Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Katmais And Cubs: A Desert Adventure

Two superb backcountry aircraft take on the Utah Canyonlands

Handshakes are offered all around as the early morning quiet muffles discussions about density altitude and engine cooling. The majestic sandstone monoliths that surround the Moab Valley in Utah are still bathed in darkness; their distinctive orange hue invisible for another hour still. It's already 77 degrees in early September, with a forecasted 100 degrees likely by noon. A loose collection of bleary-eyed pilots—including myself and Plane & Pilot editor, Jessica Ambats, convoy to Canyonlands Airport (KCNY), 25 miles outside of Moab, to launch a backcountry adventure into some of the most remote and scenic strips in the Southwestern desert.

We've come to experience the grandeur of this awesome but unforgiving country in two of the finest machines ever made for the purpose: The Katmai conversion Cessna 182 and the CubCrafters Carbon Cub. In fact, we're guests of none other than Todd Peterson, the man who conceived the Katmai, and who continues to be a respected and innovative figure in aviation with his introduction of the canard concept on the Cessna, and his vast experience in backcountry operations.

Our gaggle of airplanes consists of three CubCrafters Cubs and five Katmais. The trio of Cubs joins us on their way to the Reno Air Races, with Scot Warren—owner and president of Warren Aircraft, a CubCrafters dealer for Texas/La./Okla./Ark.—leading their group.

Peterson briefs our group and makes it clear that this will be a weekend of backcountry fun, with the goal being safety and learning about the capability of these airplanes. Other than Peterson, Warren and Katmai owner Jar Minor, there aren't any heavy-hitter backcountry pilots in the bunch. Experience ranges from 350-hour VFR pilots to others with more time and ratings under their belts.

The plan is to use Canyonlands as a base and strike out daily to a myriad of picturesque strips, with names like Happy Canyon, Mexican Mountain, Tangri-la, and Dirty Devil, that each offer challenges to match their names. Not a contest to pit the Carbon Cubs against the Katmais, it's a chance for both sides to experience what these airplanes can do.

CubCrafters dealer Scot Warren (left) leads a group of three Carbon Cubs through Utah's Canyonlands to strips like Happy Canyon (center) and Caveman Ranch (right).


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