The Rugged and Steely Sherpa Bush Plane Story

The Sherpa is a relatively rare aircraft and many aviators may not have heard about it.

You can think of a Sherpa as a super size Super Cub that can seat eight people and is powered by a Lycoming O-720 400 HP engine.

Starting from the first day, the Sherpa has been named as a “Super Cub on steroids” and the nickname suits the aircraft perfectly. This nickname was given by Budd Davisson, who authored the first test flight article that featured in 1995 EAA Sport Aviation monthly publication.

Budd Davisson spent many days test flying the big tail dragger prototype with the principal designer of the aircraft, Bryan Root. Some of the aircraft have been equipped with turboprop engines.

Under certain conditions, this big Super Cab can stall as slow as 38 mph and and as has been claimed by its manufacturers can cruise at 170 mph. The base price for the turbine powered Sherpa kit is $622,000.

The Birth of a Bush Plane

The Sherpa made its debut in Oshkosh, Wisconsin more than two decades back in 1994. The minute the aircraft pulled out on the taxiway it was surrounded by dozens of aviation enthusiasts.

The officials at EAA found it difficult to judge the new Sherpa based on plans built, restoration or new design etc. The aircraft was still given a special award for outstanding quality construction.

Enjoy the Beauty and Magnificence of Sherpa Aircraft:

The first design powered by Lycoming IO-720 400 HP engine was meant to be a five-place short takeoff and landing aircraft (STOL). As the aircraft accumulated interest, the company decided to apply for FAA Part 23 certification.

This plan was soon canceled as the company changed its mind and planned to upgrade the aircraft to an 8-place equipped with a twin turbo Lycoming TIO-720 474 HP engine. The company wanted to increase the performance of the aircraft for bush flying environment.

After a gap of six years it was finally concluded that the power was just not enough to perform as an STOL aircraft that the company wanted to make. The aircraft was redesigned again and it was now equipped with an 840 HP Honeywell turbine engine.

During this period, the company delivered only two aircraft, which was quite frustrating for Glen Gordon, the man behind Sherpa Aircraft.

The company spent nearly eight years in finding the right engine. Two more years were spent in finding the right Chinese investor. The development process of the aircraft went on for twelve years and the original investors were waiting for some return on investment.

An Owner in Alaska for Second Turbine Sherpa

All these hiccups during the development phase did not deterred the belief of Gordon in his aircraft.

According to Gordon, Sherpa was the most efficient, usable off-airport, back country airplane developed by them. This aircraft can be used for missionary work, medical help or first aid, and to fly things that are required in back country areas. It can fly and land at places where nothing else can except a helicopter.

Sherpa 100 yards operation capability

The aircraft has the capability to takeoff and land within 100 to 250 feet with a 3,000 pound payload, says Gordon. It can attain a cruise speed of 200 mph and can still land at 40 mph.

It has large windows which provides wide area visibility both to pilots and passengers. The company is looking for customers across the globe include Russia, South Africa, India, Brazil etc.

Gordon feels proud to show the feedback Sherpa has received from the FAA, particularly the FSDO in Alaska. He appreciates the support and interest that has been shown by the FAA. They have visited the place twice, which is something unusual. They have seen the requirement of this aircraft.

Financial Struggles of Sherpa Aircraft Company

The 83 year old Gordon has already invested $19 million. He is looking for help to get the Sherpa certified. He believes that he can get the certification by building two aircraft and it will cost around $10 million more.

Gordon says it is easier to get Sherpa certified as compared to other composite airplanes. The fuselage is made of steel and only basic material is used. The concept used in making the airframe and aircraft is not new.

The unmatched range of speeds and short field performance of the Sherpa is completed by these design features:

  • Maximum propulsion comes through 116 inch 3 blade propeller from Hartzell which gives instant power when required as they are run by Honeywell direct coupled turbine engine.

  • The aircraft can withstand the roughest off airport conditions with heavy duty tail dragger landing gear system

  • The Sherpa can outperform any other aircraft in its class through its special high lift wing that provide optimal directional control at incredible low speed

  • The pilot can takeoff and land in extreme short off airport environment thanks to the unequaled visibility from the cockpit.

The experimental versions of the aircraft will cost nearly $1.5 million. It will come equipped with an infrared system for night vision, a complete Garmin avionics package, oxygen for all eight seats and much more things.

The certified version of the Sherpa will cost around $2 million.

What Aviators Say About The Sherpa

Paul who has been flying since he was five years old. He says the Sherpa k650t is his dream aircraft.

Brian is from Philippines and has been flying for 11 years. He considers the Turbine Sherpa as one of the best bush plane, one that can be compared with Helio Courier.

A thirty year old pilot from the former Republic of Macadonia, Stoke, appreciated the capabilities of the Sherpa K-300. For him the best bush plane is Antanov AN-2.

Ric, a pilot from US, talked about his dream plane. The options he picked include Pilatus Porter PC-6 and Turbine Sherpa. He did mentioned that Cessna 180 / 185 or Bearhawk are bit closer to reality.

Chris is a pilot from Canada and has been flying for 44 years. He consider Maule as the best bush plane and has appreciated the capabilities of the Sherpa

Watch The Sherpa in Action:


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