Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |
Bush airplanes are the SUVs of general aviation—small, piston-engined aircraft designed or adapted to carry a passenger or two, or to ferry light cargo in and out of remote areas with crude or non-existent runways. They’re in use everywhere from the Alaskan Tundra to the Australian Outback to the African bush.
Traditionally the tool of professional bush pilots, bush planes have recently become highly enjoyable toys for a cadre of enthusiasts. Fascinated by the low, slow off-airport, back-country flying which their STOL (short takeoff and landing) qualities make possible, private pilots have sought out bush planes for recreation.
Vintage high-wing airplanes like the iconic Piper Super Cub (debuted in 1949), Cessna 180 (1952), or Maule M-7 (1984) join modern STOL airplanes like the Kitfox S7 Sti or Cub Crafters’ Carbon Cub around camp fires atop mountain plateaus or at STOL competitions where pilots vie for honors with the shortest takeoff and landing distances and lowest stall speeds.
There’s endless debate among pilots about which plane is best for this task or that adventure. But at the huge 2018 EAA AirVenture annual airshow at Oshkosh, WI a couple weeks ago, Utah entrepreneur Mike Patey showed up with what many are now calling “the ultimate bush plane.”
Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Wilga Wary
Last year, Mike Patey was flying his Wilga 2000 low over Utah Lake for a photo shoot with a group of other bush planes. Suddenly, its piston engine blew, throwing two connecting rods. With no altitude for gliding, he had to land fast. In its death throes, the engine made a final burst of power, allowing Patey to just make it to a cornfield. Safely down, he decided he would rebuild the Wilga around an idea he’d been mulling for months.
The airplane Patey set down in the field was based on the PZL-104 Wilga, a relatively large four-seat Polish bush plane designed in the 1960s for STOL aviation uses. Powered by a 260hp Russian-designed radial engine, the high-wing monoplane was sold from 1963 to 1996, followed by the improved Wilga 2000 (powered by a six-cylinder, 300 hp Lycoming O-540).
Patey had been dissatisfied with the Wilga’s Lycoming for some time. Like any piston engine, its power diminishes as altitude increases. At the elevations in his local Utah back country, Mike’s Wilga 2000 lost 45 to 70 horsepower, significantly extending its takeoff distance. “The engine was anemic for the sheer size of that aircraft. At higher elevations, instead of doubling its [takeoff] roll to 800 feet, it gets up to 2000 feet w