Imagine walking out to your hangar to see its 74-foot door lying on the ground in a twisted heap. Tom Vaughan, a manager at two Florida municipal airports, recently experienced this headache while on the job at the Airglades Airport in Clewiston. After discovering the old door's inferior hinges were the culprit, his next call was to Schweiss Doors.
Vaughan says the door was sold and installed by a company that went out of business. His was a perfect situation emphasizing the need for hydraulic or bifold door buyers to do some homework.
“I can tell you one thing,” says Vaughan, who also manages LaBelle Municipal Airport in LaBelle, FL. “If we ever have to replace any other doors, it will be with a Schweiss door and not any other brand. There is no doubt about it. Getting a new Schweiss hydraulic door fixed this dilemma, but you can imagine, there are 69 more of these doors at LaBelle and Airglades to worry about each day.”
While it’s possible for large doors to be damaged during tornado or hurricane conditions, weather conditions were not a factor in this failure.
“It looked like the top hinges broke off starting with a structural failure at one corner which created a domino effect halfway across to the side of the building,” Vaughan says. “There were several planes in the hangar at the time, but they thankfully weren’t damaged. This calamity put the hangar out of operation for four months.”
Vaughan was aware the installer of his door had gone out of business, so he started a search for a new door online, where he discovered Schweiss Doors. About the same time, a local tenant returned from the SUN ‘n’ FUN air show, where he saw the Schweiss Doors display. He told Vaughan about the solid construction of the Schweiss doors.
“We chopped up the door and threw it away,” Vaughan says. “It wasn’t good for anything else. It was just nothin’ but a hunk of junk metal sitting there. It wasn’t even an old door. It was installed in 2010.”
The hangar now has a 74-foot, 3-inch by 19-foot, 2-inch custom-made hydraulic door from Schwiess Doors. The door is engineered for a 175 mph windload and has a 12-volt back-up system. The frame is reinforced with a strong external truss and Schweiss’ hydraulic frame with triple push tubes. A 2-speed hydraulic valve enables the door to slow down at the top and bottom cycle for smooth operation.
“Schweiss Doors are overly built; the hinges are 10 times better and stronger than the hinges on the broken door," Vaughan says. "They all have grease fittings, where the Brand X doors didn’t have grease fittings. The Schweiss cylinders are about three times the size for the same size door.
"We asked our local aviation engineer to look at the Schweiss door from his engineering standpoint. He took pictures and we gave him a brochure and he said he was going to take it back to his engineering firm to tell them if they have any future clients interested in putting up a door to direct them to Schweiss. Our Schweiss hydraulic door arrived on time and in good condition. Schweiss made a promise to have it to us in three weeks, and they darn sure did. We were thinking it would be 60 to 90 days to get the door. I worked with the engineers at Schweiss Doors and they were helpful with suggestions and gave us all the information we needed.”
Vaughan says a little homework could have saved a lot of hassle, time and money. Hindsight is 20/20, even when you’re flying.
The top two photos on the left show the new Schweiss door upon completion. The middle photos show the door after it was hung, before it was skinned. The bottom photo shows the old door beginning to fail as its weight exceeds the ability of its hinges.