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Author Topic: 500B in the wild  (Read 553 times)

JimC

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500B in the wild
« on: June 07, 2022, 04:39:17 pm »
Today was my first backcountry flight in my new 500B. It's one thing to read the manuals and say "It *should* be able to land there" and it's another to do it.

My first strip of the day was Cuba, NM (NM2, 4137 long, elev 6840'.) It's pretty much just a straight chunk of dirt where there are fewer bushes. I made a first pass at 800,' a second at 10', and then it was time to land. Well, it was worse than it looked. I selected the last 2000' instead of the first, and that turned out to be the section where the herd of cattle went over it after the last rain. It was pretty rough. The runway end was just 2000' feet away when I touched down and it seemed to be coming fast, but I stopped with hundreds to spare with gentle braking. The 500B spun easily in the 40' of dirt and I trundled back to the departure end. The first 250' was REALLY rough, so I just departed from the last good spot and easily made it off after about 1500' of ground roll.



The next stop was Lindrith, NM (E32, 3300 long, elev 7202'.) This was a "real" airport with markings, a boundary, and a parking area! One quick pass told me it would be fine. The soft sand of the runway made the touchdown feel like I'd been flying a commander forever - even when I stalled it in from about 3' up. I did another mid-runway spin & taxi back, followed by a slightly longer ground roll as I headed uphill to the west.

A quick glance at the sectional showed a private strip to the north. I was wondering if it was one I'd seen from the ground, so I headed that way. I was passing about a mile south at 1000' AGL and looking at a Cessna on the ground near a small house when the radio that I'd left on 122.9 crackled to life: "Aircraft passing over Murrow field, are you intending to land?"
"Well," I said - "I wasn't planning on it, but if you're inviting - I'll come on in."
"My friend's already dropped in today, so come on by."
So I set up to do a low pass at Murrow Field On The Divide (that's the full name.) It's NM99,  4,000 feet long and 7,550 elevation. A quick pass showed that the phone line had been buried midfield, and most of the prairie dog holes were filled. I could see the 182 didn't have bush tires so I thought "If his gear is still attached, mine'll be fine."
After rolling to a stop and parking I met Rol Murrow and two of his friends.  Rol is justifiably proud of his field that straddles the continental divide. If you take off to the west, it's downhill to the Pacific. If you take off to the east, it's downhill to the Atlantic. He was very excited that I was the first twin to land in his field, ever! He'd been filling the holes the night before in preparation for a landing today. The prairie dog holes are big - the big ones will eat a 6.00x6 tire. If you go over them with speed, they're OK - but if you drop into one going slow, you may not come out.

Well, we started chatting about planes and one thing leads to another, and the next thing we know the density altitude is over 10,000. It's time to head home. Both the 182 and I are light - we both have 1/2 tanks and extra seats removed. He goes first and shows me how it's done with a 1600' ground roll from a pretty rough surface. I go second and show HIM how it's done with a longer ground roll, but a 2800' 50' obstacle clearance. I have to say for anyone who's thinking of turbos - unless you're going at full gross out of Leadville on hot days, don't bother. The planes are amazing as-is. I have both hands on the throttles ready to chop at the first sign of yaw, but as soon as I'm past the end of the runway it's downhill and I lower the nose to get some extra safety speed.

Well, that's it for the first day of rough strips - here's hoping there are many more to come!
« Last Edit: June 07, 2022, 07:36:50 pm by JimC »
500B, B200

Adam Frisch

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2022, 07:27:37 pm »
Amazing!

This brings back memories of my 520, which I landed at Cheyenne, WY after getting weathered in in all directions. Dirt strip, looked OK from low pass, but was very rough on landing! I was equally nervous taking off the day after thinking the high altitude airport was going to eat my lunch, but turned out to be a nothing-burger as she was off in less than half.

Another time I landed in the desert at the unmarked Bacon Strip after tips from members at the Backcountry Forum. A huge prairie hole was just after touchdown, but due to my high speed the wheels just floated over it, thankfully. But taxiing back I could see that if I'd been much slower, it would have been a bad day in the desert.

Johnson Creek in Idaho, was another fun one. One way in, one way out, pretty much. Very high DA normally. The 520 did it like a champ! The Commanders are fantastic on dirt. Good times!
Slumming it in the turboprop world - so you don't have to.

donv

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2022, 07:41:11 pm »
That is so cool!

JimC

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2022, 07:46:38 pm »
Adam,

There's no doubt that a HUGE reason I'm flying this 500 out of the backcountry is your tireless promotion of these planes. I never would have heard of Twin Commanders and their capabilities if it wasn't for you. I've watched that Bacon strip landing a dozen times.

Thank you!

Jim
500B, B200

appleseed

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2022, 12:32:21 am »
Yeah! Great day of flying.
Thanks for the thrills Jim.

JimC

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2022, 11:05:38 pm »
Today was a trip to what I believe is the longest public gravel runway in the US.  Saguache (pronounced suh-watch) airport, 04V, is 7957 feet of good graded gravel at an altitude of 7850 feet. Density altitudes were about 10,500 feet. If you run out of runway here, just give up - you're NEVER getting off the ground.

This isn't a photo of the airport, but it shows the population density of this area of southern Colorado.
500B, B200

JimC

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2022, 10:56:52 am »
Better photo - still trying to figure out what size is the max allowed.
500B, B200

JimC

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2022, 12:19:22 am »
Pop quiz: Which plane is better at getting off the ground from a rough strip in the high desert? A C-182 with slightly oversized tires and VGs, or a mostly stock 500B? Payloads were similar - he had a second person, but I had several hours of fuel.

Yep, the Commander wins - about 1500' vs 1800'. I overestimated my roll before, but the video is the proof. You can also see that the 182 stops climbing right as he leaves ground effect. The Commander is up and roaring away quickly. No, it's not Adam's 600' takeoff roll - but this was a pretty bumpy ride at a DA of 10,000'. I don't gain much altitude after the first few hundred feet because I don't need to. The strip is on the continental divide, and the terrain under me falls away as soon as I cross the treeline in the distance. I hit 50' about 2000' from brake release, not 2800' as I said earlier.

C-182: https://vimeo.com/725127572

Commander: https://vimeo.com/725093895

« Last Edit: June 29, 2022, 12:24:55 am by JimC »
500B, B200

Badger

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2022, 01:04:56 pm »
Great stories, Jim.  Looks like a bunch of fun flying in your 500B.  You have got me very envious here.  Have fun and if you ever get over toward East Texas, stop into College Station and say hello!

Ed
Ed

Adam Frisch

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2022, 11:24:42 am »
Great videos!

Have you seen the old clips of Dave Phifer's Merlyn-modded 500B landing at his private strip in WA state? They're pretty impressive.

Anecdotally, I do think the 520 and the 560F are considered the TC's with the shortest T/O of the bunch . The 680F and 560F are identical, but the different engine and the lower MGTOW of the 560F makes it a real short field performer, from what I heard. But I think a Merlyn-powered 500B probably has a 560F beat.
Slumming it in the turboprop world - so you don't have to.

JimC

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2022, 01:57:34 pm »
As for Commander landing videos online, nothing I've seen is more impressive than this one. A google maps measurement puts it at 1100' in length!!!! I'm guessing the gradient at the top is about 12%.

https://www.facebook.com/swederalston/videos/1618636025099297/

Note the RH wingtip clearance at the top of the hill!
500B, B200

JimC

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2022, 04:53:43 pm »
Yesterday I landed back at my home airport, 28 days after taking off for Alaska. I hope to put some stories, videos, and photos on line in the next few days/weeks. It was an incredible trip, and I don't think that there's a better plane for this kind of trip available for under $500k. I was able to directly compare my 500B against a more than a few stock 206s, and I really think that they are extremely comparable airplanes. In other words, if a 206 can get into or out of a field with a given load and fuel range, then a stock 500B can also do it with a similar safety margin.

I went into and out of a few short gravel strips (2200 ish), but the bulk of them were paved. I was usually under gross, and I've gotten pretty good at hitting my mark on landing with 900' ground rolls. Takeoffs were generally under a 1000' roll on pavement. Gross weight got me up into the 1100-1200' range. The real advantage of the Commander was the great visibility, the amazing flying qualities across the entire speed range, and of course the second engine that let me fly some routes I wouldn't have chosen otherwise.

Quick summary:
28 days (there was a 8 day break in Montana near the end)
33 flight legs
10 new airports
60+ hours flying
about 7-8000 miles

Here are a few photos to get the juices flowing:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/cX9eYiTfEHysTJ3L8

Honestly, I think they're worth checking out. I've cut it from over 2,000 to about 20 really good ones. My wife knows which end of a camera is which, and we flew over some of the most amazing places in the US on our way north. I'd upload them here today but they all need to be rotated and resized and I won't get to that for a while.
500B, B200

donv

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2022, 11:59:31 pm »
Swede was the best! He used to take an 840 into a 2100 foot gravel strip in the Oregon Coast Range, to demo the short field capabilities. It chewed up the props and eventually he stopped doing it. Or, to be completely honest, I think they sold that 840 and he stopped doing it...

Adam Frisch

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Re: 500B in the wild
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2022, 09:19:58 am »
When I see these videos I miss my old 520!
Slumming it in the turboprop world - so you don't have to.