Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure

A look at the best aircraft for backcountry exploration

Maule Air

Maule essentially makes one airframe (four-place) and offers it with a variety of engines and both nosedragger and taildragger configurations, spring gear and oleo gear. All of those listed below are taildraggers, but are also available with a nosewheel and all are backcountry-suited—the shorter the runway, the bigger the engine needed. See the Four-Seaters Buyer’s Guide on page 24 of this issue.

The littlest Maule does a lot with 180 hp and it’s surprisingly spritely. Efficiency is just as much of a goal as STOL is. Price: $173,900.

The six-cylinder, 235 hp Lycoming makes the Maule more than spritely: It really gets with the program, which is welcome on a high, short strip. Price: $212,900.

With a 260 hp, 0-540 Lycoming in the nose, the Maule has a definite attitude to it and it can’t wait to get going. The airplane has its own cadre of loyal, devoted followers, and for good reason. Price: $192,900.

Peterson’s Performance Plus

Todd Peterson’s company builds wolves in sheep’s clothing: They modify your C-182 into something that may look like a Cessna 182, but definitely isn’t. The central part of the major aerodynamic changes include a canard and wing re-shaping along with aerodynamic cleanups. All of these are aimed at low-speed safety and are included in each of his models.

The original 230 hp 0-470 engine is retained but all of the safety and slow speed mods are performed. Price: $25,000.

A 260 hp IO-470 is installed, and the performance and safety margins are truly spectacular. Now you can work out of less than 500 feet of runway and still cruise 140 knots. Price: $92,485.

This is an airplane for serious backcountry aviating, as the wings are extended a total of three feet, which requires a total tip-to-tip restructuring. This greatly improves every aspect of its climb and low-speed performance. Price: $101,485.

King Katmai
Take everything we just said and move the decimal point over a couple of places, because we now have a 300 hp IO-550. Suddenly, no-go-around strips have go-arounds because of the extreme-climb and slow-speed capabilities. Price: $116,000. The IO-550 mod can be included in any of the other models/modifications.


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