Plastic planes on unsealed runways.

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What is the likelihood of damaging a Cessna 400 on dirt strips in fair

I just returned from Baja in a 182 and landed at various unmade
strips. I did wonder about the possibility of a landing in a high
performance fixed gear aircraft.

I have landed taildraggers on dirt strips - clearly made for them. The
182 was no drama and Bonanza's shouldn't be a problem with their
robust gear. But I did wonder whether this is a stretch for a Cirrus
with their tight wheel pants and high runway speeds.

Is this a high risk proposition? The Cirrus is perfect for covering
long distances but I would not want to damage wheel pants, gear, the
prop etc.

-- Simon Stuart, March 24, 2011


I've landed a Cirrus SR20 with wheel pants on a few gravel strips. The main damage is to the paint on the tail and also on the leading edges of the wing. Definitely budget for some paint/composite repair.

-- Philip Greenspun, March 24, 2011

Correction: When I said Cirrus, I meant Cessna.

-- Simon Stuart, March 24, 2011

I can imagine the tail being struck by deflected sand, gravel etc., but I did not consider the leading edge of the wing. I was actually thinking the pants would be the high risk area due to the low clearance, stone damage on the prop etc.

I think in my mind the answer is then no, for me it probably just not worth it.

Thanks for the feedback.

-- Simon Stuart, March 24, 2011

Diamond recommends removing wheel pants for soft strips. I recall members of the association breaking theirs. Modern pants are tight and a rock or mud jammed in the opening will blow out the pant.

Chipping repairs on composite should be less and cheaper to repair than metal which is softer and dents. I have seen plenty of aluminum planes with this damage which can't really be economically repaired, but a composite will recover much better.

-- Eric Warren, March 25, 2011

The Cessna isn't a good candidate for rough fields due to its' short wheelbase and narrow track. Because of that, it doesn't handle dips or bumps as well as a Cirrus, so it will shake much more. That leads to broken wheel fairings, and loose interior trim parts. There are plenty of Cirrus operated off grass strips in Europe with no ill effects. Just pay extra attention to the wheel fairing screws since they will loosen after operation on grass or gravel.

Cirrus runway speeds are only a few knots higher than a Bonanza, but many knots lower than a Cessna Citation, which is certified for operation on gravel runways.

-- Glenn Juber, May 16, 2011