Normally, we here at AVSIM, do not review books or movies, but the nature of this DVD film is something I believe would be of great interest to those individuals that are active “bush pilot” flight simmers. Combine this with the fact that the producer/director of this 89 minute film is also very involved with the development side of Flight Simulator for Microsoft, so I felt it quite appropriate to publish a review of his film.
Real world bush flying began in the mid 1920s, in Canada, and in the beginning bush flying was a matter of necessity rather than just for the sake of flying into difficult airstrips or for the purpose of getting to that out of way fishing spot or hunting lodge. Today, most bush flying (commercial and personal) is intended at finding a remote location for camping, fishing, or hunting, and usually most immediately think of Alaska or Canada when it comes to bush flying, not realizing that bush flying is also common place in many isolated areas of the Western United States, all within the lower 48.
Kevin Griffin’s in-laws are all accomplished bush pilots and Kevin himself has had extensive experience at this type of flying, including the fact that he has owned a Maule (a 1985 MX-7-235B model) for several years now.
Currently, Kevin has fired up his own personal website, “Griffin Studios”, where apparently he intends on producing a series of videos (DVDs) featuring productions centered on real-world flight. His first (an currently only) DVD release is “Idaho Exposed”, which is a guided tour of 12 back country airstrips, all located in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area (Central Idaho) and these airstrips truly define the idea of “difficult” airstrips to fly in to, even for an experienced pilot.
With Kevin operating the camera, and shooting from the right-hand seat, this film gives you the opportunity to ride along with an accomplished Idaho bush pilot, Herb Millhorn, and his trusty tail-dragger, a Cessna 185 Skywagon.
With his unique monotone voice, Herb (Millhorn) narrates the entire video and Herb has a very noticeable western accent, right along with that slow drawl common among the back woods fliers I’ve personally met, including my own father (when he was alive). Herb states in the beginning, he is not a flight instructor, and this DVD is not intended as an instructional video, in any shape or form, and is merely a tour video that gives you some idea of what to expect, if you ever plan on flying into these remote strips. In addition to explaining his approach to each of these airstrips, he also points out the features associated with those strips, which include a hiking trail, campground, lodge, or restaurant nearby, once you’ve landed. I thought it interesting that one of the strips even had available free limousine service from the airfield to the local lodge, though Herb does point out the lack of air conditioning.
The airstrips that Kevin and Herb fly into (12), are all strung along either the main or middle forks of the Salmon river, and under spring or summer conditions it is obvious this includes some of the most picturesque areas of the western United States. The only unfortunate situation is that the damage incurred, over a surprisingly large area, from the massive 2000 forest fire that swept through this area, is quite visible, though there are strong signs the area is recovering from that fire. In one part of the video, Herb even shows the effects from the high winds created by the 2000 firestorm, winds that actually moved a very heavy & large footbridge several feet downwind.
Though the film is actually a home style video, with flying sequences shoot entirely with a handheld video camera from the right hand seat of Herb’s Skywagon, don’t assume this film is anything other than a film of excellent quality and Kevin has very smoothly and professionally edited the final product into something you’d expect to find on the cable Travel Channel or other similar cable network.
Of course, the subject of the film, or video tour, are the 12 airstrips that Herb describes and then expertly flies into, and from Kevin’s camera work, you’ll gain a real insight into the high level of experience Herb possesses at flying in this area (its stated during the video that Herb has nearly 50 years experience flying in this area). During the film, Herb explains the need for making your flights in the early morning, when the air is cool and calm, and how he never directly approaches any of these strips and simply lands, but does a flyby (sometimes several flybys) before he even considers landing. The purpose of the flybys are to accurately determine the wind conditions, if any, and to also confirm there are no “critters” to contend with, then Herb begins his approaches, usually from some distance away.
As Herb approaches each of these airstrips, you can often hear the stall warning buzzer going off, indicating Herb is flying the backside of the power curve of his Cessna, then he barely clears obstacles such as crossing ridge lines, trees, and/or rocks, landing on strips that are not only very short and rough, but in some cases, lacking any opportunity for a go-around regardless. These 12 airstrips, all within a stone’s throw of each other, are quite diverse in that some are long and smooth, with easy approaches, while others are extremely short, rough, and once you’re committed to land, there is no option, you must land!
The 12 airstrips you visit are; Johnson Creek, Big Creek, Flying “B” Ranch, Sulphur Creek, Dixie Town, Wilson Bar, Cabin Creek, Soldier Bar, Vines, Lower Loon, Dewey Moore, and my personal favorite, Mile Hi!
Herb “strongly” suggests that individuals, of who are novice flyers when it comes to high altitude mountain flying, should attend a mountain flying school before even considering attempting to fly into any of these airstrips and I whole hardly agree.
Available videos, on real-world bush flying, are not necessarily widely available and in fact, Kevin Griffin’s “Idaho Exposed”, is the first film I’ve run across that is dedicated to that specific subject and hopefully we’ll see more from him.
Overall, I believe even those individual flight simmers that prefer flying the heavies (in Flight Simulator) and enjoy the complexity of working a Boeing or Airbus’ systems or flying a successful instrument approach, will appreciate the real-world skill required to overcome the difficulty of flying a single engine aircraft into the airstrips shown on this DVD! I have absolutely no doubt that all of you bush flying flight simming fans will enjoy Idaho Exposed and if you’ve never had the opportunity to fly into a real-world remote airfield, then this DVD is for you!
I very much enjoyed this 89 minute film and give it an enthusiastic thumbs up and do recommend it to anyone interested in real-world videos on the subject of aviation!
For some video samples of this DVD, visit Kevin’s website, Griffin Studios, at http://www.griffinstudios.tv/home_2.htm
This DVD is $29.95 USD and is available at either: Amazon.com Or Ebay
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