Today’s Flight Plan
What is like to fly a Carbon Cub from Cubcrafters, or a float plane in Alaska’s backcountry? I was able to do both in one week, and I still can’t wipe the smile off my face.
Flying has so many different challenges, but also new adventures that we never imagined.
In this episode we discuss the unreal performance of a Cubcrafters Cub, what it’s like flying in Alaska’s backcountry on floats, and what the ultimate remembrance of 9/11 is for me.
Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.
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This is AviatorCast episode 35. Low, slow and ready to go.
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. Landing or taking off on asphalt, snow, rocks, water, grass, concrete, ice, sand, it doesn’t matter. All are great in their own ways. I just love to fly and I love the challenge that comes from flying.
I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is brining you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility and a commitment to excellence. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So welcome to this, the 35th episode of AviatorCast. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the show. It is great to have you here week after week and I’m always honored with your presence. So thank you for being here. Thank you for enjoying and pushing forward AviatorCast every week. This is why I do it. Just for your enjoyment.
So we have a review. It comes from the United States. It comes from 128computers. He says “A+, five stars. Chris, I want to thank you and those that make this podcast possible. Each episode of AviatorCast is packed with insightful and entertaining information. You are an excellent host and asks those questions that keep us simmers fully engaged as well as making as feel as much a part of the community as real pilots are.” So thank you 128computers for that review. That review came from iTunes. If you enjoy this show, you can also review us on iTunes. That lets others know about the show and helps us gain popularity in iTunes to kind of shoot us above the other stuff out there. So if you like this podcast, all we ask is that you go and you review us.
Alright, so I have a show lined up for you guys today. I’m actually flying solo today so we’re not going to have a guest. I do have a couple awesome guests coming up. I think you will be really surprised not from the flight training perspective but also from the flight simulation perspective. We have some cool guests coming up here in the near future, but I thought I’d share with you guys a few experiences that I’ve had in the last week that I think you guys will enjoy, and I’ve certainly learned a lot from it, so I wanted to share those with you. So we’re going to get right in to the flight training segment, and that is going to be our only segment for today, but don’t you worry, I will also bring in new flight simulator users out there. So here we go, the flight training segment.
And now, the flight training segment…
Chris: Alright my friends. So, it’s good to be with you. I’ve had a couple cool flying experiences this last week that I wanted to share with you guys and I call this the Bush Flying Blast. So the first experience came when I visited Portland. I went down there to visit a company called GoFlight. The director of that company Tony Varela and I are good friends and I thought I’d go down there and kind of see their operation, maybe help them out a little bit with some of my expertise. But a part of that was we were going to also have fun while I was there right? What would it be if we didn’t go and have some fun and the best kind of fun is fun where you are flying.
So what we did was we went out to an airport that may be familiar to some of you simulator people out there or some of you people in the Portland, Hillsboro area, and that airport is Star’s Twin Oaks. So Tony and I had the opportunity to go out there and meet Bob Starks. Bob and his father created this airport, built this airport he said 41 years ago, so it’s pretty much Bob’s operation. Bob’s daughter work for him as a flight instructor. Bob does some maintenance. They own a lot of airplanes. There they have a flight school. It’s a really beautiful, cool airport and like I said for you flight simmers, there’s actually a scenery for this airport that is very close to realistic, so it’s kind of cool to know it from the simulation end but also go and see it in real world.
So as we walked up, there was a guy kind of tinkering in this barren cockpit and I said “Hey, do you know where Bob is?” and he said “Oh, it’s me!” and so Bob was in the cockpit tinkering around with the flight panel in there, but Bob was actually to take us flying. I just thought it was funny that he was in there working on the airplane but he was also going to take us flying.
So my dream airplane, if I could choose any airplane out there, you would think that maybe I would choose a jet, maybe I’d choose a high performance single or something like that, but my dream airplane is a CubCrafters Carbon Cub, Top Cub, I kind of like all the models they have but an aircraft from CubCrafters. So basically, he has one. He has a dealership there in the Portland area and although I’m from Alaska and generally you fly or do business with the people in your area, it was okay that I actually flew with him so he was going to show me the Carbon Cub because it’s something that I would like to have someday and something that I’m working toward. Even though it may not be completely realistic at this point in time, I hope that it will be in the near future.
So anyway, the plan was to fly this CubCrafters Carbon Cub and so we went out to the airplane, he peeled back the door to the hangar, and there she was, this beautiful yellow and silver Carbon Cub. Now, if you’ve never seen a Carbon Cub, it looks just like a Piper Cub in a lot of ways but it has some very particular differences and the main differences come from the fact that this is a newly built 100% new airplane. It’s not refurbished, it’s 100% new. I believe they’re made in Yakima, Washington and this particular cub was a Carbon Cub so what that means is that a lot of the parts on the airplane are made up of carbon fiber, and so it reduces weight yet you still keep that strength on those parts. So you have this beautiful fiber weave on a lot of the surfaces on the airplanes, so it gives it this very modern look.
Now part of that is, and this will come up later, part of that is that the Carbon Cub has a much lower empty weight. So all of that weight that it would have had from aluminum parts now it doesn’t have and you can basically gain performance out of that. Granted, you could put in more weight and get up to your max gross weight or whatever it is, but you have that lower weight so you could really get some great performance out of it.
So I was the first to go and Tony went after me but I got in the airplane and it was just a dream. It has this glass panel so it has a Garmin-500 on it or one of the screens from a Garmin-500, and then it also has a dine-in PFD of some sort, I’m not sure exactly what the model is, but it’s a glass cockpit set-up for this Piper Cub or this Carbon Cub. Very beautiful and kind of up my alley because I am someone who likes those newer, nicer instruments that just kind of encompass everything. I just really like that and so it was cool to see that all right there. With the newer cubs, the newer Carbon Cubs, you can actually get what’s actually called the G3X I believe and that is basically a complete glass panel all right there, you can configure it how you want so there’s lots of options.
Beautiful airplane, everything’s new in it. You can tell that the design of it was definitely upgraded and one thing I noticed right away is just how many windows there were and how great a visibility I had. So Bob fired it up, it’s pretty easy. He couldn’t reach a lot of controls because he was in back and I was in front to see all these and kind of manipulate it, so he would have me do things like the mixture and turn on the airplane and turn on the avionics. This is actually kind of cool, I also would run the electric trim for him on the stick there, so it just has a little simple joystick, nothing too fancy with a little trim wheel on the very top or a little trim switch, so he would have me trim for him during the flight as well. So we fired it up, we’d taxi out and we sat on the runway.
As we pull up to the runway, Bob said “Okay, each one of those stripes is 100 feet long and then between the stripes is also 100 feet long” so that’s a way that we can measure the takeoff. So he pulls up right on the nose on the first stripe and just slams that power forward, pushes the nose forward a little bit, we cruised down, lift off at about 200 feet. No kidding, that cub just took right off. It was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t believe it. Just popped right up, and then we started to do a max performance climb out of there, so we started doing VX out of there. Really impressive performance. I enjoyed it a lot. It’s very, very cool and something I really haven’t seen a lot of.
So then we went around the area and he demonstrated the airplane for me a little more. We turned to and fro here and there, and he will let me feel the stick a little bit and the stick a little bit and the controls. And then we went over to an area a little further away from the airport and he demonstrated slow flight for me. And this is possibly the most poignant part of the flight for me, even above and beyond the takeoff. He slowed that thing down in slow flight and slow flight is where you’re flying very close to stall but you’re not yet stalling, the aircraft is still controllable and you can still maneuver a little bit.
He slowed it down in a slow flight and we were doing 19 knots. I kid you not, we were doing 19 knots in that Carbon Cub and it was like the twilight zone for me because I’ve never seen an airspeed like that on an airspeed indicator unless I was stalling or doing something else I wasn’t supposed to be doing which I never do, so I’ve never seen that kind of airspeed on an airspeed indicator yet we were still flying. It was absolutely incredible just how slow you can get that airplane. And you can imagine that would be very useful for short landings. Maybe not so much short takeoffs but it is related to that in a sense that this thing can get flying very quickly at a lower airspeed. So it was super, super impressive. I couldn’t believe just how slow the airplane was flying.
Immediately after that since we are already kind of in that flight attitude, Bob stalled the aircraft and it had a very mild stall. It didn’t break too hard one way or the other, it just kind of dove forward. We applied power and we were right back at it, and it just wasn’t that bad. It was a really easy stall and just a really maneuverable and agile airplane. I really enjoyed it.
After that, Bob let me take the controls and I went around, I did some steep turns and just kind of checked it out. I didn’t fly too much, I didn’t want to stay up in the air too much kind of on his dime but it was beautiful that way. A really maneuverable aircraft, very responsive, and the thing I love going back to the windows that I mentioned earlier is just how much I could see everywhere around me. It’s like I was surrounded in this glass bubble by windows and I could just see all around me. I haven’t done any cub flying before this. This was my first experience in a cub, so it was incredible just how much you can see and I can see why people would fall in love with it so quickly. Not only can you see on the sides and out front like you would usually do, but the windows are right there, so you’re not looking over to the guy to your right and looking at that window but the window is right there so you can look down to the ground pretty easy, you can look out the front, the front window is kind of wrapped around you and then above you is a window as well. So if there was an aircraft flying right over your head. I’m not sure how useful that would be in too many situations. I can imagine you don’t use that top window as much as all the other windows obviously but still really cool. It’s just this wrap-around kind of visual, just you can see everything around you, so I really love that.
So Bob and I headed back to the airfield. He did a simple short landing. I’m sure the landing could’ve been shorter but he wasn’t there to really impress on that bit. This one had tundra tires on it. But these airplanes can go so many different places with those sort of tires. You can land on sandbars, you can land on snow, you can land on rocks even. It’s really impressive all the different places you can take this and obviously, the typical runways and grass and stuff like that, so very, very cool.
I pulled in, Tony jumped in and went for his flight and I took pictures while he did that. But this was an amazing, amazing experience. I really enjoyed it and I am more in love with this airplane than I was before obviously, and I want it more than ever but I have to go out there and earn it just like everyone else in the world.
Alright, so I have three takeaways from the two things I’m going to talk about today, the two experiences. So the three takeaways I had from this CubCrafters Carbon Cub was the performance was absolutely amazing. That short takeoff, the slow flight at 19 knots, the stall, the short landing and just the overall agility and controllability of the aircraft, the performance was out of this world and I absolutely enjoyed that part of it and I can see where this thing could take me especially me being an Alaskan and having so much backcountry and open area to fly something like this and to experience different things that may be no one has before, landing where no one has landed before, things like that.
So that was takeaway number one. Takeaway number two was, you know, I’m kind of an IFR pilot. I like flying in the clouds. I like the challenge that comes with IFR, but I could get used to VFR really quickly in something like a Carbon Cub. Having that wraparound window is just amazing, being able to see everywhere. I feel so connected to flying when I am in that position and into just kind of this different world where I’m actually surrounded by windows and I always forget that I’m in an airplane, and there were moments where I did. I just was looking outside the airplane. I was just enjoying all the little details of the scenery, the landscape, the farms below, just really enjoyable, so I can see myself really enjoying VFR in that type of airplane.
The third takeaway is so many more adventures that I could have in something like this. I’m largely a concrete runway pilot. I’ve always flown on concrete runways. I’ve landed on grass strips a couple times but not many times, and I just feel like there is so much more out there to be gained from this world from a flying perspective, and something like a Carbon Cub could get me there and it would just be absolutely amazing to have something like this and to have access like I said before to the back country and to flying in the bush, it would be amazing. Along those lines, I think all of us need to think of how we expand ourselves as pilots and how we get these new and different experiences.
I think that’s a takeaway from this that we can all have, is let’s branch outside our usual norm of how we fly and what we fly and let’s take the opportunities and seek the opportunities to do something different in aviation and get a different viewpoint of the world. I just really had that open up to me in flying this airplane and in flying with the next experiencee fly and what we fly and let’s take the opportunities and seek the opportunities to do something different in aviation and get a different viewpoint of the world. I just really had that open up to me in flying this airplane and in flying with the next experience.
So the next experience I had was actually yesterday at the time of recording this podcast. So I have a guy locally here that I’ve been wanting to get a float plane rating from for several years now but one thing after another has kind of got in the way and I’ve never met up with him, and it just hasn’t really worked out, but what I’m learning is that he’s kind of only the CFI, the only CFI in town, so I better I get to know him. And so after my visit to Portland to fly the CubCrafter Carbon Cub, I headed back to Alaska where I am now, I’m back home and this guy just happened to post on his Facebook. He said “Hey, I’m looking for someone who’s good with the GoPro to help me make a video” and I’m like “Man, I’m great at making videos. That’s kind of what I do for a living. I’m your guy. Let’s go flying” sort of thing.
So that’s what we did in a nutshell. I got together my gear. I set up a time with him and he was kind enough to want to go flying and want to try this out. So I took all my equipment down there. I have a really nice GoPro with some different accessories that make things nice, one being able to control the camera from inside the cockpit even though it’s mounted outside the cockpit. We got a really cool view underneath the airplane. And then I also have a DLSR that does HD video and so I can get really great internal shots while flying and really great external flights. So basically the plan was “Hey Chris, let’s take you over to a lake, a remote lake, I’ll drop you off on the shore and then I’ll do some takeoffs and landings and you can film it sort of thing and then we’ll get some footage in between.”
So that’s exactly what we did. We flew across the bay here in Homer and we went to some lakes over there and landed. The first one was a little rough. The wind was coming down out of the canyon there and at the top of the canyon was a glacier and notoriously in this area, wind comes crashing down when there’s a glacier especially later on in the day when things warm up. So this lake was getting a little rough. We landed there and it was find the land and take off. It was an ideal condition, just find the land and take off, but we couldn’t find a place on shore to drop me off so in the first lake, we ended up taking off out of there and then kind of scooting around left the corner and looking up right towards some glaciers and then to the left was kind of a glacial plain and some rivers that were kind of fingering out along there and some trees and hills and mountains that were kind of all around us and it was just this beautiful, beautiful scenery but also I must note very challenging terrain, so stuff that you have to pay very, very close attention to in this kind of area, so we’ll talk about that later in my three key points.
So then we headed to the second lake and the second lake was a little more protected and we had some more opportunity to do this. We ended up pulling in and we found a little protective spot and Alex dropped me off on the shore in this one area. It wasn’t the perfect spot but I had some boots on that kind of go up to my knees and so I can stand in water. So I literally put my tripod in water and stood on the shore and then I got shots of Alex taking off and landing beautiful smooth full HD shots that just looked absolutely stellar and I hope to show that to you guys soon, but this was incredible footage and we definitely kind of accomplished what we went out to do and it just looked amazing.
So then I jumped in and then we took off back home in what would inevitably be home. We were thinking of going to another glacial lake but the winds were just kind of picking up and it didn’t make a lot of sense. So at this lake we kind of wrapped around by the 600-foot cliff and then we took off the opposite direction up through the valley. Once we got up into the valley, it got a little hairy there and the winds changed a lot and it was bumping us around and giving us some different ups and downs and drafts but we made it through and we headed back to home and we landed on the lake here and we pulled in and everything was good.
So it was a wonderful day. We spent about two and a half hours out there just kind of dinking around, trying to get these shots. We got a lot of great GoPro footage from the outside of the airplane. I got a lot of great footage from the inside of the airplane with my camera, and then I got some great footage of the airplane externally with a telephoto lens for those landing and takeoff sequences that was really neat. I mean, I love video. That’s another thing I do love and I love that I get to mix that with aviation as well. But these were just beautiful, beautiful shots, stuff that you really don’t see a lot on YouTube or anywhere else. This is just top notch, top notch stuff, especially of bush planes in the backcountry doing that their thing, so it was really neat, a really great experience, and I believe I’m going to do it more which will be cool too.
So three takeaways from this, and this is an area where I think I have a little their thing, so it was really neat, a really great experience, and I believe I’m going to do it more which will be cool too.
So three takeaways from this, and this is an area where I think I have a little more to say about this experience especially because I didn’t share a lot of it while I kind of told this story. But one thing I’ve noticed with my limited time in float planes which I plan on getting my rating eventually is that the taxi and takeoff are way more difficult in a float plane than they are in a regular airplane, so taxi, takeoff, landing. Anything on the water is incredibly difficult.
The reason being is it’s not like when you’re a ground pilot or a land pilot and you kind of have a linear taxiway and you go out and if there’s wind, you cross control things like that make sure that your ailerons are into the wind and your elevators set correctly. It’s not like that at all and on takeoff, you’re not just slamming the throttles to the wall, kind of keeping centerline and going and then much the same on landing, just making sure you’re lined up and you hit your spot correctly and you flare nicely and you touched down great and you stopped in time and you do all the performance stuff for your runways as well. It’s really not like that in a float plane. A float plane is completely different. It’s all about the conditions you’re in. It’s all about the wind. It’s definitely all about the wind, that’s the golden rule, but you’ve also got to watch the water and your taxi position and you just cannot control that airplane all the time to go exactly where you want to go. You are very much beholden to what the wind is doing, and so it will push you around in areas that you don’t necessarily want to go.
Now obviously a more experienced float plane pilots can do all of those things very well because they have that experience. They can read the water and they can keep their taxi speed high enough where they still kind of have control of the weathervaning of the airplane. So if you’re going too slow on a float plane, you just kind of weathervane into the wind and you also get an effect, and I don’t fully know this concept yet but where you can pivot on the center of buoyancy. So once you get there, you can actually use your tail to kind of point your direction which is what we’re used to as pilots rather than having to weathervane into the wind. Anyway, it all gets really complicated.
The jist of it is that all of these stuff in a float plane, taxiing, takeoff, landing is so much more difficult than it is on a land aircraft. You have so much more to watch out for. You don’t necessarily have a runway heading you, have kind of a wind heading. Things can get very dangerous with your floats and the speed and getting up on step. There are just so many more things going on when you are float flying during those sequences that it’s almost kind of amazing. It’s just this whole other area that I’ve never really considered before and I’m new at it and in a way that kind of makes me feel like a little kid but it also makes me feel uncomfortable in a way that gets me excited because I know that there’s something new and great to learn in aviation and again going back to what I said before, finding those new experiences and finding those new things to do is so important for a pilot and I just really enjoyed kind of that challenge and this challenge that I have in front of me to learn those things. So that’s number one. I know that was a long number one from what I learned from this experience but the taxi, takeoff and landing are way more difficult and different and just offer so many things that I never really considered.
The second is the aircraft just flies a lot differently. When you have those big floats out there, those big pontoons, the aircraft flies differently and acts differently. You don’t get the normal flight attitudes that you’re used to in a regular airplane. Now when you’re up to speed and you’re cruising, things more or less work the same but when you’re at low speed and you’re kind of climbing out, it’s kind of odd. You don’t see much out front and it just feels like you’re dragging along. It’s definitely different and you feel it, but that’s all part of the experience and that’s all part of the ability to be able to land on water I suppose.
Alright, so the last key here, the third key is we flew in some pretty remote areas, not entirely remote because we weren’t too far away from civilization, but remote in a sense that where we landed, there wasn’t anybody around and we were in the mountains and we were dealing with winds crashing down through a glacial valley and we had glaciers around us and we had, going back to the winds, winds and eddies and all sorts of things coming up all around the airplane in different areas so you bring in the mountain flying components. And then you bring in the trees that are all around. This is a lot of stuff to consider and things that as a concrete runway pilot, you don’t really face all the time. You don’t deal with this stuff on a regular basis. I know that a lot of people out there mountain fly. A lot of people out there fly into airstrips that are of shorter length and have trees surrounding them, things like that. I’m not saying that that is uncommon but I am saying that it is different and there is a lot that you need to know when you are flying in areas like this that are just different subjects all in their own and you need to know from the people that have done and also from any knowledge you can gain from literature and things like that to know exactly what you’re doing and to be able to read the area and read the environment.
One thing I’m learning about all of these, about, not only flying with the CubCrafters to a lesser extent but especially with this float plane flying with the winds’ reliability or having to rely on your ability to read the winds for takeoff, taxi landing and just in general and then the fact that the aircraft also flies a lot differently that you have to know what you can do, when you can do it, where you are, all that stuff, and that is stuff that you cannot get from a POH or a pilot’s operating handbook. You do have to have kind of this bush pilot’s sense that “Hey, this is how things go. These are the experiences I’ve had. This is what I’ve heard. This area doesn’t look good to fly in. Let’s not go over there. It’s just going to be too windy. The water does not look right. There’s not really a place for us to land.” You got to think of a lot of different things in this sort of situation. So knowing your stuff in the bush or in the backcountry is absolutely key.
So that’s my number three. I know they’re a little bit jumbled. I’m going to do a quick review here and tell you the three for each. So for the Carbon Cub, that was the performance was absolutely amazing, I love the VFR and there are so many more adventures to have out there. So many different things I haven’t tried before. Then I ended up trying one of those things when I went float plane flying, so the three for float plane are the taxi, takeoff and landing are way different and they are way more difficult in my eyes at least right now and I think in general they are more challenging. The aircraft also flies a lot different. Float airplanes fly a lot differently. And then third, knowing your stuff in the bush or the backcountry is absolutely key.
So that’s it for those two topics, those great experiences that even in the last week I have learned so much as a pilot and I feel reinvigorated, I feel humbled and I feel ready for the next step and I’m very excited about that. I think that’s a good place to get to. So also for you flight simmers out there that wonder about all these real experiences and if you can replicate them in a simulator, I would say that you should definitely go out and try. There is no harm in going out and flying in the backcountry, flying VFR, flying these types of airplanes and at least getting your feet wet quite literally at least virtually. I just think that’s a great idea. If you’re flying virtual jets too much, get out there, fly something different. Go fly a man’s airplane. Go fly one of these bush airplanes. Go out in the bush and try to land in some remote lakes. You’re not going to hurt anybody. Just go out and try it. So that’s for you flight simmers. That’s what an actual flight simulator. I’m not saying that go and just try flying into a lake in real life, so don’t hold me liable for something like that.
So, great new experiences. Again, I have some great interviews coming up but I am excited right now because all of these kind of new things that seem to be happening and I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to fly. Yesterday was September 11th and I didn’t really make a big deal out of it. Usually us people in aviation because we were so impacted as an aviation community, we make quite a big deal out of September 11th. Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t reminisce on that day and think of those things and hold great honor for those that died that day, but the way I kind of held honor and thoughts and contemplation and prayer in my own heart was for the fact that I have this amazing freedom to fly and yesterday I got to do that all on my own. Not necessarily on my own but with someone else in the backcountry in Alaska doing what I really, really loved and that was the way that I celebrated. September 11th was my freedom to fly and it was the absolute best way I could do that, honoring those that went before, and I am so grateful for that freedom in my life and just pray that I can continue to find opportunities to have that blessing and to earn those opportunities as well. And it’s so important to my spirit to be able to do that.
So I challenge you that if you are thinking of going out and learning to fly or if you are thinking of going out and asking that instructor if you can just ride along. If you are thinking of taking that introductory flight. If you are thinking of finishing up that rating. If you are thinking of getting your medical renewed and going and getting a BFR. Whatever it is, there is nothing that can replace the feeling of flight and I challenge you to go out there and take the little steps to get yourself going in the right direction so you can slip the surly bonds of Earth once again.
So that is it. That is it for this episode. I didn’t think it was going to be that touching for me but everything just kind of worked together and worked out really well. Alright everybody, so we’d love to hear your thoughts on this show. You can truly shape this show and the topics we provide. Take a quick two-minute survey at survey.aviatorcast.com. If you want to be a part of the AviatorCast community or leave a comment, you can simply go to AviatorCast.com to join in or write me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do answer each and every email.
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