I’m gonna cover a couple of subjects here: The etiquette of prop wash management and proper parking technique. You may ask what they have to do with each other. You’ll find out.
Our mothers and fathers taught us manners. They taught us how to play well with others. They taught us to have a firm handshake and to look someone in the eye when we take that proffered paw. Occasionally I meet someone who looks away when they shake my hand. That’s okay, but their mother and father obviously missed that one.
Similarly, our early flight instructors, whether they knew it or not, acted en loco parentis during early flight training and SHOULD have made sure that we understand some of the etiquette of aviation. Perhaps the most important is management of our prop blast. A thoughtful airman absolutely never directs his prop blast in a direction that can disturb someone else. He never blasts other airplanes on the ramp. He never blows dirt into an open hangar. Sure, it’s sometimes difficult to see what’s behind you, but it’s always appropriate to know what’s there and to avoid any undue prop blasting.
I think I got the lecture early in my training and have always thought that I was “well brought-up” in that area. But I did forget once. While doing an airshow in Arizona, I inadvertently blasted the crap out of a beautiful Pitts that was right behind me. Red Arizona dirt showered that little biplane which had just received a beautiful new paint job. The owner was livid. He came up to me and he was hot. You know something? I don’t blame him a bit. I felt like a total jerk and I apologized up and down. That seemed to diffuse his anger and we parted company amicably. It was a great lesson to me. I had forgotten some basic etiquette just for a moment and I was really ashamed of myself!
And now for parking. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone approach the tiedown line with the intention of simply parking their airplane. All too often it seems that their objective is to get that airplane into the exact parking spot before they shut it down. That operation is normally impossible, even in a tailwheel airplane. As they attempt to maneuver into the spot, they must use lots of power because airplanes that are not rolling must have lots of power in order to maneuver. Where do you think all that angry propwash goes? You bet. It washes over all those other airplanes. Flaps, ailerons, rudders and elevators whack madly against their stops. Gravel impacts windshields and paint jobs with no regard to how nice a paint job it is.. or isn’t. Remember that wonderful song, “Here’s Your Sign”? Well, as the pilot who uses that hamfisted technique exits his airplane, he might as well be wearing a sandwich sign which says, “My mother didn’t raise me right”.
The average single engine aircraft is relatively easy to move. If you will simply approach the parking spot and shut down when abeam it, all you will have to do is get out and, using towbar or not, simply back the airplane into the spot in one smooth turn. No propwash, no angry neighbors. That’s the way it should be done.
Manage your propwash. Not only will other people who have airplanes and who must sweep out hangars appreciate you, but you will demonstrate that your mother raised you right. Oh, and take your hat off at the table.