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The Beech 95 Travel Air was developed as a direct competitor with the Piper PA-23. The Piper is considered a reasonably ok bush plane, yet the Beech 95 is not commonly seen as a bush plane (I don't think I've ever seen a Beech 95 on floats).

What difference makes that the one is suitable as a bush plane, while the other is not?

enter image description here Beech 95 Travel Air

Piper PA-23 Piper PA-23

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Without getting into the details of the two, there are going to be 3 factors:

  1. Landing Gear suitable for rough fields.
  2. Decent size cargo loading doors and cabin with cargo provisions.
  3. Power to weight ratio suitable for short rough fields.

Neither of those airplanes are really purpose-built for bush operations, but to the extent they have those characteristics they could be said to be more or less suitable.

When the US Army was looking at the DeHavilland Canada Beaver, which WAS specifically designed for bush operations, being designed in response to an operator survey, there was a hue and cry from the US aviation lobby, prompting the Army to have a fly-off with the Beaver vs a motley assortment of "utility" aircraft put forward in haste by various manufacturers (including the Travel Air IIRC, and the Cessna 195). The Beaver won without much difficulty, and the US Army went on to take nearly 2/3rds of Beaver production.

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Both the question, and this answer, are largely opinion based.

While the PA-23 was used more in the bush, neither aircraft can really be considered a "Bush Plane". The PA-23 designation includes both the Apache and Aztec, so any answer should really include both the B95 Travel Air and B95-55 Baron.

The Apache and Travel Air had similar performance capabilities, and so did the Aztec and Baron, so that is not a factor. Maintenance and reliability can be factors, but difficult to quantify.

Piper built 2047 PA-23 Apaches and 4930 PA-23 Aztecs, while Beechcraft built only 720 Travel Airs and 3,651 Barons.

So the popularity of the PA-23 in general, and "in the bush" probably has a lot to do with the fact it was put into production first, and was also cheaper to buy.

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  • $\begingroup$ It seems odd to me that a low wing design would be used for landing on unimproved ground $\endgroup$ – zymhan Apr 8 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ Unimproved ground means, at worst, gravel or mowed grass for those airplanes. You wouldn't try to run those things off of an unprepared surface. The tires are too small and the gear not really made for it. $\endgroup$ – John K Apr 9 at 4:33
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This is right at the edge of recollection for me, but my memories of Australian, Pacific & SE Asian general aviation in the 60s & 70s are that the Apache was largely reviled as underpowered & not suitable for even slightly marginal conditions or use. It was never spoken of highly by pilots.

The Beechcraft (in the above markets) was almost certainly more expensive to buy, more expensive to maintain, somewhat fragile, & considered a nicer, more up-market aircraft. I remember them as having a much more luxurious interior to Pipers & Cessnas. It's possible they were better soundproofed.

The Aztecs, on the other hand, were everywhere. Government departments, flying schools, charter operations, 3rd level transport, aerial survey, mail delivery, inter-island services, you name it.

They were sturdy & sufficiently well-powered enough to deal with short, unpleasant airstrips regularly, while carrying maximum loads. They were reliable, & usually well-liked by pilots & operators.

This niche was (sort of) shared with the slightly larger mid-sized 4xx Cessna twins & Britten Norman Islanders, but I recall few Barons.

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Setting aside how do these two planes fly, it is enough to see how do they stand on the ground. It does not look possible to drive over meadows with a car that has bottom that low and the wheels that tiny, so how could you land, take off? Also, the propeller is so low that seems ready to dig into the first mole hole on the way. I think they both clearly require some prepared strip.

See the Beaver for comparison below (source). I think these two aircraft in the question are not a real bush planes, none of them.

enter image description here

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