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Thread: Lessons from the Condor Cub

  1. #1
    DJ's Avatar
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    Lessons from the Condor Cub

    I want this to be a learning thread about off-airport flying and high altitude ops. I don't have the experience to offer a how-to thread but maybe we can all glean some info from the pro members here about how to get into off-airport flying safely. I am finding it a challenging journey and I often wonder if others do as well. I also may be a little more free to share my mistakes than some who are under the jurisdiction of our Friendly Aviation Authorities up north. The ultimate goal is to save me and maybe a few others some learning the hard way.

    Disclaimers….

    1. I hope its obvious that if you have an experienced off-airport pilot in your neck of the woods, get some instruction. This thread is NOT instruction!

    2. Besides being a rookie, I live and fly on a different continent and in a different hemisphere from most of you so get your salt shaker ready for any discussion that happens on this thread. If nothing else Coriolis effect is backwards

    For any of the lessons learned that I post here, this is the starting point...

    Aircraft: Condor Cub
    Dan Dufault built EX PA-18 1160 lbs C.G. 11.7 with oil.
    Catto 86/38 O-360 9.5:1 pistons
    Thrust-line, lowered mount, 7 degree AOI wing and tail
    Javron HD 3 inch ext. gear, 1.5 axles, 35 ABW
    Stock wings, flaps, tail. 36 gal fuel.
    Extended baggage, 3rd seat, Utila pod.

    Environment: Bolivian Andes
    Departures from SLCB international airport 8360 ft msl
    Accessing villages from 4,800 ft to 13,800 ft

    Mission: (Priorities in order)
    1. Not hurting anyone, Getting home alive, God's Glory.
    2. Not bending the airplane
    3. Medical evacuation flights
    4. Medical volunteers into and out of remote villages

    Yes I get to do this for part of my job…someone feel sorry for me


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    So here is the first prompt for the experienced off-airport guys on the forum….

    Q. Somebody near and dear to you buys a Cub. They are hoping to use it in the backcountry. They have some flat land experience on public airports. You have 5 minutes to tell them your most important principles for staying out of trouble. What are your top three?
    Last edited by DJ; 02-03-2020 at 06:56 PM.
    The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Psalms 19:1

  2. #2
    RVBottomly's Avatar
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    I don't qualified as really experienced, but I found this helpful:

    1. Read Mountain, Canyon, and Backcountry Flying by Amy Hoover and Dick Williams.

    2. Do what they say to do, like practice, go through the exercises: practice slow flight at altitude, practice consistent spot landings, know what your aircraft will do at various density altitudes and weights by actually measuring things on flat runways, etc.

    3. Repeat.
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  3. #3
    Gordon Misch's Avatar
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    Not an expert here either, but maybe that's a good thing? Hit spot at desired AOA predictably. Evaluate surface winds while still airborne. Evaluate landing area length in flight (accounting for wind). Have and know how to use Koch Chart. Have a thick wallet.

    And maybe most important - - Know how to say "Ummmmm, I don't think this is a good idea."
    Gordon

    N4328M KTDO
    My SPOT: tinyurl.com/N4328M (case sensitive)

  4. #4
    aktango58's Avatar
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    I loved the looks of that plane. You are a lucky person to have her to fly!


    Tomorrow is another day, don't be in a hurry to break something or get hurt.

    smoothly, under control, without throttle jockeying land on the spot, or within a plane length after, (not before) 9 out of 10 times before going off airport.

    Read FE Potts Guide to Bush Flying

    Get 100 hours in type before heading off airport.

    find places you can look at from the air, then drive to and walk to compare visual from air with what is actually there.

    STOP once you land, shut down and walk your strip. you will be amazed how many sticks, holes and unseen bumps you will find on your walk.

    Drag all strips before you land, sometimes multiple times. Even if you were there last night, something might have changed.

    Just because 'they' did it, does not mean A. it was a good idea; B. you can do it; C. You can do it with your plane; D. it makes you less of a pilot to not do it! (sometimes you need to find better friends also)

    Trust your gut, don't like it don't do it. Push your envelope only to the point of learning, fear is not a good thing when flying.

    Waiting can change wind, temperatures and ideas. Wait it out, it will take less time than recovering broken birds. Especially true if you land someplace and have winds or DA change unfavorably; (landed on skis once on a not so long piece of river bed in the shade. Not long after I landed the sun came from around the hill and softened the snow where I could take off, making what appeared to be a very easy departure into a nail-biter). Respect Mother Nature!

    Rough strips take longer to stop, and longer to take off.

    Skills are learned on the runway, but your 180' landing on the home strip might become a 400' landing on that mountain strip due to landing surfaces.

    Location of weight is just as important as total weight.

    Off airport is expensive.

    (And the last but best: When an officer of the law comes to ask questions, let them know you are Tom Ford from Grass Patch Aero or Steve Eaton, Hopticlopter pilot extraordinaire!)
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!
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  5. #5
    RaisedByWolves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aktango58 View Post

    Get 100 hours in type before heading off airport.
    And 100 hours most of it should be landing and spot landing. Pick your spot and hit it. Every time. Ease into getting on the brakes more and more every time.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  6. #6
    courierguy's Avatar
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    No comments on that big door in the lower fuselage side? What's up with that, never seen a Cub with that before. I'd really like to see that sans fabric.

    It took me a few years to fully realize that after landing a new, never landed before, mountain site, to NOT continue to taxi up to the supposed takeoff site (unless the slope was steep enough to preclude getting rolling again if full stopped), before shutting down, getting out, and patting myself on the back. Somewhat counter intuitive, after the drama of the actual landing, like letting your guard down, what's the big deal with taxiing a bit?! That coming to a full stop ASAP, combined with walking back over the first place I touched down, to see how the actuality of the LZ compares to how I thought it looked like from the air, taught me a lot. Scouting the area by foot, that you are going to taxi up to for the takeoff, and finding hidden hazards, has made me a believer in the practice. It's a seemingly minor, after the big one of density altitude effects, but can be a game changer.

    First pic is not the one I wanted to post, but couldn't figure out how to delete it, so I guess I'll post both, both near 9K, low level, compared to Condor Cubs ops.
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  7. #7

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    Study the color of the ground/plants and relation to time of year. In Alaska gray is good most anytime, white is good when you have no snow, light green grass is usually in water, low brush that is red is usually only knee high at worst, yellow low brush can be over your head in the fall, ect. This will help pick out spots from a distance that can be looked at closer. Your colors may be different. When you pick you spot to land also pick your spot to crash, very common to have one side of the runway with people, planes, stumps and stuff that can do major damage while the other side will only cost you a tailwheel or some fabric damage, know which way to go ahead of time if things go bad on the ground. Advice given to me on my first off runway landing out on the Knik river "This is a great place for you to come and train your off field stuff" followed by a pause and second words of advice. " But the first few times out bring another plane in case you need to go back for parts" Too this day still great advice.
    DENNY
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  8. #8
    DJ's Avatar
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    This is the best picture I have without fabric. It basically has tubes framing the door with a truss between the door frame and the longerons top and bottom. So far its been great.

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    What is a condor cub?


    Sent from my iPhone using SuperCub.Org

  10. #10
    Binty's Avatar
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    Flying at altitude in the Andes...? Wind Appreciation!
    +1 for Spot landing consistency. Also consider: Flight path commit/abort point. Good Pickets and Survival equip. And a healthy dose of Mortality.
    If you force it, it will fit

  11. #11
    DJ's Avatar
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    In the first 100 hours here in Bolivia I've had two opportunities to fly with Andean Condors. For such a big bird I assumed they would cruise faster but I couldn't stay with them at 35 mph indicated. They must fly in the high 20s. Never had more than a cell phone to snap a picture but on the last trip our volunteer photographer got a good shot from the ground. We've hiked to one of their nests, seen up to five pair at a time and had them fly so low that I could hear the wind in their feathers.

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    The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Psalms 19:1
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  12. #12
    nanook's Avatar
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    I would change the order of priorities first off. Put the “don’t ever hurt anyone flying” as first on the list, God will appreciate that. You are in an environment which requires carrying a lot of power. Learn power-on landings. Keep the prop wash over the elevators until you have landed.
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  13. #13
    DJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nanook View Post
    I would change the order of priorities first off. Put the “don’t ever hurt anyone flying” as first on the list, God will appreciate that. You are in an environment which requires carrying a lot of power. Learn power-on landings. Keep the prop wash over the elevators until you have landed.
    I'll accept that edit. Those first three are all very important so I put them together. After that it starts to spread out. I'd happily bend the airplane to avoid hurting someone. A friend did just that and had to airlift his Porter off a steep strip in Indonesia after dodging a pedestrian. Kinda fits with that "pick where to crash" advice.
    The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Psalms 19:1

  14. #14
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    Try to learn every nuanced detail of your local weather. Learn what to expect from a weather pattern coming from each direction, what kind of dew-point spread is safe, if the clouds you’re flying underneath are giving you any warnings of changing weather, etc. Several friends and myself have a text group to warn of changing weather when spraying, we’re all scattered out about 20 miles each direction and can give a good advance notice to each other.

  15. #15
    mountainflier's Avatar
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    DJ (I want this to be a learning thread about off-airport and high altitude ops)
    Be very careful with this kind of flying! Landing and taking-off from "high altitude" above 10k ft., "off airport mountains" is one of the most critical and dangerous types of flying you will ever do. At least where I fly to, it can be very unforgiving. What I mean by this is, the wind and the weather conditions can change very rapidly, and the mountainous terrain can be rough and hard on an airplane even with big tires and low air pressure, and your touch down speeds will usually be higher. What goes on weather wise down in the valley's and up in the high mountain's, it is whole different world up there! A high performance Supercub can struggle in the high mountains, they run out of breath up there, the air is thin, and a lot of times I have no ground reference to the steep mountain sides for landings and they are one way in and out with a good side slope to them. I don't like parking on steep side slope ridges, I have done it a few times and it is a uncomfortable getting in and out of the airplane and worry about it getting away from you. I always will find a somewhat of a flat place to park or I won't land. I have hundreds of pictures of many different places I have landed at these high altitude mountains through the years. I posted a couple of pic's, one of my Supercub at about 11,400 ft. elevation on the Wasatch Mtn's with about 200 ft. to land and get stopped in to avoid going into deep snow. This landing and take-off was with a one way in and out mountain saddle with a steep mountain drop off on one side and deep snow on the other. The other pic., of my Yellowhawk at about 10k ft. on ridge top on the Wasatch Mtn's. This kind of flying is not for the inexperience or the fainthearted.
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  16. #16
    courierguy's Avatar
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    Here's something we stateside pilots should consider, (especially those near a large metro area like SLC), I have anyway: landing a mountain top, you get out, and if like me, you first take a leak and then maybe a picture, and look around a bit. I also always pick up a rock, as a souvenir, and add it to my at home collection. Only I know the significance of this odd rock collection.

    But, back to the mountain top: now you hear another airplane, let's say it's a Bonanza, NOT another Super Cub with 35's, and IF the pilot sees you, as a good citizen he will of course call 911, S&R, and every other emergency aid he can think of, ASAP. I have come very close, twice, to just this happening, there is no doubt that if they had spotted me, they would have thought I had a problem, maybe not if they were "in the club," but I think the odds would be against that. I have yet to come up with a plan for when and if this happens, other then haul ass out of there. Waving at the wanting to help other pilot, would only be interpreted as "thanks for the help." Possibly giving a 1 fingered salute may be the proper action, piss him off, so you don't get the unneeded help and attention.

    If S&R was scrambled, needlessly, you'd still, maybe, be liable for the expense! I had a hang glider buddy who once hid under a big sage brush to avoid being spotted by our local Life Flight chopper, after someone erroneously called for a "rescue." Hiding saved him about 8 grand. It's all part of the challenge of landing out, but one I've never heard others consider, remember the one fingered wave off may be the best way to save a major hassle. A bit harsh, but sadly, I can't think of any other wave off as effective. Avoided possible expense aside, think of the media hubbub, of the "endangered first responders," worse case scenario would be this happens when there was a REAL emergency elsewhere and the needed resources were out where they were not needed. If the situation is reversed, and I see a plane down, before I call it in, I will make damn sure it is not a fellow off airport flier, and the easiest way to do that would be to land and ask.
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  17. #17
    Binty's Avatar
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    Hahaha Brilliant!
    If you force it, it will fit

  18. #18
    RVBottomly's Avatar
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    That's a good point, courierguy. Maybe one should have a banner to pull up over the wing saying "I'm just fine, thanks."

    One nice spring day in the late '70s I launched a block of ice from the shore of the Clark Fork River in Missoula. Then I jumped on with a nice tree limb for a paddle.

    I was enjoying my float trip. One woman on shore asked me if I was where I wanted to be. I assured her I was. It was a lovely day.

    Until I heard the sirens....

    I went around a bend and paddled to shore to get off. Turned out I performed a public service because the search and rescue folks learned that they could not get their boats into the water with shore ice.

    (BTW, I was pretty cold hardy in those days and actually would go for short swims in the cold water. I was pretty confident I was not in danger).

  19. #19
    JimParker256's Avatar
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    Would a hand-held radio tuned to 121.5 be helpful in that situation? Seems like you could listen for an "are you in distress" call and respond in the negative? (After all, we're all monitoring 121.5 on our backup / secondary radios, right?
    Jim Parker
    2007 Rans S-6ES

  20. #20
    courierguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimParker256 View Post
    Would a hand-held radio tuned to 121.5 be helpful in that situation? Seems like you could listen for an "are you in distress" call and respond in the negative? (After all, we're all monitoring 121.5 on our backup / secondary radios, right?
    Excellent idea Jim, and one that never occurred to me. I don't carry a handheld, but the plane's radio would get the job done, thank you. So obvious, it slipped right by me.

    RVBottomly: I have a buddy who runs a sign shop, getting a banner made is not a bad idea. Two sided, one side reading "SEND HELP", the other reading "BUGGER OFF!" Made out of the right material, it could also serve as an emergency shelter/tarp, ground cloth, shade cloth over the skylight when parked, frost on the windshield preventer, etc. The sign industry has some pretty amazing material these days, another good idea!

  21. #21

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    DJ,Hard to wrangle this group into flying formation for obvious reasons.


    I know you asked for three things you would tell someone who just purchased a cub about high altitude mountain flying that would save their life. Lot of good comments upthread though.


    -The big one not mentioned, which tells you how few really get in the mountains, is adding your AH as part of the scan once all normal, or rather usual, means of outside horizontal reference is behind you. Years ago there was a good article in the Alaskan Airmens Transponder, their bimonthly oil drip pad, written by a gentleman who lost it flying around Denali and didn't even know it; flew sideways into a snow bank at 10k in a cub. If I recall he didn't even know he had lost it, some trick of light and shade had him lock into the wrong horizon.


    The reason I mention it was my first trip up the Kahiltna Glacier in my 182 and I had my internal AH tumble, just a quick stab of vertigo. I knew to be aware of it so a few quick peeks at the panel AH as I was making my turn until my brain was caged then on my way. Ok, I thought to myself, my AH has to be part of my scan from now on in the mountains.


    -To be honest I would tell said new owner to stay away from the high DA situations until they had 500 hours in said mountain bird, more like a 1000. Most don't get the decision making experience of flying in the bush, you need to get stuck in the beach mud, river bar sand, or four inches of water on flatland with a standard day a few times before you go out and decide to add the variables introduced by both altitude and mountainous terrain.


    -Play follow the leader with an experience pilot flying in front of you. It's one thing to have a good stick sitting next to you or behind you and another to be boxing the wake of your buddy as you terrain fly around some hills looking for open bear dens or wolf tracks in the spring. I learned a lot flying with a few mentors in the lead and having two planes out in the bush just made sense.


    After 25 years flying the flatlands of the Bristol bay and poking my nose into the Katmia, Tikchiks, even Anikchak. I'm now flying in the lands of tall birch, tall spruce, the Talkeetnas, and the Big one Denali. I feel like I've made the translation safely, well mostly, because I have listened, listened to the old pilots, the bold pilots, young kids half my age who have been flying The Mountain for years.


    If I was to tell a new mountain pilot one thing it would be to listen: listen to your bird, your buddies, the wind, the weather, but most of all listen to yourself.




    Rocket
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  22. #22
    DJ's Avatar
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    Yesterday (test flight after condition inspection) and today at work. First time flying on 31s...they are so small . It's back on 35s for tomorrow. BTW there's only a 25 lb difference total. I think the 31s I have are heavy (41 lbs mounted with disc) and the 35s are light with the thin brake disc and Greg Miller wheels (53.5 lbs)

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    The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Psalms 19:1

  23. #23

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    I remember when 31s were huge tires.
    Maybe, I need one of those AARP Cowboy shirts.

  24. #24
    DJ's Avatar
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    Here is a little video that shows the Condor Cub in it's work environment.

    My next question is about margin. I've been using MAF standards (down and stopped in 60% of available runway, off in 75% unless its a big drop off, then 90%). Sometimes I feel like these margins are barely enough for me in the tougher places. Trying to stick to these has saved the bacon a bunch of times already! In this video I got in fine (about 550 usable with maybe 4% average slope at 9K) with margin but felt I needed more for takeoff with 2 pax. We cleared out to the 650 ft mark and it made things a lot better for getting out.

    Q. How much margin do you require of yourself for a landing zone? How much would you recommend for a guy low on experience? How to have the discipline to stick to personal margins?

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  25. #25
    DJ's Avatar
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    Here is some Go Pro footage of checking out that strip. Yes I bounced the landing. I wasn't wowed with the takeoff performance solo so I tried one more takeoff after this with a little different technique and I couldn't get back in for 45 min. The locals told me later that this location always has fog issues from 8am to 10am.

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  26. #26

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    I think it is very important to maintain a large safety margin in off field work. Lots of factors effect any landing and some days you are just not going to make things work. TK1 gear would most likely improve landing distance. Adjusting tire pressure between takeoff and landing could also help. I carry a 12 vt compressor for that purpose.
    DENNY

  27. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by DENNY View Post
    I think it is very important to maintain a large safety margin in off field work. Lots of factors effect any landing and some days you are just not going to make things work. TK1 gear would most likely improve landing distance. Adjusting tire pressure between takeoff and landing could also help. I carry a 12 vt compressor for that purpose.
    DENNY
    so there goes my overimaginitive mind picturing you hanging out of your plane while you're flying and lowering your tire pressure with the 12V compressor, and I am saying to myself, "surely he has a switch on the hose extension to pump the tires", climbing back into the cockpit just to switch on the compressor while flying means you would have to go in and out 5 times to change tire pressure on two wheels....then the practical part of my mind tell me you have just made a typo......

  28. #28

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    Ya should have been between landing and takeoff. I swear the first time I landed a supercub it felt so slow that I could have jumped out and lowered the pressure. Now 45 seems like a fast approach. From a safety standpoint the pressure to get the job done can be a real issue. One thing I have learned flying in marginal weather is to resist the urge to just get through it. If anything you need to add more flap and slow down.
    DENNY

  29. #29
    DJ's Avatar
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    Alright folks last week I flew the Cub to low altitude and did some takeoffs and landings. After a year flying at high DAs I figured if I used the same sight pictures, speeds and techniques it would work out great. Just slower ground speeds, shorter roll outs right? Not exactly. Things were different. Obviously the engine makes more power which means finding a new target rpm (way less) for the approach but some other things surprised me. At altitude my airspeed indicator doesn't seem to have much error (when corrected for True). Down low (800 msl) is seemed to have a lot of error (reading low). The winds made it tough to figure out what the stall speed was on the GPS but there seemed to be at least a 5-8 mph error. Also the plane seemed to glide better at idle (maybe I was flying faster due to the airspeed error?) Sorry, no scientific testing but i think there is an important takeaway. Practice in the actual environment is invaluable! Going from low elevation to high there may be more differences than one might expect. Even just difference in vegetation (I'm not used to looking at 100+ft jungle trees) threw me off.
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