As voting came to a close in the second round of AOPA's Favorite Aircraft Challenge, we're seeing more awesome match-ups coming in future pairings. The final results of Round Two in the West Region demonstrated that the older vintage and warbird aircraft have come to play, and are not going to let many modern flying machines stands between them and the finals on April 1 and 2. Let's look in on Round Two results in the West and see what might happen in that region's Round Three.
West Region Round Two results: The proven capabilities of the popular Cessna 182 Skylane brought to this contest legions of fans who transitioned up from a Cessna 172 trainer, and it was too much to handle for the fun Lake Amphibian, which was eliminated. The Lake has its own cheering section; but while loyal, it is much smaller in numbers. And with more than 15,000 North American T-6 Texan trainers built, this entrant has support from not only warbird buffs but also past military pilots trained in a Texan. Add in those who love watching the formations of T-6s at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., each summer, and it's easy to see why the T-6 beat the Piper PA-28 Cherokee in an upset. My own personal PA-28, “Katy,” was not amused at this outcome.
Against the slick, comfortable Socata TBM 850, the determination and proven work ethics of the Piper PA-18 Super Cub proved worthy of a champion, with the PA-18 advancing. Even with support from the cabin class and turboprop fans, The TBM could not match the many votes coming from the bush flyers who have relied on the Super Cub since it was introduced in 1949. And the Grumman F8F Bearcat put up plenty of fight against the de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, but even with a power offense the Bearcat could not dent the Beaver's proven reputation as a hard-working machine. When this one got close early, the de Havilland bench called up the Turbo Beaver to spin up its Pratt & Whitney PT-6 engine to blow the game wide open for the win.
West Region Round Three predictions: Both match-ups in the West's Round Three are hard to call, with four capable entries all worthy of advancing. The Cessna 182 Skylane should mathematically bring more votes to this one, because you can find several Skylanes on any ramp in America, but against the T-6 Texan, a win is never a sure thing. Besides, there are a lot of pilots in Texas, who will feel obligated to throw their Stetsons into the ring for the T-6. In a very close contest, I see the Texan in Round Four and the Skylane going home.
In a battle of two of the hardest-working aircraft ever produced, the Piper PA-18 Super Cub versus de Havilland Beaver match-up will be a cage match, with two tough and determined fighters squaring off, both able to take a punch and stay competitive. When Lock Haven added a 150 horsepower to the Cub to produce the PA-18, they created an airplane that could haul banners, pull gliders, and land short and slow on almost any surface. But like the venerable Douglas DC-3, to its operators, the Beaver has proven almost indestructible. This is a pilot's airplane and is at home in cold conditions operating from rugged off-airport locations. When voting concludes here, I think the Beaver wins to advance, but not without the hardest duel yet in this challenge.
Dan Pimentel, an instrument-rated private pilot who has racked up more than 400 hours in 16 years of flying, is also an aviation author and writes the Airplanista Aviation Blog.