Bush Planes are some of the most versatile and useful aircraft ever made and have become an essential part of life in the more inhospitable and remote parts of the world.
There are various designs, manufacturers, and options available to prospective pilots interested in owning one of these planes.
The most immediate and burning question, however, is how far can a bush plane actually fly? Well, this of course has no universal answer, due to the various design and power capabilities of the many different bush planes available.
Typically a single-engine two-seater bush plane’s range can be anywhere from 450 miles, as is the case with the Just Aircraft Superstol, to a tidy 670 miles with the SkyReach BushCat.
However bigger planes such as the Quest Kodiak are capable of around 1300 miles while still having some of the flexibility of a bush plane, such as short take-off and landing (STOL) and high wing mountings for safely landing on rough terrain.
For reference, the range of a 747 is around 6000 miles. However bush planes can do a lot of things, and reach a lot of places a 747 cannot, so we certainly wouldn’t recommend a 747 as your next bush plane, even if you can get it for a great price.
With all that said, there are several factors that can affect the range of a bush plane, from the number of passengers to the amount of cargo and fuel, prevailing weather conditions, and the particular engine being used by the aircraft.
As you can see, it’s difficult to give a concrete answer. For a more precise number, or if you are in any doubt, we recommend contacting the particular aircraft manufacturer you have in mind and seeking their recommendation.
How Much Does a Bush Plane Cost?
The cost of a bush plane can vary widely depending on a number of factors such as your choice of engine and other components, as well as whether you intend to buy it factory-built or as a kit.
Typical prices average around $80,000 to $100,000 from most kit manufacturers, however, it really depends on the options you choose and what you require from a bush plane. This price would just be for the actual components and kit alone.
Around 1000 or so hours of amateur construction would then be required to turn a pile of parts and components into an actual flight-capable bush plane.
Some manufacturers do offer fairly well kitted out factory-built options if you don’t have 1000 hours to spend carefully piecing together your new bush plane, however, this does come at a cost and can add a serious premium on top of what a kit would cost.
How Much Weight Can a Bush Plane Carry?
Bush planes are not known for their extravagant load capacity, however, it is possible for them to carry a certain amount of weight. The actual capacity itself is determined by a variety of factors, similar to the range of the plane.
A bush plane at the maximum load will also likely have a shorter range due to the added weight and fuel consumption ferrying cargo requires. Similar to the flight range, carrying capacity can be affected by the smallest variations in the configuration of the plane.
Some bush planes have fairly generous cargo capacities of around 300kg or more, whereas some have far less capacity. For example, the Aeropro Eurofox has a passenger weight limit of 100kg, which is quite strict even for a two-seater single-engine aircraft.
Other aircraft, such as the Cessna 206 are far more capable workhorses and can carry up to five passengers and one pilot, which may be why this plane is one of the most popular and relied upon in areas like Alaska. Something like the Quest Kodiak has even more capacity and can manage nine passengers and a pilot.
Due to the different ratings of these aircraft and how they might be configured, we always recommend that you check with the pilot or manufacturer to verify how much weight an aircraft can safely carry.
What Fuel Do Bush Planes Use?
The type of fuel a bush plane uses depends on the type of engine it is using.
The most common type of engine for most small aircraft and general aviation is the piston engine, and this is, therefore, the most common choice among bush planes. Think of these engines as essentially similar to a car engine, only with far stricter tolerances and performance qualities among some other differences.
The reason piston engines are so popular is that they are cheaper to build and maintain than turboprops, and can also be started without the assistance of ground facilities or attendants.
Most piston engines in bush planes will use avgas, also known as aviation gas. However, there are a few different variants of avgas available.
Avgas 100 is the main high-octane fuel used in these types of engines, which has a high lead content and is dyed green.
The other fairly common avgas is 100LL, which is the low lead version of avgas and is colored blue. The different coloration of these fuels makes identification quick and easy.
While there are a few other types of avgas, most are rare or long out of production.
It is also worth mentioning that some bush pilots in very remote locations can find avgas difficult to obtain, and so these pilots may well use turboprop engines that can burn other fuels, such as kerosene-based jet fuel.
What is the Best Bush Plane?
This really depends on what you need a bush plane to do.
A larger plane such as the Quest Kodiak or Cessna 206 is capable of better range and can carry bigger loads, however, they will of course be more expensive and less maneuverable than very small two-seat bush planes. If you’re landing in very difficult and tight conditions, smaller planes will be easier to land and take off in.
The characteristics to look for in any good bush plane usually make them very easy to identify.
Typically, bush planes have wings mounted high on the fuselage, which has a series of benefits for bush flying. First and most importantly, the wings are safely raised above the ground, and far less likely to strike objects when landing in difficult areas. This also makes loading the plane easier.
Another immediately recognizable feature of most bush planes is the landing gear configuration. The most common arrangement is the ‘tail dagger’ or conventional setup, which has two fixed wheels at the front of the plane and a single wheel at the rear of the plane. This setup is more easily repaired, lighter, and reduces drag, which helps bush planes perform reliably.
This setup also allows for one of the other noticeable and common characteristics, the flexible use of massive bush wheels for safe wilderness landings, as well as the ability to easily mount floats for water landing or skis for ice/snow landings. This flexibility is one of the key features of these aircraft.
There are other key features of bush planes, but these are the most immediately recognizable and common ones to keep in mind.
Why are they Called Bush Planes?
They are called bush planes because they are used in the most remote regions on earth, which is commonly referred to as ‘the bush’ by individuals working and living in those environments.
The term originated in Australia and New Zealand and was used to refer to the outback, but has now spread to other inhospitable regions and is used worldwide to refer to remote inaccessible areas.