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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