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Short Field Techniques

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  • Short Field Techniques

    OK guy's, lets have some fun!

    As an aspiring bush pilot, I am always looking for a better way to do things, especially short field work. I know that short takeoffs and landings have alot of variables associated with them so lets make some assumptions here.

    We are using a standard 150hp cub with 18" bushwheels and we want to get in and out of a rough strip of around 1200'. The weather is, 50' with partly cloudy skies and a slight crosswind of 3-5 knots. No obstructions on one end, but a forest of trees on the other. Lets hear your ideas on getting in and out of this spot. Oh yeah, your at gross weight (you got lucky and got your moose).
    I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy!
    Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice, remember life is expensive and ammo is cheep!

  • #2
    18 in. bushwheels? No such thing. Try 29 in.
    If the runway is 1200 ft. your gonna have to try real hard to NOT get off in that distance.
    Try 500 ft. 10 knot direct crosswind, 50 degrees, and gross wt. That's a little more challenging.
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
    I have less friends now!!


    • #3
      Sorry in advance here folks, but I about felt I had to include my $.02

      There are some issues here. I'm not sure I'll like the idea of hearing someone say they are "aspiring" for bush flying. This is almost a preresiquite to dumping airplanes.
      That being said. There are no short field techniques. If your flying the bush, you are always trying to take off as soon as possible. Likewise, just because you might be landing at Int'l doesnt mean you float a mile down the runway. There fore, all t/o and lndg's are short. Specially in the equipement you mentioned. Now let me save you the hassle of listening to opinions: There are some good books out there. i.e. Sparky Immerson and Frank Potts. However, nothing...and I stress NOTHING is ever the exact same way twice. Having some unbreakable pattern (like 2100 rpms on downwing and 1500 on final, or breaking ground at 51mph. etc.).You do what feels right at the time, and above all, never, never argue with the airplane. You will always lose.
      By the way, you ask 10 pilots a question, your assured 10 diff. answers. -Tony


      • #4
        If you are going to be a 'bush' pilot, you have to be able to plunk the wheels/floats exactly where you want them. No floating or bouncing. No matter what the wind is or where the obstacles are. If you need to put the plane in a small strip, the wheels have to touch exactly where they need to go. Accuracy is everything. IMHO, to do this takes more than just knowing how to fly a taildragger, the plane needs to become part of you. You don't 'get in' this aircraft, you wear it, it becomes a extention of your arm.
        A 1200' runway is nothing. I'm pretty sure I could do that downwind at gross weight, certainly in a 150 supercub.

        I ain't no expert, but it takes more than just having a pilots license. It takes common sense and proficiency. And you can't get that 'bush pilot' mentality. This state is full of wreaked planes of people who come here (and live here) who are attempting to land in a place beyond their capabilities who think, 'Hey, I'm flying in Ak, I'm supposed to do this.' Thats why our insurance is so high.


        • #5
          I really appreciate discussions like this. I've been flying a 172 for 5 years, but am going to start flying a Cub this summer. Although I have long-term goals of using this plane for hunting/fishing (gravel bars, beaches, etc.), I know that proficiency must come far before I ever venture off an improved strip. I read someone's post in another thread here that he's learning to fly this year and is planning on spotting sheep before this fall. This is a recipe for disaster, as is any other type of lofty goal before one is truly proficient. I feel quite confident in the Cessna that I've been flying, but I know that I have MUCH to learn. Too many planes go down too often...I don't want to be a statistic.

          Thanks for the tips, guys. Please keep 'em coming! Maybe in a few years I'll be able to share pictures from my first Cub-based hunt, though only once I have lots of training and even more time behind the yoke.



          • #6
            short field work in a cub..

            I agree with TonyAk. There is no "correct" technique, but a great many wrong ones. I have a lot of time in 150 cubs (learned my worst flying habits in them!) and with those airplanes in various configurations and weights, I have cheated death a few too many times. I will not tell you my specific "tricks" because some of them fly in the face of convention and I dont want to pass those on to student cub pilots. From my experience, I will say this...

            1.) Learn to fly the airplane as proficiently as you possibly can, at MCA, and through stalls in various configurations. Cub's can have some interesting stall characteristics especially with extreme aft loads, which ironically, will probably give you the best takeoff performance. Learn the slow speed regime, without flight intruments. Recognize the imminent/incipient stall, practice CONTROLLING the plane in that configuration with landing flaps.

            2.) remember that unimproved fields (sand bars, beaches, tundra) tend to look different from different angles. what looked good from the flyover may be unrecognizable from a downwind turn or the next flyover. DO flybys however, many if you need to, at landing speed. Check the surfaces. Are you going to be able to get out again? are there boulders now and am I going to leave a tailwheel behind? Been there, done that. Can ruin your day.

            3.) I cant reiterate enough. Learn to fly the cub by feel and without excessive use of instruments, especially on landing. Learn the CG limits and study how they affect your performance. Practice coordinated turns by feel only (very important!).

            Hope that helps some. what a wonderful airplane! good luck!


            • #7

              Everything the above post said. AND Don't make your first few off airport landings under 1000' or a extremely narrow strip. It will take a few times just to control the aircraft as it is bouncing. I do remember that from when I was getting started.


              • #8
                bush landings and insurance

                So, if you own a plane and are doing off airport landings, can you get insurance to cover your aircraft in the event you ball it up? It seems to me that no sensible insurer would touch that with a 49.5 foot pole. Of course some State-owned airports aren't much. Ever flown to Takotna? It's a beauty!
                Of course, if any of us were sensible we would be at home watching football and getting fat instead of contemplating landing a $100K airplane in the mud.


                • #9

                  Yes, I believe I had Avemco. I asked if they specified I had to land at "airports" and it was firm no. That was a couple years ago. May have changed. They couldn't cover any folks who lived in airparks if it had to be a certified airport I'd imagine.


                  • #10

                    "Certified airport" has specific connotations - there are only a handful in the state. I give these guys a call and see what they say.


                    • #11
                      Lots of good advice here. However, I'd caution against being TOO conservative. I mean, how are you ever going to learn what off-airport flying is all about if you've never done it? So you've got 10,000 landings on pavement in a 172 - so what? 90% of off-airport flying, for me at least, is judging your intended landing area. You can't get that by reading about it. I'd guess that you CAN get cocky enough to bend an airplane with enough airport landings.

                      Short field is a relative term - I don't land anywhere that I'm even remotely uncomfortable with - which usually means about twice what I think I need given the conditions. In wet, deep snow that may be 2000' - which somtimes turns out to be plenty short in a loaded airplane with a small engine. In great conditions I might land on 1/4 of that. I'm often surprised at how long a landing area I've picked turns out to be (I've been surprised at how SHORT it was exactly one time - that was enough!). Same for rough - if it looks even slightly rough, it's probably rattle-your-teeth-and-tear-the-gear-off rough.

                      Successfully operating off-airport isn't about technique or equipment, it's about judgement. There are a LOT of remote places in this state where you can land just about anything - I've been on beaches in a Tripacer with 600-6 tires. All airplanes have limitations within which you must operate, and those are pretty easy to figure out. Pilots also have limitations, and those are sometimes much more difficult to come to terms with.

                      Go out with an experienced friend. Find somewhere you're comfortable landing, look at it from the air, land there, get out and REALLY look it over. Big rivers - Tanana and Yukon - are great for this, because they have huge bars with everything from great places to land to mud to rocks all within walking distance of each other. I bet you'll find "little bumps" that have somehow magically turned into stumps, "gravel" that became 6" rocks, etc. Find somewhere close, that you haven't seen from the ground, and look it over from the air. Drag it (perhaps the most important skill you'll ever develop) if it looks really good. Now go land at your known place, walk over to your "new" strip, and check it out. If you like it - really like it - land there, or bring aforementioned experienced friend back and land there. You build experience by experiencing new things, and you can safely do that with an airplane.

                      Don't get cocky, don't push your luck, don't get in a hurry. Maybe it'll take years to get your abilities in line with your aspirations. You'll probably never bend an airplane if you know YOUR limitations (NOT someone else's) and the limitations of YOUR airplane, and stay within them. You'll almost certainly bend an airplane - and perhaps yourself - if you don't.


                      • #12
                        Amen to all the above. Want 4 opinions on bush landings and take offs you can ask any two cub pilots.

                        All the above is true and comes from folks with experience. It can take years to learn to look at a piece of dirt and know you can land there. Eventually you will just look and know, but that takes a long time and thousands of landings and many hundreds of pioneered strips.

                        Learn to fly the plane, thats all the suggestions anyone should give. There is no such thing as landing long or short on a minimal strip. Float 20' and you use up 10% or more of your strip. Land 5' short and you take off the undercarriage.

                        Theres a lot of knowledge out there that no one should be sharing with a novice who might try it long before they are ready. Flying bush is a slow expensive thing to learn. Nothing but hours, experience and judgement can turn the trick..... and its heavy on the judgement part.


                        • #13
                          1. Read the above mentioned books.

                          2. Since you are in Anchorage you need to call Jay Baldwin of Cub Training Specialists in Palmer and schedule some flight time with him.

                          3. Check out

                          4. When you are ready for some float flying give me a call.

                          A pilot who is willing to walk half a mile further, will have a plane that last twice as long.
                          Float-CFI, Photo Guide, Fishing Guide, Remote Kayaking
                          Guest Cabin, Flight Reviews, Aerial Tours


                          • #14
                            Grizzly 1

                            Originally posted by Adison View Post
                            OK guy's, lets have some fun!

                            As an aspiring bush pilot, I am always looking for a better way to do things, especially short field work. I know that short takeoffs and landings have alot of variables associated with them so lets make some assumptions here.

                            We are using a standard 150hp cub with 18" bushwheels and we want to get in and out of a rough strip of around 1200'. The weather is, 50' with partly cloudy skies and a slight crosswind of 3-5 knots. No obstructions on one end, but a forest of trees on the other. Lets hear your ideas on getting in and out of this spot. Oh yeah, your at gross weight (you got lucky and got your moose).
                            Hey Adison,

                            I've read all the responses to your puzzle, and I have to say that most refer to "judgment." And I agree with that. At the same time, there are ways in which to eliminate some of the questionable parts of the scenario.

                            For example: Sit at your favorite airport, on a calm-wing day, and mark the place from which you are going to start your takeoff. Have a friend place his hat, or any other such object, alongside the strip or runway at the place where your airplane's main gear left the ground. Then measure that distance. Now you know what distance is required for a takeoff that plane and with that loading.

                            Now fly past the runway again, this time at 600-feet AGL, and at exactly 80-miles per hour. At that speed, you airplalne is eating up about 117 lineal feet per second. So ............. how many seconds did it take you to fly from your marked takeoff starting point to the point where the main gear left the earth? Let's say it took six seconds. That translates into about 702 lineal feet.

                            Next time you fly over some remote spot and wonder whether or not you can operate from that place, get down to six hundred feet and fly along your intended "runway." Is it more than six seconds long?

                            At this point, the "judgment" requirements are reduced to: what's my load, what are the winds, and what are the surface conditions. If you flew along the questionable bush "runway" for seven or eight seconds ----- or more ----- it should be more than comfortable for takeoffs and landings.

                            Yeah, there are always variables. But this "technique," ----- a bad word to some who read these messages ----- works. Try it.


                            • #15
                              The only constants in short field technique that I can point out are to operate as slowly as possible and hit your spots. Conditions of a particular strip will require the pilot to adjust to what's there. Soft sand is different than gravel. An unobstructed approach is different than dropping over trees on final. A crosswind is different than a light breeze on the nose. But, in all cases, a slow airplane will land the shortest. A decelerating airplane will land shorter than an accelerating airplane even when they both touch at the same speed. Get familiar with your airplane at critically slow speeds and be prepared to maintain complete control. The rest is adjustable according to what the conditions dictate.

                              And aways be humble enough to accept that sometimes the conditions and/or pilot ability dictate not operating there that day.


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