Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, November 1, 2005

American Champion High Country Explorer


The newly certified, go-anywhere two-seater


american championBy the time you read this, I will have completed a two-week vacation trip circumnavigating most of Alaska and some of Western Siberia with an Indiana dentist, Dr. Bill Grider. (Hey, it’s a tough job, but...) Alaska is my kind of place, and despite a dozen trips around the state, I’m always eager to return.

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Considering that this is intended primarily as a recreational or working, off-airport machine, the new Explorer utilizes the Scout’s oversized 8.00x6-inch tires, and the result is probably two feet of prop clearance in the three-point attitude, 18 inches in the wheel attitude. Provisions are available to mount floats, skis or huge bush tires. Even in standard trim, there’s no way you’ll ding this prop unless you put the airplane onto its back.

The High Country Explorer also incorporates a premium version of essentially the same carbureted 360-cubic-inch Lycoming engine used on the Scout, along with the aforementioned 76-inch, fixed-pitch, Sensenich propeller. The new Explorer’s powerplant is a Superior Vantage Engine, built to considerably higher standards than the normal mill and the first OEM application of the Vantage engine.

The Superior engine features several parts upgrades, a computer-optimized camshaft, better lubrication and even a cowl flap. In addition to the approval for standard 100 octane, Superior certified the Vantage Lycoming for 91-octane auto fuel, a feature that may become more significant as avgas becomes progressively more expensive and harder to find.

You could legally refuel an American Champion High Country Explorer from five-gallon cans topped off at the local Chevron station. When operating in the boonies, that may be the only source of fuel as well as a relatively inexpensive one at that. (I was in Greenland in mid-July, and 100-octane avgas has already reached $10.50 per gallon in Narsarsuaq. Last October, I ferried a Shrike Commander through Christmas Island, 1,200 miles south of Hawaii in the Pacific, and fuel over there was over $11 per gallon with a minimum of a 55-gallon purchase.)

Unlike the utility-category Scout, the new airplane is still basically a Citabria with aerobatic certification to G limits of +5 and -2, evidenced by the shovel-like spades mounted to the ailerons. Spades are a kind of aerodynamic, poor man’s power steering that help deflect one aileron up and the other down when the pilot initiates any roll deflection. Roll rate isn’t as quick as ACAC’s model 8, but the additional roll power imparted by spades makes the High Country Explorer unusually agile for a bush bird. The engine isn’t injected, and there’s no inverted oil system, so you can’t maintain inverted flight as you can in the Super Decathlon, but that’s not the Explorer’s primary mission.




Labels: Piston Singles

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