by Jane Garvey
The prospect of a gas operated automatic door opener/holder for a Cessna single will strike some as the greatest thing since Velcro and others as utterly superfluous. If youve shelled out for an expensive door repair occasioned by an unanticipated wind gust, youre likely to be among the former. That might explain why, according to Dave Paradis of Mtn View Aviation, why over 500 Door Steward kits have been shipped to date.
In simple terms, the Door Steward is a gas spring attached to brackets mounted at the bottom of the airframe door opening and then riveted to the door itself. This is a door opener and holder, not a closer. When you unlatch, the door will open immediately and rather vigorously and affirmative pressure is required to close it.
If you own other than a Cessna, youre out of luck. In addition, the 177 Cardinal has proved to be difficult to engineer for this device but thats about the only Cessna single from the 170 through the 210 which doesnt have an STC for the Door Steward. Some 210s may take extra installation time as well as potentially reducing the door travel range. A complete list of approved aircraft is available on the companys Website.
How easy installation of the Door Steward will be in your particular aircraft is to some extent a matter of luck. The wing-mounted door stops might remain or they might have to go. You might get away without drilling out any door frame rivets, as we did on this installation, or you might incur additional effort depending on where the airframe bracket can fit.
There are a few things to consider before springing for the Door Steward. First, if youre not comfortable with sheet metal work, not to mention drilling holes in structural members of the aircraft, count on adding in the cost of one to two hours of your favorite A&Ps time per door. (Professional installation of one door for this evaluation was 1:10, including reading the instructions, applying zinc chromate here and there.)
Our mechanic indicated that the instructions were quite good and definitely within the purview of an experienced amateur, but access to the right tools is a consideration. Clecos and pliers are a definite plus on this job and a Cherrymax pneumatic riveter would be helpful, although a hand riveter will do the job. As our installer demonstrated, you can skip the fancy deburring tool and just twirl a large drill bit around some to clean up the hole. Check out the installation instructions online to get a read on whether installation is feasible for you.
Another potential issue may arise if your interior is non-standard or unusually plush. The clearance between the door bracket and the spring attachment is a tight quarter inch. Fine for low pile carpet panels and Royalite, but it wont accommodate heavier carpet or more robust edge welting. If youre not willing to cut that posh interior (or some other problem arises), the vendor will take it back (less shipping), unused and undamaged, of course. One other potential downside should be mentioned. If its already not great fun folding creaky joints into your cockpit, installation of the Door Steward eliminates about an inch of access space at the airframe attach point.
Last summer, Revision A was introduced in which the brackets are powder coated beige and the rod has been black nitrided. Also, unlike the accompanying pictures, the end fittings are lower profile with a steel rather than plastic locking device.
While certainly not a necessity, we can definitely see the utility in having a mechanical device to open and hold the door. Engine start and run-up on a hot day? Just let the Door Steward secure the hatch until its time to button up and go. Amphibs might well appreciate the ability to slide onto the float for docking without tying up a hand managing the door. Any routinely windy clime or destination might benefit or just helping a passenger out of the back seat without being assaulted by the door could make the Door Steward worth a look.
A single Door Steward costs $159 plus shipping and handling. Both doors will set the average buyer back $299 plus shipping. The Door Steward comes with a two-year limited warranty.
Contact – Mtn View Aviation, 800-837-0271, www.mtnviewaviation.com.