Thursday, May 10, 2012

Aeroplane tyres in Africa are a delicacy for Hyena!

They are already quite famously known as the scavengers of the Savannah, but a little known fact is hyenas also love to eat aircraft tyres. These scavenging dog like creatures have a biting force of about 11400 pounds per square inch (quite strong). Take that biting force and an absolute fascination with aircraft tyres, a bush pilot can find himself stranded after leaving an aircraft at a bush airstrip overnight. The common practice I use to go by when leaving an aircraft on a airstrip overnight where hyena were known to lurk was to cover the aircraft tyres in branches from the nearest thorn bushes as a deterrent to any passing hyena.
The picture above is my hearted attempt to cover this tyre on a Cessna Caravan in the Seronera airstrip in the Serengeti national park. I did not have alot of spare thorn branches so each tyre only got a token gesture. The next morning after I had taken the above picture my tyres were untouched however the strap used to hold the propeller from windmilling in the wind (spinning around as the Caravans engine is a free turbine meaning the propeller is not physically attached to the engine) was chewed up into five pathetic pieces on the ground. A colleague of mine was overnighting one night at Kiba airstrip in the Selous Game Reserve with a Cessna 206. He too had covered his tyres with thorn bushes only to find in the morning that the Elevators (flappy things on the rear tailplane that make the nose pitch up or down) had been chewed by hyenas. The Aluminium sheet metal which the elevators are constructed from were no match for the 11400 pounds of hyena biting force.
Though hyenas have an unhealthy obsession with aircraft they are not the only animal with such a fetish. In Botswana I constantly would wake up to find my aircraft sabotaged by Baboons. One airstrip I use to frequent in particular called Delta in the Okavango Delta was the worst. I would walk to the aircraft in the morning for a pre breakfast preflight to find pitot covers missing, aerials bent or turned around, doors open, wheels unchocked, oil inspection hatch open and feaces on the wings or windows.
One of my very early post talks about animals on airstrips from baboons to elephants. In Australia the most I have experienced in the way of animals on airstrips is cows and scrawny little wallabies...

Some aircraft designers obviously have a sense of humour!


  1. Huh, I had no idea that one had to protect the airplane as well as oneself while sleeping in Africa. Thanks for sharing!


  2. There is something in dope (the stuff used to paint fabric on aeropleanes) that appeals to horses.

    It is unlikely to be a problem nowdays for most aircraft, but anybody leaving their - doped - aeroplane on a station airstrip would be well advised to ensure the station doesn't let horses onto the airstrip.

    In only the time it takes for the pilot to eat lunch at the homestead, the station horses can eat enough to ensure the aircraft stays where it is for some many days!

  3. Good lesson thanks. Done a recent trip around South Africa and want to venture into Botswana and Mocambique next, so will be pre-warned about the animals. Have been following your blog for some time now and have a link to it on mine, so check it out.


    1. Hi Dave, I put a link to your blog. Enjoy Bots and Mozambique. I miss the flying in Africa...I can't wait to get back for a holiday.

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