Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Putting The Adventure Back In Aviation
Top airplanes, gear and schools for a different kind of flying
The fabric-fuselage, aluminum-winged M-4 Maules have been with us since the mid-1950s, and the family business in Moultrie, Ga., still cranks out one of aviation’s better-known STOL airplanes. Everything about the airplane is traditional and simple, and the latest models have noticeably increased useful loads. The company is unique in that it produces models with engines ranging from 160 hp to 420 hp turbine-powered versions (Maule’s 260 hp versions are the best known). Price: $212,900 (260 hp); $173,900 (180 hp). Contact: www.mauleairinc.com.
MAULE We came over the top of the butte at about 500 feet, and the huge Indian ruin was spread out before us. We circled it, taking pictures, and someone commented that there wasn’t a road in sight for miles. We were seeing what very few people had seen before.
Peterson’s Performance Plus in El Dorado, Kans., produces one of the most impressive STOL airplanes ever conceived. This extensive modification of the ubiquitous Cessna 182 includes aerodynamic mods—the most noticeable of which is the canard—and engine conversions (260 hp is the most common, with 300 hp available). As a result, the King Katmai delivers nearly unbelievable short-field performance and outstanding slow-speed handling. Also, at 170 to 180 mph, it’s faster than it has a right to be. Price: $92,000–$101,000. Contact: www.katmai-260se.com.
PETERSON KATMAI The strip had a significant bend in the middle, with each leg extending about 150 feet. I planted the Katmai, and we were stopped before the bend. It was nothing short of amazing.
Aviat’s S-2C Pitts presents adventure seekers with more performance than most people have ever experienced. With its cat-shot takeoff, 2,900 fpm climb rate and 150 KTAS cross-country speed, the S-2C offers impressive performance. Its real adventure quotient, however, is evident the instant the finger-light controls are tweaked and the horizon is twirled around at will. Gravity becomes a temporary inconvenience as the pilot invents new ways to experience aviation. Price: $290,850. Contact: www.aviataircraft.com.
PITTS The G’s going into the vertical weren’t that noticeable, but when I slammed the aileron into it, and the horizon disappeared in a blur, that was mind-blowing.
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Labels: Aircraft Bargains, Bush Flying, Bush Pilots, Buyer's Guide, Buying A Plane, Features, Ownership, Best Buys, Backcountry Flying, Adventure Flying