Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

King Me!

Down & dirty in the spectacular Utah Canyonlands

Over time, the Wren evolved into the Peterson 260SE, which sports a fuel-injected, 260 hp Continental engine for added up-front muscle. En route, the slotted flaps and spoilers went the way of the dodo. What remained was a true STOL airplane that stalled at 35 knots—yet cruised at 150.

Immune to general aviation's sales doldrums, Peterson's Performance Plus ( racked up an impressive 500+ sales in 14 countries over the next two decades.

"Who would have thought," he marvels, "there was so much interest in backcountry flying?"

Peterson continually refined the 260SE. But eventually, he envisioned a bush plane built just for himself. "I added three feet of wingspan to the 260 and began testing it out on backcountry strips in Idaho and Utah. I've just beaten the tar out of it since. That's how I evolve all my airplanes. And I'm now happy with the configuration. It's a real good machine."

He named it Katmai. The most recent addition to the breed, the King, differs from the others only in its 300 horse, fuel-injected Continental IO-550 mill. Other bushworthy features and options for all Katmais include:
• anti-abrasion stainless-steel strips for the landing gear's leading edges.
• heavy-duty brakes, and brake lines routed behind the gear to avoid snagging ground obstacles.
• custom interior configurations, including an eight-foot cargo area with a flat floor and 12 tiedowns. (Bring on the camping gear!)
• custom, tailorable avionics including full IFR packages.
• an onboard generator to recharge the battery, preheat the engine, refill a flat tire or power a campsite.

The only difference between all the Katmai models and the 260SE is that extra three feet of span, which reduces stall speed by four knots. That may not sound like much until you realize it cuts landing and takeoff distance by 20%—to under 300 feet! [The Katmai wing extensions are provided by Wing X/Air Research Technologies:]
Ah, that canard. It's the secret to the Katmai's incredible slow-flight performance.
"Even at 6,000 feet with no wind, sitting on a supersoft surface, when I see 300 to 400 feet of strip ahead of me, I know I'm in plenty good shape," says Peterson.

Ze Canard Eez Not A Duck, Monsieur!
Now to that canard. In a nutshell, the little wing up front works in conjunction with the tail (i.e., canard elevator up, tail elevator down) to hold pitch attitude, especially at low speeds, pretty much level.


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