Airplane used in remote or underdeveloped areas
A bush airplane is a general aviation aircraft used to provide both scheduled and unscheduled passenger and flight services to remote, undeveloped areas, such as the Canadian north or bush, Alaskan tundra, the African bush, or savanna, Amazon rainforest or the Australian Outback. They are used where ground transportation infrastructure is inadequate or does not exist.
Since a bush plane is defined by how it is used, a wide variety of different aircraft with different configurations have been used over the years as such. However, experience has shown certain traits to be desirable, and so they appear frequently, especially on aircraft specifically designed as bush planes. None of these traits are mandatory - merely they are commonly seen features of bush planes.
- The undercarriage is designed to be fitted with floats, skis or wheel/skis to permit operation from water or snow—primarily for Canadian, Alaskan and Russian use.
- High wings ease loading and unloading, particularly from docks; improve downward visibility during flight; and increase clearance to reduce the potential for damage during landing, take-off, loading, or unloading.
- Conventional or "tail dragger" landing gear—two large main wheels and a small rear wheel—reduces both weight and drag, increasing the aircraft's speed and useful load. It reduces stress on the airframe compared to a nosewheel. A failure is also less critical, as a broken tailwheel is easily repaired and won't prevent the aircraft from flying, unlike a broken nose wheel.
- Short runway performance and low-speed flight characteristics are typically improved by high aspect ratio wings and high-lift devices such as flaps, slots and slats.
- Very large, low-pressure tundra tires may be fitted to enable the pilot to operate from broken ground. It is not uncommon for a bush pilot to land and take off from unprepared surfaces.
- Piston engines are preferred over turboprops, as they are cheaper to build and maintain and easier to start without the aid of ground facilities. In extremely remote areas where avgas can be difficult to acquire, some bush pilots prefer turboprop engines that can burn kerosene-derived jet fuel.