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I've been in the very early stages of shopping for my first single engine plane. That has made me more thoughtful about the environment in which a given plane is stored. So the recent blizzard in the Northeast has had me asking some "what-ifs" from a perspective buyer's point of view.

In the Boston area, there are forecasts for 15-25 inches of snow. If a typical GA plane (e.g. a C172) is tied down in those conditions, is the weight of that much snow on the wings sufficient to cause any permanent deformation or other issues? Are there things you would instruct your pre-buy inspector to pay extra close attention to knowing the plane had been through such an extreme event?

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    $\begingroup$ The largest snow storm I've been through(while at an airport) was about 1 foot. At that weight, the issue I saw was some aircraft tipping onto their tail. $\endgroup$
    – slookabill
    Jan 27, 2015 at 15:32

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There are several additional measures which can be done to prevent a tied down airplane from harsh weather, storms and blizzards. However, nature is always more powerful than humans and it can overcome any safety measures taken by them.

If your airplane is tied down properly and securely, hail is a bigger threat than storms or blizzards. A hangar protects an airplane more than the one outside, but it costs a lot more.

This article (and page 2) discusses several measures you can take to protect your airplane against harsh weather. To avoid redundancy, I am just pointing (and paraphrasing) a few here:

Parking spot
If you can, choose a spot which can break the wind intensity.

Anchor points
Depending on the aircraft, the anchor points' holding strength must be 3000-4000 lbs.

Ropes
You should use those ropes which do not shrink when wet (e.g., nylon or dracon ropes instead of Manila).

Position
If possible, park aircraft nearly into the wind as possible.

Weight
A lighter object is easier to get displaced. You can fill-up the tanks to add extra weight.

If you interested in reading some long articles, this and this provide some useful information too.


Regarding your second question about snow on the wings, I hardly doubt that something like this will happen:

Cessna 172 Wings

The above happened because:

... when the tail hook was torn off and the plane was pushed forward, breaking the spar. (picture here)

Airplane wings are very sturdy. They can bear the weight of a foot or two of snow.

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  • $\begingroup$ " I hardly doubt that something like this will happen" means that you have minimal doubt that it will happen. $\endgroup$ Jan 7 at 13:21
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Our club found that with a good quantity of combined ice/snow (I don't remember how much) our Cessna 172 tipped onto the tail. The Piper Warrior did not for whatever reason. Perhaps wise to add some weight forward of the main gear when parked out in those conditions.

The only damage caused on the Cessna (there was none on the Piper) was a broken tailcone as the airplane had the misfortune to have the tailcone snag the edge of the tire tiedown point marker as it tipped back... If the airplane had not been parked straight, it looks like it just would have been sitting on the rear tie-down hook instead (as a side note, it's common to see scraped tie-down hooks on flight school airplanes from excessive tail-down attitude during takeoff/landing, yet the tailcones don't ever seem to get damaged) and the tailcone would have survived.

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One foot of snow would be roughly equal to 1 inch of rain.

The 172 has 174 square feet of wing area or 25,056 square inches. 25056 inches$^2$ × 1 inch/231 inches$^3$/gallon = 108 gallons of water

108 gallons × 8.3 lbs/gallon = 900 lbs.

2 feet of snow would be 1800 lbs. As the Cessna 172 weighs at least 1800 lbs (empty), even 2 feet would be within the negative G limit of around - 1.5 Gs.

As mentioned by others, good tie down ropes are in order, and a tail brace can help keep it on all 3 wheels. Another option is to fly it to a safer location and allow the storm to pass.

The aircraft manufacturer may have addition information for a particular make or model.

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  • $\begingroup$ Requires a wing pressure difference of only 1/10 psi to fly! $\endgroup$ Jan 7 at 21:23
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I feel that many times there is hidden damage to airplane. The extra weight pushing down on attachment bolts. When flying the wing lifts that stress. You have extra weight pushing down. I now have 9 inches of snow on my 73 Piper Cherokee (January 7, 2022) at New Haven, CT. I will remove all snow/weight asap.

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