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
Gipps Air Van
George Morgan and Peter Furlong, of Moreland, Australia, designed the AV-8 Air Van during a period of 10 years to accomplish a specific mission—haul the largest possible load around the Outback. In fact, it's pretty much unmatched in that part of the world and many others. As the designation suggests, it's configured for eight seats, seven of them in quick-change mode, that allows them to be swapped for flat floor space if the mission demands. Morgan and Furlong must have done something right, as today, there are some 170 Air Vans flying in such out-of-the-way places as Canada, Alaska, the Congo, Botswana, New Zealand, New Guinea and other locations where what you can carry is more important than how fast you can get it to the destination.
Plane & Pilot flew the Gipps Air Van in Spring 2012, and it had all the hauling characteristics of a Dodge Ram truck, only faster. Payload was more than 1,200 pounds with the standard normally aspirated 300 hp Lycoming (the airplane is also available a turbo that boosts power to 320 hp). In-flight handling is excellent, right down to the 56-knot stall speed, partially a tribute to the USA35B airfoil. Piperwith aficionados will recognize that aerodynamic section as the basic Cub wing but, in this case, it's 208 square feet large. No one is liable to worry much about speed on a Gipps Airvan, but for those keeping score, it's 134 knots. Price: $761,030 (turbocharged).
Maule has built so many models of its basic STOL taildragger that it's hard to keep track of them all. You can buy Maules in a bewildering variety of modes: two seats, four seats or six seats, a nosewheel or a tailwheel, piston engines from 160 to 260 hp or a turbine out front, oleo or leaf spring suspension and enough variety of options to satisfy an Alaskan bush pilot or a family man from Dallas. The Moultrie, Ga., manufacturer can put together whatever combination of ingrdients you need, but the latest Maule is the M9-235, a conventional gear airplane aimed at the bush market. Like most Maules, the M9's primary claim to fame is its impressive useful load, but Maules have many other talents to keep you engaged. The M9 scores a 50-foot takeoff distance of only 791 feet at gross. As with so many other airplanes in the Adventure class, cruise isn't that impressive, 137 knots (about the same as a stock Skylane) but how fast do you need to fly to haul a moose out of a meadow in South-Central Alaska and fly it back to Anchorage?
Peterson's Performance Plus
Let's say you have a garden-variety Cessna 182 in decent condition that you'd like to transmogrify into something better. The King Katmai may be just your ticket. Todd Peterson has been converting Skylanes to legitimate bush birds for years. Peterson is the father of the earlier Wren conversion, and the King Katmai is his more recent attempt to reduce runway requirements. The major innovation on the King is the longer wing that provides improved short-field performance and more abbreviated landing characteristics. Stall speed is just 31 knots! Peterson Performance Plus offers a number of additional options. The top-of-the-line full King Katmai conversion mounts a 300 hp, IO-550 engine out front plus the forward canard and extended wings. Price: $140,000.
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