With summer nearly here (officially) in the northern hemisphere I thought that I would post a brief article on how our club mows the field. It seems like it would be straight forward but for specific reasons we mow our field in a particular way.
Our field is a beautiful area in the hills of Frederick County MD. Its old farm land that has served us well. As it is not "putting green" quality grass we mow in a way to minimize the clumps of grass that can accumulate while mowing. Field grasses are more coarse and due the larger size, they tend to clump more. The clumps can cause two major problems:
The clumps can cause big problems on take-off and landing. One clump in a wheel can nose-over the whole airplane. Those large clumps can also cause bare spots to appear. The clumps will cause excessive heat and burn the grass, killing spots and making divets for further ground handling issues.
The way we avoid clumps is a three-part attack:
- Side-throw the clippings
- Keep the blades sharp
- Mow in a figure-8
Mulching the clippings can be benificial to any lawn from an organic perspective. For the clean grass needed to avoid build-up on wheels and such you really need to remove the clippings as best you can. Since our runway and pits areas are quite large, we do not have the means to economically bag or otherwise collec the clippings for a compost pile. We have a simple tractor mower that throws the clippings to the right side.
Keeping the blades sharp is simple mower maintenence. This ensures that the grass can be efficiently clipped at one-pass and keep the clippings flying out the side as quickly as possible. A dull blade can have grass clippings build up and cause uneven cutting and more clumping issues.
The figure-8 method is tried and true as illustrated in the following crude picture:
Essentially you start at point 1 and work your way to points 2, 3, 4, 5, 2, 3, 6, and then back to 1. After that, you can begin focusing on only the middle of the field and work your way outward. This allows the clippings to be constantly thrown away from the runway toward the edges of the field. This would mean that from the previous 1 position you would go from 2 to 3 in a figure 8, moving toward the outer eges of the runway and making a final pass at the edges again to keep the clippings off the runway area. This also does to some mulching of the clippings but most of them get thrown to the side and become smaller as you go.
The other advantage here is making your mowing experience as fuel-efficient as possible to accomplish your goal. Our runway, with its cross-wind patch, DLG area in the middle of the field, heli area, pits, and parking area can be done in about 1.5-2 hours and less than one tank of gas. The pits and parking area are just mowed as best as possible since (hopefully) no landing will be taking place there.
I hope this gives you some ideas on how to get the most out of your flying area. You fellow club members may just love you for this information!