Aircraft Survives Three Florida Hurricanes
Hurricane Charley flattened one of Ranger Aviation's hangars at
Kissimmee Gateway (ISM) Airport near Orlando (FL). Could anything
Talk about a trusty, durable aircraft. AOPA reports Rick Cohen's
Cessna 172SP stood up to beatings from three of the four hurricanes
that have hit Florida this year and came out with only a few
His airplane weathered hurricanes Charley and Jeanne at
Kissimmee Gateway Airport (ISM) where it is based. But Cohen tried
to escape the wrath of Hurricane Frances, only to end up in its
Hurricane Charley hit ISM, collapsing the hangar housing Cohen's
airplane. Steel beams forming the structure were bent at 45-degree
"Fortunately, mine was sitting pretty in the middle and came out
with a few scratches," Cohen says. The airplane sustained a few
dings and marks on the wings, horizontal stabilizer, and spinner.
Meanwhile, almost all of the other dozen or so aircraft in the
hangar were severely damaged, he reports.
When Frances was forecast to pound the state, Cohen flew his
family and the airplane away from the approaching storm. Using
AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner, he quickly obtained current wind
and weather information, charted his route from Kissimmee to
Savannah, Georgia, on the electronic map, and received an automatic
flight plan and navigation log. (Cohen runs the program, a free
AOPA membership benefit, on his Mac laptop computer using Virtual
"I was going to try to outrun it," Cohen says.
Instead, he ended up sandwiched between Frances, approaching
from the southeast, and a cold front moving in from the northwest.
After fighting a 25-knot headwind, he landed in St. Augustine to
hangar the airplane and wait out the storm with his family.
This time, the hangar housing his airplane withstood the winds,
but another one on the airport was damaged. Its doors blew out, and
the aircraft inside were smashed.
The third time around, Cohen tied down his airplane at ISM and
hoped for the best — the pilot who was supposed to fly it to
safety called in sick at the last minute, and by then the wind was
already at 50 kts.
Cohen used new ropes to tie down the wings and nose, attached
external gust locks, and filled the tanks with fuel. Not only did
his Cessna 172 survive the storm, but it was washed almost spotless
by all of the rain.
"It was inspected and test flown, and performed flawlessly,"
Cohen says. "I think I'll keep her."
Right now, the airplane is in the shop for a thorough annual,
which Cohen adds couldn't have come at a better time.