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Holland pilot invents sensor to help with "hangar rash"

Posted at 10:11 PM, Nov 10, 2020

HOLLAND, Mich. — Shrilling beeps echoing throughout a room is not a sound most people want to hear, but for Greg Griffith, it signals opportunity.

In 2012, Griffith, a private aircraft owner, was returning from a trip in Florida, when he experienced hangar rash, a term used to describe ground accidents.

According to the National Businesses Aviation Association hangar rash makes up 50 percent of aircraft ground handling damage reports, with the average ground handling-related claim costing $124,000. Griffith says it costs the general aviation industry $3 billion a year.

“I’ve always heard of hangar rash but never, thankfully, had an incidents or experiences with it until a few years ago,” said Griffith, owner and president of WingGuard. “The gentleman pulling the aircraft was looking backwards and there was a parked fuel truck and our wing tip ran into the fuel truck and took it right off.”

The incident left Griffith in the state for a few days while the plane was repaired. During that time, he began looking into products that may prevent it from happening, but soon realized it didn’t exist. Griffith says aircraft manufacturers profit off of broken parts, so there is little incentive to fix the issue.

He decided to take the matter into his own hands and created WingGuard.

“Finding that there was no technology, that launched me into designing something, and then prototypes, then testing and more prototypes, and now we’re at the point where we’re manufacturing and getting ready to sell,” said Griffith.

WingGuard is a system of four, temporary sensors that protect a plane as it moves, or is tugged. It alerts operators audibly and visually when its within a few feet of something that may cause damage.

“Humans and wing walkers, is what they are called, should always be there, but this technology is just this added set of eyeballs,” said Griffith. “If the audible and visual cues are not adhered to by the tug operator, we then have it wired to the tug where we can kill the actual aircraft and tug within three feet, four feet, five feet, whatever you want that tug kill to be.”

Griffith believes WingGuard’s impact will resonate throughout the industry. He plans to market the product to FBOs, private fleets, and private aircraft owners after it receives its FCC testing certification, which he estimates will happen in January.

“Hopefully we solve hangar rash and see claims for the insurance companies…going way down,” said Griffith.