A Just Aircraft SuperSTOL is being used by a team of Russian biologists to conduct surveys of wildlife populations along the Northeastern Russian Coast, primarily where it borders the Ural Mountains, the Barents Sea, and Kara Sea above the Arctic Circle.
George V. Kirtaev, a pilot who was trained in Alaska to measure wildlife populations from an aircraft, ordered a SuperSTOL kit from Just Aircraft in the summer of 2015. Russia allows homebuilts to be constructed, certified and flown in their airspace.
The kit arrived in October of 2015 and Kirtaev, who assembled the aircraft primarily by himself, started construction in April, and then logged his first flight on June 6, 2016.
That flight was on wheels. Nine days later he made his first flight on a set of Lotus floats.
The aircraft has spent most of its life on floats, which are used for water landings in the summer and “snow” landings in the winter.Having logged over 200 hours in the SuperSTOL, Kirtaev said: “For our purposes, it is a very good aircraft. It is possible to fly low and slow which is essential for counting and photography.”
Though he admits to an occasional flight for exploring or enjoying the mountains, canyons, rivers and plains along Russia’s north shore, most of his flying has focused on scientific pursuits.
“There is a lot of space inside for gear and you can even spend the night in it,” he said. “With wings that fold easily, one person can move the aircraft on virtually any surface, even with floats.”
Before Kirtaev’s team began their surveys, Russia had done very little in the way of monitoring waterfowl populations, breeding grounds, or the impact of hunters. The surveys have resulted in protections for wildlife areas and endangered species.
In the spring of 2018, Kirtaev will journey farther north in an attempt to measure polar bear populations and habitat.
To learn more about Kirtaev’s work, he has a power point presentation (in English). It’s worth the cut and paste exercise just to see the photographs of Arctic Russia, according to Just Aircraft officials.