Plane & Pilot
Monday, September 1, 2008

For Town & Country


A hybrid lands in the bush


expeditionWe’re on an Expedition. Two of them, actually. Four of us are aboard the Expedition E350, the new tricycle-gear bush plane from Found Aircraft (www.expeditionaircraft.com). The others in our party are aboard the Expedition E350XC, the conventional-gear variant—this one outfitted with amphibious floats—flying barely 20 yards off our right wingtip. We’re making a short hop to Ontario’s Muskoka Airport, a mere 27 nm southeast of Found Aircraft’s headquarters at Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport, also in Ontario.
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expedition We’re on an Expedition. Two of them, actually. Four of us are aboard the Expedition E350, the new tricycle-gear bush plane from Found Aircraft (www.expedition
aircraft.com
). The others in our party are aboard the Expedition E350XC, the conventional-gear variant—this one outfitted with amphibious floats—flying barely 20 yards off our right wingtip. We’re making a short hop to Ontario’s Muskoka Airport, a mere 27 nm southeast of Found Aircraft’s headquarters at Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport, also in Ontario.

Andrew Hamblin, the company’s director of marketing and sales, wants to show off the Expedition’s unimproved-field performance, and Muskoka’s turf strip, with its 6,000-foot primary runway, will be the testing ground. I assume the Expedition will handle the turf with aplomb. After all, the Expedition is a direct descendant of one of Canada’s most legendary bush planes, the FBA-2, which earned its stripes working in the country’s unforgiving north over the last four decades. But at the moment, my attention is directed downward, at the small swath of wooded rocky islands and the shoreline of Ontario’s Georgian Bay region, sprinkled with its genteel vacation homes. That’s the kind of place where the ultimate test of the Expedition’s capabilities will be conducted: whether it’s able to build a market for a new kind of bush plane, one as suited to hauling 55-gallon drums in the wilds as to hauling a family to an upscale resort. A hybrid, if you will.

“The concept of what we’ve done,” explained Andrew, in the back seat of the E350, “is taking the strength of the aircraft and its bush applications, and then refining it and moving it forward. People are expecting a certain level of quality and options in an aircraft for their own personal use, and the Expedition offers all that. The analogy is the Land Rover to the Range Rover.”

Doors can open 180 degrees, making for easy loading of cargo or people (like Found’s chief pilot Ted Dirstein).
Nathan “Bud” Found was the driving force behind Found Brothers Aviation (FBA), predecessor of Found Aircraft. In 1946, FBA was founded with the goal of creating the ultimate bush plane, a design distilled from all the lessons the eponymous bush-flying brothers had learned about the hauling needs and performance capabilities required for bush ops. But the world of business and aircraft manufacturing was perhaps more unforgiving than the rugged Canadian wilderness. Over the next half century, FBA built just 27 aircraft. Yet their strength and performance—on wheels, floats and skis—created a legend. Of course, no one thought much about creature comforts or interior appointments in those days. A bush plane was a working plane. Concern about the pilot’s comfort was mostly limited to making sure the pilot stayed alive. As for passengers, they could just squeeze in among the oil drums, or by the moose carcass.

Vortex generators on the wings improve the E350’s performance as a STOL aircraft.
But that’s not all that bush flying is about today. Prospective buyers are apt to be looking for something that can take them between the bush and civilization while operating comfortably and keeping occupants comfortable in either environment. And perhaps the most dramatic evidence of that is right below us: the E350’s tricycle landing gear.







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