Research

The Hunt for the Best STOL Plane

remote control airplane hitec sky scooter

There are few things I enjoy more in life than researching and comparing things. Really. It drives my wife nuts that I can’t walk into a store and just buy a can of chicken noodle soup. I have to look at the ingredients, then the prices, then do some math at the cost per ounce and is it really worth ingesting high fructose corn syrup to save .02 cents per ounce…these are the things that keep me up at night. Kidding…kind of.  The same basic comparison shopping is something I’ve always done. The first time I remember doing it big time was for my first remote control airplane- The Sky Scooter…I was 12.

Alright so what does this mean now in 2018? It means I’ve spent way too much time on Google and Google Sheets. Long story short, for what we want to accomplish there really aren’t many options. There are a few more but the ones that made my short list are:

(Click to visit Manufacturer website)

Bearhawk 4-place

Murphy Yukon

Zenair CH801

Backcountry BOSS (SQ4)

These all have pretty similar features. They all can carry 4 people with gear and enough fuel to get in and out of a lot of places. Some shine more than others in different areas-

Bearhawk 4-Place tail dragger and Murphy Yukon tail dragger

Top: Bearhawk 4-Place Bottom: Murphy Yukon

Zenith CH801 and Backcountry BOSSTop: Zenith CH801 Bottom: Backcountry BOSS

The Bearhawk

The nice thing is that it can be customized to fit most needs however it will never be a true STOL machine. It features a more traditional wing airfoil and landing gear. It can be built light and in and out of most any dirt or grass strip. To me the BH is really a family plane. It can get you places more comfortably and if you spend much time on forums you’ll notice most builders equip GPS, Autopilot and even full IFR panels. Not saying it can’t go back country, but not exactly what I’m looking for.

The Yukon

It’s a lot like a Cessna both in looks and utility. It has all metal construction and has been designed to be used. It has large doors and from what I can tell, seems extremely well made. Like the bearhawk, it is more traditional. It will also get in and out of most strips and seems to do well on floats, if that’s your thing. Note the Yukon was previously referred to as the Super Rebel.

The CH801

Well….it is hideous. But it still made my list though because of it pure function over form fashion, I can appreciate that. It is extremely light despite it’s all metal construction and ability to haul a lot! I would love to fly in one, just watching the videos if it taking off and landing boggle my mind. If you pay close attention you’ll notice the wing, specifically the massive flaps and leading edge slatsThe slats essentially allow the wing to fly at a much higher angle of attack and thus fly slower/stall slower. This is extremely useful in back country operations when you want to touch the ground as slow as possible and get off the ground in as short of distance as possible.

The BOSS

This is really the only plane that checks all the boxes. This plane is the monster created by Wayne Mackey and sold by Backcountry Super Cubs (BSC). It is the big brother to the popular SQ2. SQ stands for STOL Quest and the 2 meaning 2 -place. Fittingly the BOSS is often referred to as the SQ4, because it is a 4-place aircraft. The airplane itself is purpose built, to get in and out of places nobody else can. It is essentially a beefed up, fattened up Piper Cub. You’ll notice something familiar on the wing, leading edge slats. The difference with this wing is that these slats are automatic and retract or deploy as necessary. Another notable option is the MASSIVE tires.

That’s it right? We’re done, plane picked out and time to start building…Well not exactly. The BOSS does seem to check all the boxes, but it also created a few new ones. The biggest issue with it is the price, the kit starts at $72,050. Seems silly to tack on that $50 bucks but hey that’s what it says. That’s where the kit starts, that doesn’t include an engine, avionics, covering and paint, or suspension. Once you add in these things, even keeping it bare bones possibly used engine and avionics you will very easily be over $100k. This plane, though it can be made relatively light, will still require a big engine, and big engines make big power, but they also mean big fuel bills. And while it might be able to cruise at less than 10gph it’s highly unlikely.  it just wasn’t designed for that, it was designed to get in and out of tight spots, period. And some icing on the cake, that same engine will most certainly also not run on mogas.

So watching the videos of it taking off and landing are absolutely incredible, it just doesn’t fit quite right. The search will continue…

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