Adventurer and Certified Flight Instructor Mark Brown, who specializes in Tailwheel training and Turbine Aircraft, recently brought Torgoen along on one of his journeys through the backcountry of Western Wyoming. In the interview below, Mark shed light on his adventure and talked a bit about how Wyoming differs from other states in the US (he’s been to all 50!).
Tell us about your latest adventure.
My wife Ashley and I spent about four days in the backcountry of western Wyoming flying a Kodiak 100 aircraft and several helicopters. We spent the majority of time flying over places that are only accessible by aircraft or horseback, which was quite an experience. We were lucky to have a few friends who were able to follow strict protocols to quarantine and get tested prior so that they were able to meet us on the trip for a few days. We started in Utah and flew north from Salt Lake City, which was a little over an hour flight to the breathtaking Wind River Mountains.
What kind of plane was it?
We were lucky to have the experience to fly three different aircrafts, the Kodiak 100 and Airbus Helicopters H125 and H130. The Kodiak 100 is most similar to a combination of a business jet and a helicopter. It can seat up to 10 people; it has a very comfortable executive club seating interior (like a business jet) but also has the ability to land off airports—like gravel bars, beaches, and on the water (with floats). The Kodiak is a perfect platform for an epic adventure like this one because of its weight carrying capacity and versatility. We were able to transport a large grill for all of our cooking needs, food for four days and six people into very short backcountry strips for the daily adventures.
What was your daily routine?
These trips are really about waking up and seeing what the day holds. It’s all about the adventure and exploring the outdoors—discovering new, uncharted territory is so exciting and the reason I fly. One day we found a cascading waterfall that we were able to land the helicopters near and hike up to. Another, we went to a backcountry strip to fly fish all day and then grilled the fish we caught for dinner. The next day we spent just flying around the area and taking in the unbelievable bird’s eye view. Spotting wildlife is always really enjoyable from the air.
What was the most memorable part?
Each day and experience was memorable in its own way, but one in particular was when we were exploring the glacial lakes and I jokingly dared my friend Brooks to jump in. He’s from Canada and always talks about being used to the cold! He took me up on the dare and spent 20 minutes in the nearly frozen lake. It was definitely an adventure and something we’ll remember and a story we will tell years from now!
How is flying over Wyoming different from other states in the US?
Wyoming is beautiful but very challenging due to the high elevations and wind currents, hot summer days, and tall mountains. Weather can change from one minute to the next. It’s very hard to predict so extra caution needs to be taken to mitigate risks. Also, the high elevation degrades performance so having a very high power turbine powered aircraft like the Kodiak is vital.
What was the top speed the plane flew?
All aircrafts are a compromise between speed, weight carrying capacity, range, and runway performance. The higher speed aircraft like Gulfstreams and Falcon jets are designed to go very fast and very far. But they’re also $50M dollars. The Kodiak is a wonderful compromise between speed, carrying capacity, off-airport and short takeoff and landing capability. It can cruise at 180 KTAS while taking off and landing within 1,000 ft carrying 10 people.
Did you get to do anything new that you have not yet done before?
This trip was chock full of firsts for us. Heli-hiking is truly magnificent and included all of the benefits of hiking without the hard part of going uphill!
What was the biggest challenge with the Kodiak vs. other planes?
The Kodiak is a very straightforward aircraft to fly. The biggest challenge is the weight it can carry. People often think that they can put whatever they want in the aircraft, and while that’s mostly true, it’s imperative that the aircraft is always within its proper weight and balance limitations.
How does a pilot watch help while you're in flight?
My Torgoen watches are truly great because they’re fashionable timepieces that are also rugged enough for trips into the backcountry. Of course they’re helpful to tell time, but all of the aviation functions are great as well. I think a good, high-quality watch is a staple on any backcountry aviation trip.
Was this the first time your team experienced wearing Torgoen watches?
For some of the flight team it was the first time, and they were very well received by some of the watch connoisseurs on the trip. Some of us had experience with the watches in the past, so we were excited to get to see the newest ones.
How did the Torgoen watch assist in your flying experience?
Torgoen played an instrumental part in the trip. In aviation, time is a very important aspect. The watches helped us stay on time and fit in as much adventure as possible into each day. Plus, the watches are very rugged and held up well on all of our backcountry adventures. My favorite part about Torgoen in general is the balance of style, function and quality. I’m very hard on my watches and my Torgoen ones (T16 and T18) hold up so well that I’m never scared to bring them on a trip.