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Thread: Aircraft mods for Alaska flying

  1. #1
    Member DanC's Avatar
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    Default Aircraft mods for Alaska flying

    Let's play nice and show the webmaster that we pilots can hold a flying forum without adult supervision.

    I'm interested in hearing about modifications that are available and any modifications that you have found useful for Alaska flying - as it is different than flying in the rest of the world.

    For my Skyhawk, my only modifications have been the addition of an aux fuel tank and removal of the starboard control yoke. With full fuel I can put 600lb in the cabin and stay in the air 6.5 hours. The added endurance and range is very important when flying in the far north where landing sites may be 300nm apart. With the yoke removed I can fly medical missions without the yoke hitting passenger legs and I can load the cabin to max without cargo interfering with control. I have also permanently removed the aft seat but could reinstall it if it were needed.

    I have fit a motorcycle (Rokon) in the cabin and can fly with all but my biggest rafts, rowing frames, and oars. I couldn't carry a moose but could easily carry a carribou carcas, including rack. I haul skis, camping gear, etc. all the time.

    I have thought about adding STOL kit but I can land it plenty short in its present configuration and figure that not having STOL capability has kept me from committing acts of off airport stupidity. An engine upgrade would be nice but I haven't been able to justify the expense.

    How do you modify your aircraft for Alaska and what else could be done to my tired old underpowered, low performance 35-year-old skyhawk?

    Thanks for reading
    Dan

  2. #2
    Member dwhunter's Avatar
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    Default AK flying

    I do not own a plane but this is always an interesting topic to follow. I began flying as a kid with my father, I am only now working on my license. My only experience in Alaska is flying out of Fairbanks with a buddy of mine in his Cub to go to his house in the bush.

    Doug

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    My ride is a 206 with a Robertson STOL kit. No extra fuel cells as my bladder only lasts about 4 hours anyway. Oh yea, a Garmin 520 and a 396 with weather.

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    I agree with you about not going overboard on the mods.

    I have an old, underpowered Aeronca Sedan (which I'm now in the process of recovering) It served me well, and will again when it is flying. I've thought many times how nice the 180hp upgrade would be, but when one considers cost of conversion, along with the not so trivial benefit , of the capabililty of the old C-145 to burn auto gas, I think I'll hold on to the old "boat anchor" motor for a while longer.

    I would like longer range tanks, and Burl's Aircraft http://www.burlac.com/
    is working on producing some aux tanks for the Sedan. I'm replacing the bladders with new metal tanks and a header tank, which Burl also sells. For you Cub types, Burl also sells the new AOSS gear which is promising to be an improvment over the bungees.

    One can enjoy planes which aren't Cubs if they're operated within their limitations, and in some cases (like mine) for about a third of the purchase price!

  5. #5
    Moderator Adison's Avatar
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    Default Ak Mods

    Great thread by the way! Just what we needed!
    I personally think that the very best "mod" you can add is a good 50-100 extra hours in the air. Most pilots want to add something to their aircraft and will spend untold dollars on this and that to increase the performance of their bird and yet spend very little in the way of increasing their personal proficiency. My advise to customers for years has been to go out and fly an extra 50 hours a year and really focus on flying the airplane and finding out how much performance it already has. After that, if you want to mod your bird, I think the cheapest and most beneficial addition would be Micro Aerodynamics "VG's". The kit usually runs around $2000.00 and can be installed by any A&P in around 4 hours. This kit will increase your controlability at slow speeds where you really need it, lower your stall speed, and has no adverse effects in terms of weight or top end speed. Just my .02
    Adison

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    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Default

    Right on adison. More practice is a great addition. Probably the cheapest one could get.
    VG's are also good. Best buy for the money.

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    Agreed: I've seen plenty of planes with all the mods helicoptered out of the woods. Proficiency is where it's at.

    Thanks, Webmaster, for the new forum!

  8. #8
    Member AK-HUNT's Avatar
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    Default mods

    Best mod is bushwheels if you are operating in the rough. Second I would agree with the VG's but dang Adison, where you buying VG's at? $2000???$695 for most sets. I've got a brand new set here I'll make you a deal on for $1500!

  9. #9
    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Default

    I would assume adison quoted the price installed. Anyone can purchase the kit. You got the 2 licenses necessary to install them legally, Ak-hunt?

  10. #10

    Default C 170 mods

    My dentist was telling me about his C 170 the other day. The has a 235 Lycoming in it, I believe, and put the Alaska Bush Wheels on it this spring.

    It sounds pretty sweet, and he said he did pretty good in the Valdez STOL competition, even without the bush wheels. I guess he gave up 20 kias when he put the bush wheels on.

    I have to wonder, though, why not just get a 235 hp Maule instead of the expensive Cessna repower? 170s aren't cheap, and neither it a brand new power plant. Sometimes I wonder if one isn't better off just buying a plane instead of making the mods. But, he has what he wants, STOL performance, decent cruise speed, cabin room.

    Beats the heck out of the 150 I am learning to fly, save for the cost per hour!

  11. #11
    Member AK-HUNT's Avatar
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    Default Martentrapper

    Maybe you could educate me. I don't know what licenses you mean. What 2 licenses to install them??? I do have the ONE license required to install them. I also have ONE license to INSPECT the installation. I don't know what relevence that has though. Adison's post says that a KIT runs about $2000. If I misunderstood, then OOPS. The whole post was in a joking manner. As Adison's spokesman could you tell him I'm sorry if I offended him? Shouldn't you be picking on Strahan? I owe everyone a hug now.
    Disclaimer: This post was also made in a half-hearted joking manner. If you get offended you can beat me up at the monkey bars at recess.

  12. #12
    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Default

    Sounds like your good to go on the licenses, AK-hunt. So if the kit is only 695.......what is it gonna cost to get you to install, inspect, and return to servce? Would you charge to just inspect on return to service?

  13. #13

    Default More mods ...

    Assuming you have installed a C206 nose fork with 8.50 tires on the mains and a 6.00x6 on the nose you can add a seaplane prop. It works kind of like low gear so its super for getting it in the air quickly and climbing at steeper angles but it does cut into your cruise speed about five knots. Iv'e gotten a max gross load airborne in less than 1000' off gravel and then enjoyed a climb rate of close to 1000 fpm. All on just the 150 hp -E2D and auto gas ...

  14. #14
    Moderator Adison's Avatar
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    Talking Mods

    ROFLMAO!......You guys are tooooo funny!

    I used the $2000 just as a figure. some of the kits are real cheap, some cost alot more, depends on the aircraft and on who you get to install it for you. Just a round figure to throw out there.

    You guy's are also right on the other areas as well. You can get real wrapped up in this or that mod and actually decrease your performance if your not careful.

    I would suggest that before you install anything, talk to anyone and everyone you can about it first. If you can find someone who has already done that mod, see if you can go for a ride in their plane and "test drive it". Most owners are real proud of their mounts and are happy to show them off.

    Talk to some mechanics and see if they have done the mod before. How long did it take and what obstacles did they run into during installation.

    Remember, most additions and removals come with some form of a trade off. More weight, higher fuel consumption, etc.

    Adison

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    Default Grizzly 1

    Quote Originally Posted by DanC View Post
    Let's play nice and show the webmaster that we pilots can hold a flying forum without adult supervision.

    I'm interested in hearing about modifications that are available and any modifications that you have found useful for Alaska flying - as it is different than flying in the rest of the world.

    For my Skyhawk, my only modifications have been the addition of an aux fuel tank and removal of the starboard control yoke. With full fuel I can put 600lb in the cabin and stay in the air 6.5 hours. The added endurance and range is very important when flying in the far north where landing sites may be 300nm apart. With the yoke removed I can fly medical missions without the yoke hitting passenger legs and I can load the cabin to max without cargo interfering with control. I have also permanently removed the aft seat but could reinstall it if it were needed.

    I have fit a motorcycle (Rokon) in the cabin and can fly with all but my biggest rafts, rowing frames, and oars. I couldn't carry a moose but could easily carry a carribou carcas, including rack. I haul skis, camping gear, etc. all the time.

    I have thought about adding STOL kit but I can land it plenty short in its present configuration and figure that not having STOL capability has kept me from committing acts of off airport stupidity. An engine upgrade would be nice but I haven't been able to justify the expense.

    How do you modify your aircraft for Alaska and what else could be done to my tired old underpowered, low performance 35-year-old skyhawk?

    Thanks for reading
    Dan

    For the four-place Cessna line, I preferred a canvas sling seat in the back. Saved weight and could be removed/replaced in seconds. All my aircraft on floats had a 3/32" stainless steel cable (with turnbuckle for adjustment) that was nicopress-fitted to the front float davits. This allowed me to walk across from float to float, which was a help when the pilot's door ended up on the "wrong side" while beaching in a relatively fast-moving river.

    Each Super Cub was fitted with a hot "driving light" mounted on a steel angle at the intersection of the main landing gear. Much brighter than the old wing-mounted lights. Observers were fond of telling me that the first bush landing would break the light, but you only have to look to see that the light is behind the prop. So ----------- the prop would go first, wouldn't it? In real life, the light was MARVELOUS !!! I never broke one. Because of the light's location, there was no "feedback" when flying in nighttime snow, either. I've always been surprised that others haven't done the same modification. And, by the way, none of those lights EVER burned out!

    I added helicopter cyclic grips to the Super Cubs' sticks, and wired the transmitter to the "trigger" on the grip. No loose mike wires and no fooling around with a hand-held mike. I was always careful to avoid a messy cockpit, and this arrangement did away with mike cords.

    Landing gear safety cables, of course, for ski operations. I can tell you they're worth much more than they cost.

    Finally, the Cubs had stainless steel cables installed inside the leading edge tubing on the horizontal stabilizers. At least the tail wouldn't fall off in flight! I've known that to happen twice, and it's a fatal failure.

    Another mod I favored was the addition of two 800-watt auto engine heaters. Installed one in the engine compartment, and the other under the co-pilot seat in the Cessnas. Had my mechanic add a faired-in ground plug, and any time I was overnight at a cold-weather airport (Great Falls, Montana, Edmonton, Whitehorse, and all over Alaska, where 120-Volt power was available), I could plug any grounded extension cord into the airplane and be assured of both a warm engine and warm instruments when morning came. The interior heater was strapped beneath the seat, so removing the co-pilot seat for freight hauls was no problem.

    I know that some of you guys have other favorites. Care to share them with us?

  16. #16
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    There's no substitute for horsepower and a big flat prop.

  17. #17

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    I think most of the needed mods have been mentioned but I would stress that you look into a good restraining system to keep you in the seat in the event of a very hard landing or crash. The stock belt won't help much. Also, you will need to make up a great survival/repair kit. ANC has shops that can help you with the survival kit and local pilots or a repair shop can clue you in for what parts or items you can replace in the field to get you back. Don't forget the tire patches. Last but not least make sure you have the newer type of ELB so the folks can find you fast when you need help the most. Flay safe and often.

    Mark

  18. #18
    Member tccak71's Avatar
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    Default I don't own a plane..

    but my buddy does! His new plane has a '56 PA 22-20 with a 180 hp, extended wings, droop tips, and vortex generators on floats/skiis. I don't know what he has for a prop. His old plane was the same model year Pacer but with a 150 hp. I don't know if I like the idea of having a 180 hp; too much of a compromise as far as fuel consumption and payload. I haven't flown in the 180 hp Pacer yet, maybe I'm missing something.

    Tim

  19. #19
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    Horsepower in an airplane is a funny thing. If you upgrade the horsepower you can usually choose to fly the same speeds as before and reduce your fuel consumption or you can fly it harder, and coincidentally faster, and realize increased miles per gallon, which usually ends up as a net fuel savings or a break-even, but you got there faster.

    Payload is calculated by taking an airplane model's gross weight and deducting the individual airplane's empty weight. With the big motor and extended wings your buddy might be giving up 30-40# of useful load on paper. In the real world I'm more concerned with my plane's ability to lift weight off of a short runway. Gross weight may or may not be the limiting factor. Those big trees in front of me are a bigger consideration. Horsepower allows me to carry a greater load over those trees, or an equal load with a larger margin of clearance.

    It'll be interesting to hear your comments after you go for a ride with your buddy. You'll probably have the same cheesin' grin on your face that he will.

  20. #20
    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Pid View Post

    Payload is calculated by taking an airplane model's gross weight and deducting the individual airplane's empty weight.
    I believe that would be "useful" load, Pid.
    Payload would also require the subtraction of fuel, pilot, survival gear, pilots bag, etc.
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
    I have less friends now!!

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