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Plane Facts: Bush Planes

Bush Plane
Bush Plane via Shutterstock

Claimed first bush flying: Canada 1919, Curtiss HS-2L flying boats at Lac-a-la-Tortue, Quebec
Early popular bush planes: Curtiss JN-4 Jenny
Reason: Relatively rugged, cheap and plentiful

Early legendary bush pilot: Earl Frederick Crabb
Other Crabb claim to fame: WWI ace
Number of enemy planes downed: Six in three-month span in 1919
First bush flying gigs: Pioneering mail pilot, U.S. Forest service pilot in Maine

Alaska’s first bush pilot: Carl Ben Eielson
Day job: Math teacher
Early bush flying jobs: Mail hauling, transportation, fire spotting, game tracking, search and rescue

Key design feature: Taildragger (conventional) gear
Benefits: Mainly terrain clearance in rough terrain
Last year of full J-3 Cub production: 1947

First year of Piper PA-18 Super Cub production: 1949
First Super Cub in Alaska: 1949
Major differences: Flaps, more powerful engine, higher gross weight, solo pilot in front seat
Number of PA-18s produced: Around 15,000 Last year of full production: 1983 (reintroduced from 1988 to 1994)
Popular mods forPA-18s: More powerful engines, large tires(bush tires), floats

Super Cub Gallery

Purpose-built bush plane: De Havilland Beaver, 1947-1967
Power: Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior, 450-hp, radial design
Beavers built: 1,657
Percentage of those purchased by U.S. Army: Just under half
Beavers still busy: Unknown, in the many hundreds
Primary applications: Transportation, freight hauling, float transport, sky diving, game spotting, mail-carrying
Developed into: De Havilland Otter, Twin Otter
Type owners: Viking Aircraft, since 2006
New production Beavers: None yet; many rebuilds

Most useful bush plane mod: So-called Tundra tires
Features: Large size, low inflation
Design characteristics: Load absorption, easier rolling on rough terrain
Inventor: Alvin J. Musselman
Year introduced: 1929 
Company in on the action early: Goodyear
Largest Goodyear bush tire: 46 inches diameter


Year of FAA safety tests of big-tire planes: 1994
Reason: Suspicion that the tires were a safety hazard
Problems suspected: Raised stall speed
Problems discovered: Poor forward visibility on taxi due to higher deck angle


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