170s in the Wrangells

wrangellsHere’s another one for all you aspiring and actual bush pilots – a video about flying and camping in outback Alaska, courtesy of Backcountry Pilot (as usual, click on the picture for the video link). Well, I say ‘camping’ but these flyers stay in ‘public use cabins’ provided and maintained by the Alaska Parks Service. Now that’s my kind of tent! Although there’s more than one mention of mosquitos…I didn’t think those little ******s could survive in such a cold climate but they obviously do.

Bush flying is one of those activities to which quite a lot of pilots aspire. It encapsulates all those ‘freedom’ and ‘adventure’ urges which drive some people. And looking at this short video, I can see how the bug (and maybe the mosquito) can bite you. Crystal clear air, remote airstrips, carry everything with you, enjoy a campfire with friends and share stories of grizzly bears and derring-do.

It’s interesting to see them using the venerable old Cessna 170 – albeit with ‘big engines’ and fat tyres. I particularly like the weathered old blue one, which must have seen a lot of action over the years.

We’re planning our own ‘bush’ flying adventure, with a trip, hopefully, to Innamincka in north east South Australia via Mungo Lodge, Broken Hill and Tibooburra. With a side trip to the Dig Tree of Burke and Wills fame – or is that infamy? That’s if the weather is OK – a big ask at this time of year. Planned departure from Tyabb is Saturday 13 June, returning a week later.

Expected aircraft group includes the Bush Hawk, a Brumby high-wing, a couple of Foxbats and the Interstate Cadet (I don’t have a demo Foxbat at the moment). Flying time total is around 15 hours for the Cadet – probably a bit less for the others. It will be interesting to see if the 74 years-old Cadet can keep up with them. If I can get an internet connection, I’ll post some information and photos of the expedition. If not, then a full report on return…watch this space!

The Bush Hawk arrives in Australia!

Bush Hawk 01My friend Steve (Australia’s Cubcrafters Agent) has bought himself a Bush Hawk aeroplane and today it arrived at Moorabbin Airport near Melbourne after its long journey in a container from Alaska.

For those of you not familiar with this aircraft type, it is, as its name suggests, a bush plane – big wheels, slow stall, taildragger etc etc. What makes this one different is that via its four door configuration, it will carry five people and their luggage into and out of pretty well most places – paved or unpaved – that you could expect to take a plane. Almost uniquely for a bush plane, it has a single, cantilever wing (no lift struts). It will cruise around 140 knots and it goes without saying that it is as rugged as they come.

What makes it even more interesting is that its gross weight falls below the 1500 kgs limit for the new Australian Recreational Pilot License (RPL). OK, Steve currently ‘only’ holds an Ultralight Pilot Certificate and an RPL so he will need a co-pilot with a PPL or higher if he wants to carry more than one friend or get a class 2 medical. But in the meantime, he can carry everyone else’s luggage when we all go off on a trip!

The Bush Hawk (or Bush Pig to its friends) has a bit of a varied history – originally designed back in the 60’s by the Found brothers of Ontario, Canada, the design was updated put into production for a while by Found Aircraft. In the late 2000’s it morphed into the Expedition Aircraft but alas, as of early 2014 Found Aircraft no longer manufactures aircraft – Steve’s Bush Hawk was was built in 2005 as a company demonstrator, then put to work in Alaska by Mountain Flying Services as an air-taxi and sight-seeing aircraft.There are some great pictures of Steve’s Bush Hawk on the Mountain Flying Services website.

Bush Hawk 02 copyHaving helped unload the aircraft from the container, the first thing that strikes you is the sheer size of the thing. Even without its wing installed, it’s impressive. On it’s 29″ bush tyres, it will look truly massive and even at 1.86m (6’2″ in old money) I will be able to walk under the wing without ducking my head. Space in the second row seats is palatial – I can sit behind the pilot and stretch my legs all the way out in front of me. Hopefully there will be room for a table for our in-flight service!

The aircraft is now being re-assembled at the CAE Aircraft Maintenance hangar at Northern Avenue, Moorabbin. For the time being it will remain on its USA N-registration. Although Steve has many hours of tailwheel experience on the Carbon and other cubs, he’s very wisely arranging some further training and familiarisation with an experienced instructor. Although by all accounts, one of the great features of the Bush Hawk is that it handles like a happy pussycat on the ground and in the air.

More news and pictures when the aircraft is ready to fly.