunk and dirt of the ages a surprise was uncovered. At some point in the airplane’s history there was a tail strike. The impact occured right on the tail’s tiedown ring, but left no sign of damage there. During the prebuy inspection a slight indentation was noted near the tiedown ring, so there was some suspicion of a tail strike. (But no evidence of any structural damage to the aft bulkhead supporting the tail structure. Good thing, that. Damage in this area would have been a very big deal indeed.)

Once the tailcone was made shiny-clean, the situation was plain. There had indeed been a tail strike, and of such force that it cracked a support bracket. Wow. Air Mod called some purveyors of vintage aircraft parts (a/k/a junkyards, er, salvage yards) and these brackets are apparently as scarce as hen’s teeth. Even so, hopes are high that we’ll eventually find one.

But let’s think about this. How could this have happened? The answer is obvious, of course. Either one of 75YR’s previous owners WAY over-rotated on takeoff, or WAY over-flared on a landing. Either way, the conditions must have been desperate for this to cause the damage we see here:

Wham-o! First off, look at how clean the internal skins are, now that Air Mod has cleaned them. But the cleaning revealed a crack in a support bracket. Meanwhile, only slight indentations in the skin tell of the tail strike.

Wham-o! First off, look at how clean the internal skins are, now that Air Mod has cleaned them. But the cleaning revealed a crack in a support bracket’s right side. Meanwhile, indentations in the tailcone skin tell of the tail strike.

The Debonair’s tail rides high as it sits on the ramp, so any rotating or flaring had to be on the violent side. Perhaps the pilot encountered a big downdraft on short final, and made a mighty effort to soften the ensuing landing/arrival? Or maybe a short runway and high density altitude encouraged an over-enthusiastic takeoff?

Whatever the reason, we’ll address the damage as part of the interior work package. Ah, those 50-year-old airplanes….the stories they could tell!


11 Responses to “OK, who made the tail strike?”

  1. tony says:

    great job on finding this damage. True aircraft professionals working on my plane.

  2. tony says:

    so glad you found it

  3. Tom says:

    Just out of curiosity, how much weight was removed with the old corrosion preventative? It’s gotta be heavier than the Chromate. And, that is gonna be one gorgeous interior. Nice job on the clean-up, Air Mod.

    • thorne says:

      Tom, Dennis said it was about 4 pounds. We’ll lose some more weight when the ski tube is removed–about 12-15 pounds. And the steel roofing flashing used on the old interior sidewalls weigh about 15 pounds too, so good to see that go. But let’s not kid ourselves, the airplane WILL pick up weight from the interior.

  4. Albert Motz says:

    Any chance the damage was done by a ramp jockey backing the plane into a low concrete wall? I used to work at an FBO that had a wall like that

  5. tony says:

    i love this plane. got to have it

  6. Lane says:

    Likely this occurred when the engine was removed and the tail became unsupported at some point and dropped to the ground with a fervor! Thanks for fixing my plane correctly!

    • thorne says:

      Yow! That would do it, all right…..hard to believe a mechanic would make that kind of mistake, but hey I guess it’s possible


      • Robert says:


        I noted in the following article that the airplane sat outside in CT. My guess your tail strike was from a snow load. I purchased an F33 based in Denver that also had similar damage and it was from a snow load.

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