Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Adventure Aircraft Buyer's Guide 2014
These aircraft can do it all—training, aerobatics or bush flying on wheels, skis or floats
Ah yes, my good friend the Super Decathlon. Jerry Mehlhaff elected not to change the name of the Super Decathlon, primarily because the airplane is recognized as one of the most comfortable and capable aerobatic trainers in the sky. Fitted with a 180 hp Lycoming AEIO-360H, inverted fuel and oil system, and capable of accepting an optional smoke system, the Super D can fly the large majority of maneuvers in the akro handbook, including a few outside tricks beyond the scope of the Citabrias: full outside loops, outside snaps, vertical rolls (when properly coordinated) and many other aerobatic exercises.
Although the Super was never intended to be competitive in aerobatic competition, the type has won the Sportsman class many times when properly flown. Better still, however, the Super isn't limited to akro training. It can climb at 1,200 fpm from sea level and cruise at 115 knots. The new Super Decathlon Xtreme ups the power ante to 200 hp for even better performance. Bring along a parachute, and you can even change your whole attitude en route. Price: $175,900.
American Champion Scout
No, the Scout isn't an aerobatic design. Its talents are dedicated to bush operators, and I've seen a number of the type operating on extra-large bush tires in Alaska, landing on sand bars, in tiny meadows and other unlikely destinations. The Scout sports longer wings than the Adventure, a taller gear stance to protect the prop, large-span, long-chord flaps and the carbureted 180 hp Lycoming used on other American Champion models. The Scout is approved for operation on wheels, skis and normal/amphibious floats, and that makes it a popular machine in the Far North where the change of seasons makes continuous wheel operation impractical. Dirty stall speed in standard configuration is only 43 knots, and the actual break is so gentle, some pilots feel comfortable approaching as slow as 1.05 Vso, practically in the buffet. Landing roll can be little as 300 feet, a football field in the backwoods. Price: $170,900.
Aviat Husky A1C
In a sense, the Husky is exactly the kind of airplane you'd expect from Aviat Aircraft of Afton, Wyo. When real-estate entrepreneur Stuart Horn acquired the company in 1996, he quickly placed emphasis on the Husky, a utility aircraft intended to conquer the outbacks of Canada, Alaska or wherever there were no runways. To that end, the Husky has progressed to the A1C, incorporating evolutionary changes to improve the breed. While the Husky is a totally original design, it relies on the heritage of the Super Cub, one of the premier bushbirds of all time. Fitted with 180 hp for max performance and maximum lifting capability, the Husky doesn't need much space for departure and arrival. As a result, the Husky can make its own runways on muskeg, deserts, water or snow. The Aviat airplane requires a minimum distance to claw its way into the sky, usually less than 200 feet, and an even shorter space to land to a full stop. Of all the short-field, two-seat aircraft available for backwoods operation, the Husky may be the most comfortable and the most modern. Like the Cub before it, the Husky has become a durable contender for flying into places without runways. Price: $218,262.
I'm one of those lucky people who was able to graduate to a two-place Pitts shortly after I received my private pilot's license. That transition was an eye opener, flown in the initial 200 hp Pitts S2A, but in the subsequent 45 years, I've been fortunate to step up to the 260 hp S2B and the improved S2C. The S2C can do the full gamut of aerobatic tricks, right up through the lomcevak (an end-over-end somersault) and double hammerhead, and slightly modified gear geometry makes it an easier airplane to land than the original, as well.
Aerobatic schools use it to train pilots all the way up through the unlimited class, and while it doesn't have the power of an Edge 540 or an Extra 330, it can fly virtually all the vertical maneuvers with ease. Some pilots regard a biplane as a better machine for akro. Many owners contend that a Pitts often seems psychic and can perform maneuvers you didn't know you could do. The S2C is a dedicated aerobatic machine, however. It has only 28 gallons of fuel capacity with 260 hp to feed, so it's not much of a cross-country airplane. Aviat doesn't build S2Cs on a scheduled basis, but the airplane is still technically in production, and they'll build one to your specifications. Price: ask for current price when ordering.
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