Backcountry aircraft

While most any light aircraft can be used in the backcountry, it is true that some are more suitable than others by design, and are called "bush planes."

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What makes a good backcountry aircraft?

While most any light aircraft can be used in the backcountry, it is true that some are more suitable than others by design, and are called "bush planes." It is often said that one should let the mission define the aircraft: Does a pilot need 2 seats or 4? Is STOL performance important? High altitude operations? Rough terrain and off-airport durability? Speed? The list goes on, but these are the kind of questions appropriate for deciding on a bird.

Common modifications

Since backcountry flying can present some unique conditions like rough surfaces and short strips (or no strip at all) the most common modications address these needs. One of the most popular is the use of bushwheels, sometimes called "tundra tires." They're larger in diameter and are run at lower pressures to soak up the rough terrain like suspension. Another popular modification is a STOL wing kit, which usually comes in the form of a replacement leading edge cuff that slightly reshapes the camber of the wing to provide better low speed flight characteristics and a lower overall stall speed. Those are just two examples.

We're going to do our best to compile the best modications here (some not necessarily backcountry related) and provide approval documentation wherever possible. Head on over to the Modification index.


One of the most common questions and conversations is about tire/wheel setup. Check out the Tire Guide for more information.

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People in this conversation

  • Looking to beef up a 57 182/A for some backcountry time. Have flown all the major technical strips in Idaho in my 185 and know the 182 won't compare but the 182 has faired well at the Valdez Competition.
    Looking for imput

    from Anchorage, AK, USA
  • Osprey, for a specific question like that, I suggest posting in the forum for best coverage.

  • I am an old back country pilot, but have been away for some time. My experience includes approximately 2000 hr, in a 1959 Cessna 182, and more recently about 1000 hr. in a 1953, Cessna 170 B with a 180 HP conversion. I like a tail wheel, but a 180 is just too much money. I am in the market for a plane, and like the idea of going back to an old straight tail 182. I know what this plane will do and and have been a Cessna Pilot. I keep thinking that a Maul M5, may be my kind of airplane, but with no time in one, do-not know. I would like your thought.

  • 2004 Bearhawk 4-Place For Sale. N509RF. This aircraft is one of the first quick build kits from Avipro Aircraft Ltd. 760 TT, 150 hours since total rebuild in 2014. Many improvements made during re-build with strengthened landing gear, re-built electrical system, UBG-16 EMS added.O-540, 250 Hp 150 hrs since re- build; 80” Hartzell two blade, 238 hrs since new. Garmin GNC250XL nav/comm/GPS, KX125 nav/comm, Garmin GTX327 transponder. This aircraft is carefully rigged with precise responsive balanced flight controls and flies “hands-off”. A great back country aircraft. $125K. You can’t build it for this.

    Scott Williamson, KCHD R-7 or J-3

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While this knowledge base is a compilation of information from various sources, some official in nature, it is not a recognized or acredited source of aviation training information, and thus should be considered entertainment. Please consult a FAA-certificated flight instructor or mechanic prior to putting any information found here into practice.