From the Cockpit Part 13: BushCat LSA

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is part thirteen of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

When Rankin first started planning this yearlong project, the BushCat Light Sport Aircraft was at the top of the list. Like the Duke, it has that ineffable ramp presence—something aggressive but fun in the way it sits on the runway like 700 pounds of aluminum tubing and trilam skin waiting to pounce. “It just looks like a plane you’ll have fun in,” says Rankin. “Like you could just take off, land in a field and go camping.” After numerous flights cancelled by everything from scheduling conflicts to freak fog banks in North Florida, Rankin finally managed to take off with Brody Hughes of Salt Air Aviation on a chilly 45-degree morning.

Manufactured in South Africa by SkyReach, the no-frills bush plane has quickly become an aircraft of choice for anti-poaching outfits, thanks to its nimble nature. With big wheels and low weight, the BushCat can not only handle rough, unpaved terrain, but also needs little in the way of length when it comes to finding a runway to take off from or land on. Perfect for the backcountry and spontaneous flights, the BushCat’s usefulness in preventing poaching becomes obvious.

Rugged and utilitarian, the BushCat is decidedly not an aerobatic plane, says Rankin. “But aerobatics is a very small part of flying and general aviation,” he adds. The majority of aviation entails getting from Point A to Point B and simply enjoying the experience of flying. And in that column, Rankin gives the BushCat high marks, finding the plane “surprisingly stable and steady,” especially given that it’s “essentially sailboat fabric and aluminum tubing.” Cruising over the beach and swooping low over the waves (away from populated areas, says Rankin), the BushCat gave little jostle and required no extra manhandling by the pilot.

But while the BushCat is considerably stable in the air, groundwork has a learning curve. “Even for a tailwheel,” says Rankin, “it’s a little bit trickier of an aircraft.” The big wheels that make it so great for backcountry puddle-jumping, also give the plane an extra spring that can make landings sensitive. It’s even harder on  asphalt, where the tires have an extra bite, threatening to throw off directional control. “You really have to be on top of it,” says Rankin. “You can’t let it get away from you.”

For more about the flight in Rankin's own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: Brody Hughes (left) and Ryan Rankin fly the BushCat LSA. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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