Thanks for the welcome gents.
One of the reasons that I am so interested in Aussie bush flying is because our countries are alike in many ways. Both are huge, sparsely inhabited and beautiful. Both are also losing their wildness to modern technology and civilization. Fortunately, While the rule-makers are having an impact further and further into the wilderness every day, both countries still have a long way to go before they are totally tamed. I love the freedom of bush flying in Canada and I want to experience outback flying while it is still free. More on this later.
I imagine the main difference between the outback and the Canadian wilderness is the changeable weather and the effect it has had on the country. While the temperature undoubtedly gets much higher in the Northern Territories and water is a rare commodity there, it is a safe bet that you will always be able to fly on wheels there. As others have noted, there is a lot more water lying around in Canada and this means there are a lot more trees and not a lot of barren desert. Strangely enough that makes the two flying experiences very similar in that the sand and rock, of which the outback has lots, becomes a surface on which you can land. In Canada, we have a lot more water so, of course, we land on that. This means that Canadian bush planes are rarely equipped with bush wheels. (We DID invent the Tundra tire though!) but we do have to have some different equipment because the water goes from wet to frozen at different times of the year.
In summer, I fly on floats. Floats are a great accessory for your airplane as they enable you to explore areas with no place to land but on the lakes and rivers. Many Canadian cities have a float base near the downtown and you can leave the city and be in the bush within an hour.
Any lake that is ½ mile long (Less if you are brave or have an excellent STOL plane) is your runway. It takes a bit of experience to judge water depth, current, wind, docking and obstacles but that is part of the challenge. It is enthralling and, as some have pointed out, it can be dangerous as a major mistake can cost you and your passengers your lives.
In winter, I change over to skis. I have several sets of skis for my plane. I first bought a set of straight skis. Straight skis are just what they sound like – metal, wood or plastic landing gear that allow the plane to slide over the surface of the snow and ice. Mine happen to be aluminum with a plastic bottom designed to prevent the ski from freezing in place when you stop. This is very common problem with straight skis and it was a huge problem in the days before plastic bottoms were common. If you are going to be there more than a few minutes, you lift the skis up off the surface on pieces of wood or taxi up onto branches to keep the skis off the ice. This is still done, plastic bottoms or not, if you are going to spend a significant amount of time parked on the ice. If the skis freeze down, it is a big job to get them cleaned off enough to let the plane take off.
Straight skis generally give the best performance as they are simple, and therefore lighter. The drawback with straight skis is that, in the part of Canada where I live, the temperature is often above freezing even in the coldest Winter. This means a thaw and the snow on your runway melts leaving you on skis at an airfield devoid of snow. I once left the airport in the morning and returned in the afternoon to discover that all the snow had melted. I now know that skis work fine on grass!
As this situation is quite normal where I live, I now use hydraulic wheel-skis. They are heavy but they are the only way that I can consistently operate in the winter and they do allow me the flexibility to stop at airports for fuel.
My wheel-skis work well but they weigh about 60lbs each. Luckily, the cold air in the winter gives you more power so the difference in performance is not very noticeable. Some pilots use a compromise between the straight ski and the wheel-ski known as the penetration ski. These are skis that have a wheel mounted within the ski such that the lower part of the tire protrudes below the surface of the ski. If you land on a hard surface, the aircraft weight rests on the wheel, if you land in snow, the weight rests on the ski surface and the wheel just drags along through the snow. Penetration skis are simpler, lighter and cheaper than wheel-skis but they give more drag than either straight skis or wheel-skis.
That is a very broad-brush overview of bush flying in Canada. There is lots more to tell but I don’t want to go on too much on a first post. Let me know if you have any subjects you would like to weigh in on. I love to learn.