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STOL capability

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I'm considering building a Rans S21 experimental for it's STOL capabilities for off airport flying.  My friend has a CTSW and suggested I look at buying one but I don't think it can compare for this type of flying and concerned about landing on rough terrain.

Any of you folks landing off airport and if so how rough are the strips?

Thx

Bob  

 

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At the risk of getting flamed, my humble opinion is that if you want continual rough field, gravel bars, beaches, etc then you want the S21. 

A big reason, for me, is that the 21 has a tail wheel. Also, I think you can  put bigger tires on it.

My two cents.

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CT's don't like rough strips, I have a SW with straight legs, and fly off lots of grass.  Maintained grass strips are sweet, "fields" with say a couple inches of variation in ground / shape of dirt are the max.  Maybe the LS with composite legs, and turf tires would get you a bit more, but still you don't want to be treating these planes rough.  My state has a lot of clay so it's hard as a rock now and these uneven surfaces are really felt.  And when I say a couple inches obviously the "shape" of the runway does not have to be laser flat, I'm talking like clumps of grass v/s a bald spot, and your hitting speed bumps or depressions, what it would feel like under your feet walking across it.  Have your buddy go land you on some grass runways and get first hand impression.

This is a topic I have a lot of views around, having a grass strip at home base and have followed evolution of STOL the last couple decades.  The past ~5 years this has become a very hot area of aviation thanks to many youtube stars.  Which is a very good thing for growing aviation.  I also view a large number of people into STOL in the same light as those who buy Jeep Wranglers, spend big money on tires on lift kits, then proceed to only drive them on pavement around town.  I'm always curious when I see big tire planes landing at the long paved runways and go admire the aircraft, a beautiful Just Highlander was the most recent example, it was a show piece.  The airport had two runways, grass and paved, pilot chose the paved because "don't want to get bugs on it", meanwhile I'm flying my non-Tundra tire SW off grass more than anything.  I also wonder if people dream about flying off airport, then later when insurance companies say your on your own, decide to stick to charted airports not wanting to risk a 100k plane if they dork it.

I was deciding between a STOL and CT long and hard.  The reality of not needing to land in more remote area than a 1400' grass strip was my logic for deciding on the CT.  If you want to bounce around close to home and go off airport, STOL make sense.  If you want to fly out of your state, at any speed and level of comfort (avoiding or outrunning some weather / crossing great lakes, etc) then don't buy a STOL.  Another way to say this is do you want a "fun flier" or a "cross country" machine.  I can fly to OSH for a day trip in my CT, if I had a STOL that would nearly impossible with fuel stop and slower cruise.  The CT fits my missions exceedingly more than it doesn't.

I view my CT as a STO plane, (light SW base weight, and I'm lightweight pilot) half fuel solo and flaps it JUMPS off the ground as short as about all but the extreme STOL planes.  Even dual at gross I'm impressed with how short of run and the rate of climb, comparing to my old Cessna.  CT's are a rather decent plane for getting out of short airstrips.

Landing short - not so much.  I use about half of my strip, without any braking when landing, say 1000 feet is the normal.  I'm not putting it right on the numbers, flair, and let it roll until I need to power for taxi.  If I used max braking maybe shave 200 feet.  It comes down to safety margins and I keep it well within skill level.  I'd not want to get into rough grounds, I've been into some friends grass strips that are not that smooth, don't care to go back.  I'd say these are a "rough lawn" sort of strip, fine for any airplane, but don't want to abuse my plane at all and stick to the more smooth and well maintained grass strips.

 

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"Any of you folks landing off airport and if so how rough are the strips?"

CTSW, larger mains, standard nose wheel, no wheel fairings .  I am located in Iowa and do not land off of an established strip, but I like grass strips and use them as often as I can.  My own two runways are both rough and short.   I routinely use 600' for take-off and touchdown on the flat strip.  I'm typically at 15° flaps for take-off and 30° for landing, but will use 40° if appropriate.

Good control on the flare and touchdown are important and good taxiing techniques minimize gear risks.  I am not very worried about my main gear but am always careful to minimize stress on the nose gear, and I especially watch for ruts or holes to avoid putting it in.  This is not at all like landing on a long concrete runway.  I'm "game on" all the time on my short, rough strips.  

I land or at least touch and go at every grass strip I see that is maintained.  I do not ever land "off field".  I don't have the nerve to  trust I can see every rut or hole that will catch my nose gear, even if I drag the field ahead of time.  Last week I did a T&G at two previously unknown crop duster strips.

As you can see, all of the above is personal and like every other answer you get here may be of no use at all to you.  Your question is really about mission and the best plane for it. 

I have flown a Champ off my field and it is much better suited.  When I get my Rans S7 built, the CTSW will be moved to the local paved airport and reconfigured for faster, longer range flying.  So here I am, telling you what I'd do.  Have two airplanes, one based on my farm and one at a local airport.  I have big wheels for my Rans S7 and I absolutely intend to land it "in the rough" if I'm satisfied the surface is acceptable.  

 

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I do not like operating my CTSW on anything other than pavement. I have tundra gear and Desser tires. A local private strip where they have coffee and donuts every Friday morning has a grass strip right next to the paved one. Lots of pilots land on the grass. To get to the FBO office (where the goodies are) requires taxi on the grass. In my CTSW this is a very rough experience. I would not want to land/take off on it.

The man I am checking out in his recently purchased CT2k is based there. His plane doesn't have tundra gear or larger tires. It rides like a dream on the grass. We'll be doing some take offs/landings on the grass before his check out is complete.

Is mine so uncomfortable because of the stiff tires? The tundra gear? Or combination of both? The difference between our two planes is night and day.

If mine rode on grass as well as his 2k then I would use grass strips that are maintained. I would avoid others because my main worry is about damaging the nose wheel and the prop. And, maybe the engine. I would, and do, avoid gravel because I don't want to damagethe prop and tail feathers.

So, Bob, if your mission is really off airport, get the S21.

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I have a 2008 CTLS.  I took the main gear pants off so I could see the gear and tire. I tried a grass field takeoff today at Johnson Field in Hendersonville NC. First try I hit a bump that sent me airborne at 30 knots.  Pulled power and held nose off bit it was ugly.  Second try got so bumpy my headset fell off my head and aborted. 
I’ll stick with paved. 

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All very relevant thought out replies/comments - thank you. 

I don't envision doing off airport landings such as Trent Palmer and others do in their videos - videos that get the adrenaline flowing and pilots starry eyed - but rather grass strips in Arizona where we spend the winters, Utah, etc.. But you never know how rough a strip is until you've landed and I'd like to explore the Painted Desert etc.  We also do most of our flying in the Rocky Mountains so a turbo would be nice.

I'm 75 now, been flying since 1982, IFR rated and have a Seneca II that we use for cross country - so I'm trying to be realistic about my mission and how often I might land on grass (I've never landed the Seneca on grass).  I've flown my brother's Citabria and frankly a taildragger has challenges of its own and a S21 trike has similar issues as the CTSW.

Thanks again for you comments and I'll try to keep you informed.

   

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On 7/29/2020 at 7:11 PM, Bill3558 said:

I have a 2008 CTLS.  I took the main gear pants off so I could see the gear and tire. I tried a grass field takeoff today at Johnson Field in Hendersonville NC. First try I hit a bump that sent me airborne at 30 knots.  Pulled power and held nose off bit it was ugly.  Second try got so bumpy my headset fell off my head and aborted. 
I’ll stick with paved. 

On strips with bumps like that, keep it relatively flat, with the nose up slightly. Let it hit the ground again on the mains after the first bump(s), and let it fly off when it’s ready.  Don’t pull the nose up to try to keep it flying.  This is also a common problem where the grass strip crosses a paved runway.  

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I have a 05 Ctsw with the heavier main gear legs. Non-tundra . I put the larger tires on the mains. I rarely use a paved runway. My home airport 6j6 is grass and my 2 buddies have grass strips that are a bit bumpy. Does the CTLS gear make it worse?
 

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27 minutes ago, ls6pilot said:

I have a 05 Ctsw with the heavier main gear legs. Non-tundra . I put the larger tires on the mains. I rarely use a paved runway. My home airport 6j6 is grass and my 2 buddies have grass strips that are a bit bumpy. Does the CTLS gear make it worse?
 

No, the CTLS with non-tundra gear works fine on grass. Just spent a couple of days hopping around to grass strips, including some bumpy & bouncy ones. 

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Grass is the next frontier for me.  There is a grass airport on Martha's Vineyard where I used to land as a kid in a 172 (Katama )... I am going to do some touch and go's there in the near future to get the hang of it.  Flying Monkey has some very good vids on the subject here:

 

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The real question is "how STOL do you want to go?".  I have landed on *fairly* rough grass into strips as short as 1250ft over 75ft trees, and 1000ft strips with very nice grass and excellent approaches.  If your technique is good both in the air and on the ground, you can easily land and take off through 6" tall clumpy grass.  You are *not* going do well in a CT on grossly unimproved strips full of gopher holes and foot tall grass, or a short gravel bar beside a river.  But that's not what it's designed for.  Here's my 1250ft landing over the trees onto a rough-ish grass surface, taken by my buddy on the ground:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmlMeZyZm5M

I routinely fly with buddies who are flying a Legend Cub, a Maule, and a Cessna 185.  The fact is I can land at about 80-85% of the places my friends routinely go.  For the rest I just orbit safely above while they make their landings.  No big deal.  But if we are going someplace I smoke the Legend Cub, and can keep up with the 300hp Maule (which burns 17gph in cruise).  As an all-around "does everything pretty well" airplane, I'd take the CT over the Legend or the Maule.

If you want to land a CT on short grass strips, there are some things you need to get comfortable with:

1) You have to be okay approaching with 30°-40° and landing SLOW.  For a CTSW solo 50kt is the starting point, 48kt is better. In the video above my approach speed over the trees was 46kt.  That's kind of the turning point; below that the airplane sinks *really* fast, at 44kt or so the nose starts to come down.  The CT has a lot of power, so if you get too slow and start to sink more than you want to you can goose the throttle.  You can also approach with a little bit of power in at the lower speed, and it will buy you a little more control authority and stability.

2) You have to slip.  The CT is slippery and wants to go fast.  If you have a short field and/or obstacles to get over, full flaps might not be enough.  The CT slips great even with full flaps, though it will pick up speed in the slip if you don't hold the nose up.  If you are not comfortable with slipping all the way to ground effect, you are going to leave some of the short field performance of the airplane on the table.

3) Respect the wind.  Trying to land on any grass strip with even a knot or two tailwind, is a losing proposition and will make your landing much longer.  Gusty or strong crosswinds should make you think carefully about what you're doing and if it's worth the risk.  The CT is a handful in windy conditions anyway, adding a short field and/or rough grass is not going to help.  And remember anyplace you get into you are going to have to get out of...

4) Full aft stick when taxiing and after touchdown -- the nose gear is the weak link here, protect it!

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