Back Country!


Ahhhh… this is what utility planes are for! They’re not about getting halfway across the country in a day, not about aerobatics, and not about amenities and cup holders. They’re about getting out and around places where most planes (or other forms of transportation for that matter) can’t go. And the Idaho back country certainly qualifies in that regard. We spent the past couple of days exploring the valleys and mountains of this large wilderness area, a mecca for pilots that want to get far away – without having to go all the way to Alaska.

This was my wife’s chance to get some mountain flying instruction in our Tundra, so she flew that plane along with Paul Leadabrand (Stick and Rudder Aviation), long-time mountain charter and instructor pilot. I tagged along in one of Leadabrand’s Kitfox Super-Sports. With a turbo-charged Rotax, and propped for climb, it did a great job of out-climbing the terrain (and the Tundra), but I had to ask for a few inches whenever we got in cruise, or the Tundra simply walked away from me. But in this environment, climb is the important thing.

We sampled a wide variety of different strips, from long dirt tracks designed for DC-3’s, to ranch strips carved into river banks at the bottoms of valleys, to interesting places with service strips carved into the sides of mountains – where you needed to add lots of power as you landed to keep from rolling backwards down the hill. It’s amazing country – and fun to fly, once you’ve been clued in on the many factors that make it different from normal aviating. Top off the day sitting by a campfire at a rustic resort that can only be reached on horseback or by air – it’s a great way to spend a few days.

And let’s face it – the views are just spectacular!

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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