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  • Writer's picturePaul Depperschmidt

Trailer Specifics

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

For those interested in the trailer and how it all works, this is the post for you. Let's go through some of the planning and process shall we?

It started with the decision of what Plane and Car would be used. That is covered in the trailer section of the website. I chose a Kitfox SS7 and Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. Both of these selections have worked out exactly as planned. Putting the two together in a trailer required a lot of spacial relations work as well as weight and capacity planning.

There was a lot of gaming the options out with a model and scale cutouts.

I knew from the beginning weight would be an issue. That included overall weight and the tongue weight. With the Jeep in the trailer and pulled by the motor coach, the weights were right in line. The real problem comes when towing with the Jeep. When the plane tips on its main wheels, the weight shifts substantially. With the tail down the major part of the weight is in the back over the trailer wheels. With the tail up the weight shifts primarily to the front causing a tongue weight issue for the Jeep. So I have had to constantly look to move weight to the tail of the trailer. The spare tire, fuel, tent, cots, jacks, ladder and anything else I can find lives there. On short hauls I move the tool box and generator to the back. For longer ones I have to leave the tail down and secure it as best I can.

Let's walk through the loading process.

After the plane is closed up I add the support struts and the new tail wheel assembly.

UPDATE - both tail brackets broke and had to be reinforced with solid steel inserts.

The nose of the trailer is raised to assure that I have a positive weight at all times on the winch. I don't want it rolling forward on its own. The plane turtle deck is removed and stowed. The electric winch is connected to the front wheel strut by a strap. The front wheel tow bar is used to keep the front wheel straight via the strap. Great care is taken to assure everything that could block the wings is out of the way. By standing at the front of the plane I sight the front wheel strut on the lines taped to the floor of the trailer. If the strut is over the line, I don't even have to look at the wings as I know everything will clear. The wheels go up on the removeable ramps to where the mains sit on the custom stands. At this point I put the straps over the wheels to keep it from moving backwards and the ramps are removed. The straps are left loose to allow adjustment of the tail lock downs.

The next step is to raise the tail. Before that is done, a wood block is attached to the front wheel. This assures that the front of the plane does not go down during travel, potentially striking the tail on the roof of the trailer due to a teeter-totter effect. It is secured to the wheel, but not to the floor of the trailer. I found out in the original transport of the plane from Seattle that locking that section down can cause a broken bolt in the nose gear assembly. A block and tackle system with a strap is used to lift the tail. At first the tail is very heavy and requires some effort to lift. As it gets higher the weight shifts to the front and the tail becomes very light. At this point the lifting rope is tied off to hold the tail and the tail wheel assembly is removed and stowed.

With the tail lifted high it is time to set the tail bar in place. This was one of the most difficult areas to figure out. It had to be secured to the side of the trailer, but could not get in the way of the lifting exit door on the side of the trailer. It also had to end up at exactly the right height to keep the plane away from the roof and the Jeep. I ended up using decking hangers and a channel strut that has worked perfectly.

The next trick was to secure the tail to the bar. My first effort was to secure everything to the tail skid with a U-bolt to lock it down, but that proved to be not strong enough. I thought it was made of solid steel, but turns out to be hollow like the aircraft frame. It finally gave up on the trip to Oshkosh. The EAA emergency repairs guys were able to weld it back together for me. But while at Oshkosh 2019 I had to devise something that would keep the tail from moving side to side. The skid mounting would handle movements up and down. I came up with a heavy duty hinge system and rack brackets that use the existing hole in the Kitfox tail system. After a few trips things seem to be working very well. The bar flexes just enough to eliminate hard shocks to the plane. But is strong enough to assure it does not go too far up or down.

UPDATE - The weld on the tail skid failed again in Truth or Consequences NM. This time I had a welder rebuild the skid with solid, but light steel.

There are also two ratchet straps connected to the tail skid as a fail safe system. It is not necessary, but makes me feel better with them on. The tail strap is removed and tied up to keep it from rubbing. I found that leaving it on during travel could cause a lot of scuffing to the plane.

At this point the straps on the main wheels can be ratcheted down. Notice that there are no cushions on the wings and there are still a couple of inches between them and the trailer walls. This is due to a little secret of ordering the trailer with the right width to accomodate it. I have no concerns with the plane hitting the sides.

The finishing touches now are to load the Jeep and lock it down. The Jeep is lowered to "entry-exit" level and locked down for transport. The side mirrors are pulled in. Wheel straps that go through the wheels are used to lock it down. I have just started to use a new system called a "shock strap" to keep the body of the Jeep from moving too much. It seems to work fairly well. I tried strapping it before but a standard strap gets wrapped around itself. The shock strap keeps that from happening. One additional set of straps are used on the plane to hold the main gear down and keep it from moving side to side.

Here is a time-lapse video of the loading process.

As the trailer is connected to the coach or the Jeep, one of the key ingredients is the trailer cameras. There is one for the rear of the coach and one that shows things internally. That monitor is right in front of the driver and is constantly watched for movement.

There is clearly movement, but everything rides as well as can be expected. The roads in the U.S. vary from fantastic to frightening. There are some bumps where you swear the fillings will come out of your teeth. But with about 10K miles under our belt, the system seems to be working well.

When we get to an airport typically we pull the Jeep out, disconnect the coach and move the trailer to its position with the Jeep. There are times where the coach can go on the airport and set the trailer, but not that often.

ADDITION--- When we get to an area where we will stay for a while, the process is a "soft pack". Essentially just roll the plane in the trailer and use it as a hangar. This is a much faster process and allows bringing the plane out to fly in about 15 minutes.

Hope you enjoyed the overview!

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1 Comment

Aug 24, 2019

What a wonderful post! I was just wondering how you fit everything into the trailer when your post came out. Thank you for sharing the details. Looks like an amazing engineering and organization feat to fit everything in there so well. It made me look at the Kitfox planes more closely... Love the folding wing design. Stay well and keep up the great stories!

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