May 2010 Christina Chapman (Idaho)
I am a very lucky taildragger pilot. My backdoor is the largest forested wilderness in the lower 48. Central Idaho is home to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness where the famous Salmon River, Middle Fork & South Forks of the Salmon flow, east and north of my home in McCall. Hell’s Canyon is to the west of McCall dropping to the Snake River with backcountry adventure all year long. Local pilots talk about “Flying to Hell and back” for fishing or camping.
Three other wildernesses join the “Frank” so we enjoy about 4.5 million acres of wilderness aviation, most within a hour of my home. That luck goes beyond the ordinary. I’m grateful, very appreciative, and never take life for granted.
I fly an American Champion Scout outfitted for backcountry aviation ordered new from the factory in Wisconsin in 2005. I took delivery December 15, 2005, did a test flight over the factory, and flew it home with one stipulation: Since I had zero tailwheel time, my flight instructor flew back with me and that began my tailwheel endorsement. It was a 3-day flight due to snowstorms in Cheyenne Wyoming and winds aloft on day two exceeded 50 knots which slowed us down considerably. I had some eye-popping landings and wing walkers were required on taxi to parking. My take off from Sioux City was barely two plane lengths in a 18-knot headwind; my plane jumped up with me sqealing with joy. I heard some yips in the backseat too as well, so contagious was that moment of joy.
I slept great each night after complete emotional and physical exhaustion on those challenging but exhilarating flights. Priceless moment after moment storied us across the country. Tied down in Cheyenne, pilots from a Lear and Kingair parked on either side of my Scout were intrigued by that little taildragger and we made an amusing ramp sight. “Wow”, one captain said to me, “Your plane looks brand new. How many hours is on it?” “Three” I said. He just stared and slowly a knowing smile overtook his face. I fell asleep with huge grins every night on that journey home.
My color scheme has a vintage look of burgandy over cream. The tail is red/burgandy in honor of the Tuskeegee Airman–a favored aviation history. The engine is upgraded from 180hp to 210hp. Then I added Tundra Tires. It flies like a dream with a cruise of 122mph. However, I throttle back to a comfortable 70-90 mph in canyons & tight terrain or when flying with friends in their Kit Fox or Cub.
Before my taildragger, I enjoyed a 1959 Cessna 182 for 4 years. Then after my second child, my husband, also a pilot, and I bought a 1982 Turbo 206 and we flew that for nearly 8 years before I bought my Scout. The 206 was our introduction to flying the backcountry. That’s why we moved from Steamboat Springs, Colorado after nearly 30 years there to McCall, Idaho: Just for the backcountry aviation. Â Since then we sold the 206 and my husband flies his Found Bushhawk and I my Scout.
I wouldn’t trade my plane for any other right now; it’s that much fun. And getting 8-10 gph is rather economical aviation especially for today’s fuel prices.
When in Idaho, give me a call. There are fewer women aviators these days. Many here stopped flying due to costs or medical reasons. Some sold their planes due to the economic stress. For those of us who still squeak by, stay flying. You’ll notice that I don’t have lot of diamonds or fancy clothes because my fun-money goes to the fuel/maintenance budget.
My passion is the outdoors. I enjoy flying to Indian Creek, Thomas Creek, the Flying B, the Root Ranch, Upper Loon, Moose Creek, or Shearer for backpacking, fishing, or even airplane camping. I’m always up for a backcountry adventure. Life is short. So why not fly? And…Why not fly a taildragger in the backcountry! For me, it has been more bang for the adventure and passion buck.