Best bush planes: Flying Cessna, Piper, Beech, DeHavilland, airplanes & aircraft

Bush planes is the internet home of bush pilots, both new and experienced. We spent over two months in Alaska flying the best bush planes: Cessna, Piper, Beech, DeHavilland aircraft and other airplanes suitable for bush flying. This site brings you a candid evaluation of the best bush planes plus some scenic photography of landscapes and wildlife, and the aircraft themselves. You will find helpful information about bush planes and help answer the question: Which is the best bush plane?

Some may be wondering, "What is Bush Flying?" That's okay, there was once a day when this phrase was new to me too. Bush flying refers to flying that is done in remote and rugged areas of the world. Oftentimes planes that fly in the bush are equipped with floats, skis or large tundra tires. In the picture above, I've taken off from Lake Hood, Alaska in a Piper Super Cub equipped with floats. You can see Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, in the foreground. For the old timers, this used to be called Mt. McKinley. (Helicopters are often used in very remote and inhospitable locations such as this.) Some may consider a bus tour of Denali to be a great adventure, bush flyers are not similarly inclined. Our desire is to be the site where serious bush flyers can find valuable resources and where people who don’t fly in the bush can get a true picture of what bush flyers do and experience.

Bush flying originated in remote areas of the Canadian north where the lack of roads made the transportation of necessities (such as food, medicine and building materials)only possible by air. In the picture above, I've taken a Champ 7GC from Palmer, Alaska and landed it near this remote glacier. You can see the glacier in the background and the unimproved road I just landed on in the foreground. Naturally, there isn't a control tower in back country like this. While many people travel to remote areas of the world, few truly get to experience these areas as bush flyers do. The picture below shows an aerial view of the glacier under the wing of the Champ 7GC.

While most postcards depict glaciers as smooth and snowy white, this close-up shows it's true colors. In reality, this glacier is more jagged than a tray of ice cubes and resembles the color of street slush the day after a snowstorm, perhaps with a blue snowcone mixed in. This next photograph was taken just before landing near the glacier.

Today bush flying is widely done in Canada, Alaska, the Australian outback and in the tropics. Historically, bush flying was only for the most adventurous pilots, as navigation beacons were often non-existent in the bush and there was no possibility of rescue in case of misadventure. Today Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) and rescue helicopters have made bush flying much more feasible for the typical person. Bush pilots routinely operate from unimproved airfields which can be little more than relatively smooth patches of land, sandbars on rivers, or firm parts of glaciers. Although bush planes come in all sizes and shapes, a good bush plane will be very rugged and able to take-off and land in short distances. Being able to get in and out of these small strips requires a good deal of piloting skill and bush pilots are very adept at precise flight at very slow speeds (as required for landings and take-offs). Many times bush pilots will operate from strips that require the pilot to land as soon as the terrain is suitable and apply a good deal of braking. Bush pilots often tend to be very self reliant types that are knowledgeable in wilderness survival. The stereotype of a husky pilot with an unkempt beard often accurately portrays the bush pilot appearance. Wild beards and haggered faces are not a prerequisite to being bush pilots however, and today many women are skilled bush pilots. Bush flying is often done recreationally for people who desire to go to remote areas, but it is also still done as necessity in some parts of the world such as the Autralian outback, Alaska or Canada. Historically, religious missionaries often flew in and out of the bush to reach people that were otherwise unreachable. Oil exploration, environmental assessments and surveying in remote areas often require the skills of bush pilots. Many bush pilots are avid hunters, fishers and wildlife photographers. Speaking of wildlife photography, the next photograph depicts an awesome bush flyer found just outside Anchorage.

As previously mentioned, bush planes come in a wide variety. A typical bush plane will have a high wing (wing on top of the fuselage) and have conventional landing gear (tail draggers). Popular examples of planes used in the bush are the Piper Super Cub, Cessna 180 and 185, and the DeHavilland Beaver—all of which have high wings and conventional landing gear. Cessna 206s and Piper Cherokees are also used in the bush, but are not as favored by bush flying purists. Having the wings on top allows airplanes to land in small strips that have become overgrown with vegetation. Conventional landing gear is favored because of its ruggedness and the aeronautic ability it allows an airplane to become airborne quicker than an aircraft equipped with a tricycle landing gear. Becoming airborne quickly can be a great asset if Mother Nature becomes unfriendly, such as in the picture below.

Perhaps more than other types of flying, bush flying invokes romantic notions of swashbuckling pilots flying off to exotic locations. The image of a Super Cub or Beaver on a glacier or with rugged mountains as a backdrop has become iconic in the aviation community as portraying the bush pilot's lifestyle. But times have changed. Due to the increase in private plane ownership and the availability of rentals and charter tours, bush flying has evolved into a family activity that even the non-pilot can enjoy. For information about a specific aircraft, use the search tool below, or use the navbar on the left to browse the site pages or the alphabetical index.


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Bush Planes Alphabetical Index
Alphabetical index of aircraft featured on including deHavilland, Piper, Cessna, Beech, Aviat Husky, Maule, Zenith, Murphy, Glastar, Stinson, Pilatus Porter, Fieseler, Norseman
Super Cub Bush Planes
Small and rugged, the Super Cub easily handles impossibly short landing areas and its rugged construction makes it a natural for rough fields hewn with rocks. It can easily be fitted with floats, ski
DeHavilland DHC-2 Beaver
With a stout nine cylinder Pratt & Whitney radial, Beavers fly over emitting a roar evocative of steep mountains, unruly bears and true wilderness. Beavers can be fitted with floats or skis.
Cessna 180s and 185s
Cessna 180s and 185s are considered to be prime bush planes. While the Cessnas will not offer the same short field abilities of the Super Cub, they easily will carry four adults.
Cessna Caravan
With its Pratt & Whitney PT-6 turboprop engine, tricycle landing gear and “new plane” price tag, in many ways, the Cessna Caravan finds ways not to make it into the bush
Helio Courier
Helios have a distinguished and storied history, and several were used in covert operations during the Viet Nam war. Exactly what role these planes were utilized in during the conflict is the subject
Pilatus Porter PC-6
The Pilatus Porter is a well-proven bush plane. The Porter has operated in some of the rougher environments on the planet, from the jungles of New Guinea to
Murphy Moose
Moose is often compared to the Beaver bush plane, as it is a viable alternative to the expensive Beaver. It is powered by a nine cylinder Russian M-14P radial engine that is supercharged and pr
Huey Helicopters
Huey, UH-1, Iroquois, Bell 204, 205, 412 helicopters bush flying aircraft
DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter
The Otter first flew in 1951 and was a larger version of deHavilland’s successful DHC-2 Beaver. Initially the Otter was called the “King Beaver” but the name Otter was applied instead to the plane.
Champ-Citabria-Decathalon-Scout Bush Planes
These aircraft follow a confusing lineage that even some diehard fans find difficult to follow. While basically the same airplane, they have been made by several manufacturers over the years with man
DC-3 and C-47
The DC-3 evolved from earlier DC-1 and DC-2 types and was the premier airliner of its day. It first flew on December 17, 1935
Aviat Husky
Huskies bush planes typically are equipped with Lycoming 180 hp engines, though 160 and 200 hp engines are available. Like the Super Cub, the Husky can be fitted with floats, skis or tundra tires.
Chinook & Sea Knight Helicopters
Chinook Sea Knight Helicopter bush commercial logging military
Antonov An-2
Antonov An-2 is is the largest single engine bi-plane ever built. And built it was, Russia produced 5,000 examples, Poland produced 12,000 and China, well no one really knows how many China
Cessna 206
Cessna 206 bush plane was made with a Continental IO-520 engine that produced 285 to 300 hp depending upon the particular model. Factory turbo.
Beech 18, C-45 or Twin Beech
A perfect, no-frills, bush plane. Many of the Beech 18s have been snapped up by freight haulers or collectors, it’s difficult to find a good example at any less than expensive.
Maules are four seat piston powered airplanes with engines ranging from 180 to 260 hp. Allison turbo-props are featured on some models of the Maule. Conventional or tricycle landing gear .
DeHavilland DHC-4 Caribou
It is a consummate bush plane, but its size and complexity not only keep it from being operated by individuals. It has not been widely accepted by commercial operators either.
DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter
The DeHavilland Twin Otter design was solid and dependable. All Twin Otters were trigear aircraft.
Murphy Rebel
The Murphy Rebel is a homebuilt aircraft offered by Murphy Aircraft. Its considered a scaled-down deHavilland Beaver as the Beaver designer, Dick Hiscock formed the design for the Murphy Rebel from a
Sky Crane Helicopter
Sky Crane Helicopter lifting military aircraft Army Navy National Guard
Glastar and Sportsman 2 + 2
These airplanes can be fitted with tundra tires and floats and offer quite a bit more cruising speed than other, comparable bush planes. They are both experiemental and not offered in a certified pro
Cessna 170 and 172
Cessna 170 and early Cessna 172 used Continental 0-300 6 cylinder engines producing 145 hp. Conversions exist to upgrade these airplanes to more modern Lycoming 4 cylinder engines bush planes
Noorduyn Norseman
The Noorduyn Norseman is a large bush plane featuring the same Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial as the deHavilland Otter and is roughly comparable.Glenn Miller, popular Big Band director, disappeared
Zenith CH-701 and 801
Zenith aircraft offers two, fairly unorthodox kit-planes that feature excellent STOL capabilities. Both are offered in kit form and are relatively easy to construct. Both aircraft are metal.
Stinson was an unusually progressive aircraft company founded in 1920 by Edward “Eddie” Stinson. Athough Eddie Stinson was an aircraft manufacturer, he always remained an aviator at heartt.
Bell 47 Helicopter
Bell 47 bush helicopter featured in MASH military H-13 Sioux turboshaft engine
PZL Wilga
The PZL Wilga (Oriole in Polish) is an good short field performer and has become the most manufactured airplane to come from Poland. It features fixed leading edge slots and a bewildering array of en
Cessna 190 and 195
The Cessna 190 and 195 are considered classic airplanes occupying the aerial equivalent of classic ’57 Chevys or Harley Davidson motorcycles. The Cessna 190/195 represent all that was good.
Yak-40 Jet Aircraft
The Yak-40 is a tri-jet design reminiscent of the Boeing 727 and was designed specifically for STOL operations. Jet STOL operations, that is, don’t expect to see Yak-40s landing on river sandbars alon
Lake Amphibious Aircraft
Lake amphibious planes are frequently seen in the bush, the tropics or the continental United States around bodies of water. The Lake series are unusual in that their engine is fitted on top
Fieseler Fi 156 Storch "Stork"
“Stork” is the granddaddy of all purpose built STOL planes and, unfortunately, has become iconic with the Nazi war machine. It was used by the Nazis as a liason aircraft in the Luftwaffe.
Boeing C-17 and Ilyushin Il-76
The C-17 and Il-76 are the largest bush planes in world. These aircraft haul a ton of cargo or passengers to an incredibly remote location
Kitfox is a 2-person plane for recreational excursions into the bush. These planes should not be overlooked. Just don’t anticipate being able to haul good amount of equipment or gear.
Flying Tips
Most modern pilots have been trained to fly aircraft that have tricycle landing gear. The mere thought of flying a tail dragger is intimidating to outright terrifying to pilots who haven’t flown them
Yak-12 is an old design, originating during World War Two as a light liaison and observation aircraft for the Soviets. In the late 50s, the Yak was produced in Poland. China also.
DeHavilland DHC-7 Dash 7
The Dash 7 featured four Pratt & Whitney PT-6A turboprops which “blow” the main wing when producing power and enhance STOL performance. The Dash 7 was envisioned by deHavilland as being an airliner f
Grumman Goose
The Grumman Goose first flew in 1937 and was part of a series of Grumman seaplanes which culminated in the Grumman Albatross. It is, very roughly, the amphibious equivalent of a Twin Beech.
Avid Aircraft
Avid aircraft marketed a series of kitplanes that were somewhat similar to the Kitfox series of planes. Some of these planes could accept floats. It also offered a three seat amphibious plane, known
Piper Aztec
Piper Aztec bush flying aircraft airplane
Flying float planes and sea planes
Getting a pilot's license to fly float planes and sea planes is typically an add-on after a pilot gets a license to fly more traditional land aircraft, although its the same plane fitted with floats.
Bushcaddy is a Canadian company located in Quebec. It offers five kit plane designs, from an ultralight to a four seat design and all are designed for STOL and the bush. Being homebuilt, the builder
Peterson (Wren) modification of Cessna 182
Modification of the common Cessna 182 airframe and encompasses several different modifications to the original airframe
Gippsland GA8 Aircraft
The Gippsland GA8 aircraft is a bush plane from Australia intended to fill the gap between a Cessna 206 and Cessna Caravan. It features a rugged 300 hp IO-540 Lycoming engine and seats 8 people.
Dornier Do-27 and 28
Dornier Do-27 and 28 is a post-war aircraft from the German company Dornier. It features twin-engine Lycoming engines with STOL capabilities for bush flying. The Dornier is roughly comparable to the
Bearhawk Aircraft
Bearhawk Aircraft
Mountain Goat Bush Plane
The Mountain Goat is slightly larger than a Super Cub and features a 160 horsepower Lycoming engine. Its manufacturer makes some dramatic representations about its capabilities, the author has never
Flying Helicopters
Given the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) ability of helicopters, they are a natural in bush country. The helicopter’s controls work much differently than an airplane and the pilot uses all of h
Bush Helicopters
Sikorskies, Bells, Hillers, Eurocopters, Enstroms, Aerospatiales, Kamans, Robinsons, Schweizers, and other helicopters are used in the bush for everything.
GAF Nomad Bush Plane
This plane hailed from Australia and was an attempt, beginning in the 60’s, by the Australian aviation industry to create a high-wing STOL bush plane.
Bell Jet Ranger
Bell Jet Ranger Huey turboshaft engine bush helicopter
Enstrom Helicopters
Enstrom Helicopters bush flying aircraft
Hiller Helicopters
Hiller Helicopters bush flying aircraft
Robinson R44 Helicopter
Robinson R44 Helicopter bush flying aircraft Lycoming engine
Schweizer 300 Helicopter
Schweizer 300 Helicopter
Robinson R22 Helicopter
Robinson R22 Helicopter bush flying aircraft
Safari Helicopter
The Safari helicopter is a homebuilt from Canada which is relatively new. Its designed after the famous Bell 47 helicopter . It was originally named Baby Belle but changed to Sarai after objection by
Hummingbird Helicopter
The Hummingbird is a relatively odd homebuilt helicopter kit, it’s a kit version of an old school certified Sikorsky helicopter. If you build it, it will forever remain an experimental helicopter.
Britten-Norman Islander and Trislander
Britten-Norman Islander and Trislander: The BN-2 Islander was designed in 1963 and first took to flight in 1965. It was designed to be a low cost alternative to the older DH-89A Dragon Rapide (both
Mountain Flying
Mountain flying and bush flying are as natural together as peaches and cream. Mountain flying is not per se dangerous, but to the uninitiated, it can be terribly unforgiving and often, fatal.
Learning How To Fly
There are several avenues available for flight training, and in some respects, the best choice depends upon the person and his or her goals. For people who have sufficient financial means, practicall
Short Skyvan Bush Plane
The Skyvan was made by Short Brothers of Belfast, Ireland and it was the same Short Brothers as the famous British flying boats of World War Two. Short Brothers was also the oldest true aviation comp
Sherpa Bush Plane
The Sherpa is a relatively rare airplane and many people have not heard of it. To get an idea of the Sherpa, take a Super Cub, super size it, put a Lycoming 0-720, 400 horsepower engine in it, have s
Grumman Widgeon
Widgeon is a smaller version of Grumman’s Goose and initially featured in-line Ranger engines which gave the Widgeon a very elegant appearance. Engine modifications include swapping the Rangers.
Arctic Tern
Arctic Tern is an updated Interstate Cadet which first flew in 1941. The modernized version is known as the Artic Tern and features a Lycoming 160 hp engine. The plane is Cub like in appearance.
Aerocomp Aircraft
Aerocomp Aircraft
Bush Plane Survey
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Aviation Oopsie
For those of us who enjoy a good chuckle at someone else's expense, this page is chock full of aviation oopsies. Besides, if you've had an oopsie of your own, you'll now know you're not alone.
Bushwhackers Fun Page
Page dedicated to humor, stories and interesting tidbits of information about bush flying and aviation in general