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Grass - is the price worth paying?

For many it is, the financial savings can be substantial, and often you escape difficult airfield politics.

But having just read this completely unsurprising statement on one UK site

On this cold miserable grey Saturday with our home airfield barely VFR and most of the grass strips closed for the season

I wonder how many of the people who went tarmac → grass regret having done so?

You cannot fly at all for several months.

One guy I know had a share in a UL, which the syndicate refused to base at Shoreham (largely because of the £25 landing fee) and last I heard he was back at Shoreham buying some share in the “normal stuff”. Another pilot I know, well south of the UK this time, can’t fly if there has been recent rain.

With so many engines not running for several months, it’s good business for the overhaul shops, too, and massive expense for the owners. Or maybe for the subsequent owner Yet, no matter how you shake it, the extra landing fees cannot be anywhere near the cost of engine work, prop strikes, etc.

Is even being in this game worth the licensing etc hassle if one has to pack it in for so long each year?

There are many perfect flying days all through the winter, all over Europe.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

In North America, or arguably the Americas, the growth in GA is with types that can handle off tarmac operations. The concept that avgas is cheap stems from flying fixed gear, and if speed is an issue put a bigger engine in.

I just looked up legacy Cessna 206 (not 10,000 hour para drop survivors), and good ones are all $150-250k, a couple of years ago they were $85-125k. With beefed up nose gear and larger tyres the farm strip has to be truly under water for a 206 not to be able to operate out of it.

Agree a few strips close in the winter to keep the strip from getting ruts, but most stay open for limited movements.

Enstone (EGTN), Oxford (EGTK)

I should add the Super Cub is allergic to tarmac :)

Enstone (EGTN), Oxford (EGTK)

Alot depends on the airfield. My base hasn’t lost a days flying in 8 years.

With touch and goes been banned on about 3 days only.

The lack of a crosswind runway is the biggest problem.

I think the availability of hangarage, and politics are also key variables in the decision. I made a choice to leave tarmac with expensive hangarage, and extensive political infighting. I got a bay of big modern hangar with an electric door, avgas/mogas on the pump, 600m grass, no hassle and nice places to eat in the local town. It’s an extra ten miles drive from home. Last year it meant I had to move the Arrow we owned to a drier grass strip, it means I can’t operate the Cirrus from there. Doesn’t really bother me having certain aeroplanes located elsewhere for a few months of the year if needs be. Cleaning the wheel wells of a retractable operated off winter grass is a chore, and there is the constant risk of getting bogged in.

I can’t operate my floatplane for 7 months of the year due to falling water levels, which is a much bigger pain in the ass, than the grass dilemma in wintertime. I agree there are some magic flying days in wintertime. I really enjoy it and my logbook doesn’t reflect this flying season malarky.

No Hassell :-)
EIBR

Like mentioned by Robert, the growth in the future will come from rugged aircraft that don’t need tarmac. As politics, “big airfield hubris”, mandatory handling, landing fees increase in cost and complexity, this is where aviation will migrate. There’s a reason the PC12 sells like it does. There’s a reason Pilatus certified the PC24 for gravel and grass. There’s a reason Carbon Cub’s are selling like crazy.

Last Edited by AdamFrisch at 25 Nov 18:34

Peter wrote:

Another pilot I know, well south of the UK this time, can’t fly if there has been recent rain.

In that case the strip must have exceptionally poor drainage. I am based at a grass airfield which is not in the best shape from a drainage point of view and normal amount of rain is certainly not an issue

Problems begin only when there has been continuous rain for many days. And of course the really difficult time is during thaw in spring as the ground thaws from the surface down. The frozen layers behind makes water stay at the surface which becomes very soft and muddy. This could cause the airfield to close for a couple of weeks.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

I expect to be forced out of Inverness in a year or so, as the hangar is demolished for car parking.
There are several local grass strips which are seldom closed due to soft ground. But they’re still trickier in wet conditions. We’re thinking about building an “aircraft storage shed” at one, as it’s easier to get planning permission than a hangar.
There’s also the advantage of not having to go through Security at strips.

Maoraigh
EGPE, United Kingdom
Enstone (EGTN), Oxford (EGTK)

RobertL18C wrote:

Peter is this what you had in mind :)

Nice, looks only fuel water contamination could have stopped him

Ps: he would have a better ground run with floats

EGSX, United Kingdom
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