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Thread: Random outsider question for you bush pilots

  1. #1

    Default Random outsider question for you bush pilots

    Please forgive the ignorance and the random question but I love reading the "obscure" portions of this forum and learning new things. Yesterday I was reading a thread where someone posted some accident reports involving a Super Cub on remote air strips. One report stated that a gust of wind caused the plane to nose down. I assume this would cause some significant damage.

    So, my question(s) are more about what you do after this happens. Do you have to fly a mechanic and parts out to the strip for repairs? Can you "limp" back (assuming minimal damage obviously) to an airfield for repairs? Do the repairs have to be certified by some process involving the FAA before you can fly again? What about major damage, do you bring in a helicopter to haul the plane out? Again, sorry for the silly questions but I found it interesting and curious.

  2. #2

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    If you have a damaged airplane on a remote strip, the proper sequence is to repair it or at least obtain a ferry permit to move it in its damaged state. There might be an argument if there is a circumstance that makes it more dangerous to remain than to fly the damaged airplane, but for the most part a set of circumstances that might fit that scenario should be hard to come by.

    As to whether people usually do this, or fix it up themselves to get home, then have it looked at...I don't know. Probably in part depends on the extent of damage and the number (and type) of witnesses. As a passenger, I'd wait to see the airplane returned to service by a mechanic before hopping on...but that's just me. As a pilot, that's the standard I would hold, but I am not flying a fat-tired tundra buggy landing on unimproved surfaces.
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    There have been quite a few bush repairs that came in "under the radar" so to speak. You are supposed to get an A&P to repair to "ferriable condition". Then get the Feds to sign a ferry permit... If the plane is a "basket case", you try to get it out by any means possible before resorting to an expensive helicopter sling job. If you leave it out there too long, the buzzards will pick it clean...

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    It depends on the nature and extent of the damage and on the location of the aircraft. I my case I had a catastrophic engine failure with no airframe damage in a remote area. My insurance company wanted no part of a helicopter retrieval so they paid labor and transportation costs to fly a new engine and mechanics to the plane to hang a new engine on it where it sat. They didn't pay for the engine or other associated parts. I've watched wrecked airplanes get cobbled together and flown out of the bush for repairs. Some of the temporary repairs weren't what I'd call airworthy but they made it. I've seen helicopter retrievals, too. The problem with helicopters isn't usually the cost but the risk. If the load becomes unstable the helicopter pilot will drop it. That's a guaranteed total loss with potential liability attached. I've never heard of that happening among my aquiantences but that's what insurers fear. For many the final decision for how to recover the plane is up to the insurer. For the uninsured it comes down to cost/benefit. Lots of variables. No simple answers.

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    Member Float Pilot's Avatar
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    I once lost a tire (valve stem ripped out and smashed the rim on something pointy ) at a remote location. Well that has actually happened a couple times.
    Wrecked the inner wheel and drug a Deamers wing Droop tip through the mud.
    Anyway, I was stuck and sat there for a whole day until somebody else happened along. He eventually got word back to my family and some friends that I was stuck.
    The next day a buddy flew out with a new wheel assembly and a borrowed 26 inch Goodyear. And a jack....

    Hundreds of mosquito bites later, I eventually managed to get home.
    Floatplane,Tailwheel and Firearms Instructor- Dragonfly Aero
    Experimental Hand-Loader, NRA Life Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by colonel00 View Post
    Please forgive the ignorance and the random question but I love reading the "obscure" portions of this forum and learning new things. Yesterday I was reading a thread where someone posted some accident reports involving a Super Cub on remote air strips. One report stated that a gust of wind caused the plane to nose down. I assume this would cause some significant damage.

    So, my question(s) are more about what you do after this happens. Do you have to fly a mechanic and parts out to the strip for repairs? Can you "limp" back (assuming minimal damage obviously) to an airfield for repairs? Do the repairs have to be certified by some process involving the FAA before you can fly again? What about major damage, do you bring in a helicopter to haul the plane out? Again, sorry for the silly questions but I found it interesting and curious.
    All the responses below carry both wisdom and experience. I've experienced them all in my 35-years of flying the Alaska outback. In the case of that sudden wind gust, it no doubt came under the tail while the pilot held the stick back rather than forward at that moment. That happened to me during a turn on a steep beach some years ago. I finally had to remove the prop, jam each blade down into a pile of large cottonwood logs, and bent them back to reasonable shape. Then I got a small club and hammered each blade until it looked serviceable. I test flew it before I picked up my young man-and-wife passengers and returned them to Anchorage. The prop couldn't be repaired, however, and I had to purchase a new one. Another incident required a helicopter lift. Each incident is different, and if it occurs in a truly remote place, the circumstances will dictate the repair response.

  7. #7

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    Thanks for the responses so far. I find it quite interesting.

    Mr. Pid, so your insurance was involved for a mechanical failure where there was no damage? Is this typical or only because you were stranded remotely?

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    My policy included a clause for recovery of the non-airworthy airplane even if there was no accident. It was very helpful under the circumstances although I would have rather had the airplane returned to civilization to get the new motor installed. Installing an engine on a slimy riverbank isn't the ideal situation.

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    Member BARTFRNCS's Avatar
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    MR PID what type of engine ? Just having a mental image of several guys grunting lifting a very heavy engine into place on a muddy slimy river bank.

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    TCM IO-360 (6 cyl). We had one strong guy on each side and one older gentleman on the prop end helping while standing in a 4-wheeler trailer. One mechanic was on top guiding. All went well until the trailer hitch let go and the older guy fell, leaving the load on the two of us at the sides. We came very close to dropping a $30K engine. Scary moment but we managed to get it up. The worst part was not being able to set the fuel pressure properly before pointing the plane at the trees and flying out. As it turns out that motor cooked itself and was replaced under warranty about 30 hours later.

    The engine failed away from any land access so we used a couple of jon boats with outboard jets to re-position the plane where we had access to a strip and a 4-wheeler. Talk about getting some looks from the fishing crowd! I flew the mechanics back and forth on floats but the engine was flown in on tires.

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    By the way, the worst part of the whole ordeal was waiting for an engine. Nobody had an assembled engine in stock so the factory had to build one. That took two months. That's a long time for a plane to sit on floats tied up to a tree. We relocated it to a friend's cabin so it got some attention but two months went slowly.

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    Member Sierra Hotel's Avatar
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    Then there's this kind of repair in the bush . . . . !!!!!!!!!!

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    Note to self "NEVER put my dead fish in my 150K Super Cub".

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    Once upon a time ... a long ... long time ago.


    Mid 80's, first beach landing at Polly Creek, Cessna C-172, 1975 vintage (bush plane if only 1 person is on board), The landing on the hard wet sand was without incident, when I turned up beach to park, the nose wheel dug into the dry sand and the prop threw sand every where .... What next, over 150 miles from home with a prop that is slightly bent, both blades. The engine did not have a sudden stopage, hit the brakes and the prop continued to spin and the engine was running. Several other planes there that day and I solicited opinions / help from others. Most thought that I could get back with a bent prop. I took a chance and launched under full power, such as it is from a Lyc. 0-320 E2D. Flew back to Palmer at 50% power with some prop vibration. Back at home base I had my mechanic remove the prop and engine (engine at 2400 hrs. it was due for overhaul). Prop was bent back because it was within serviicable limits and the engine was overhauled with no damage noted from the prop strike.

    All in all ... a happy ending with a few nervious hours of critical decision making.

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