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Enjoying Bearhawk Performance

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  • Enjoying Bearhawk Performance

    Lately I've gotten "back in the saddle" with our newly modified Bearhawk, spent about 40 hours rebuilding currency and re-learning skills. I continue to be so thoroughly impressed, I wanted to share the experiences I am enjoying.

    When I exit one high performance aircraft like a Maule M5-235 and get into the Bearhawk, the difference between the two really stands out. For instance, with the same moderate load aboard the Bearhawk takes off in about 40% of the ground roll the Maule requires. Best climb rate is at least 500ft/min faster. Low & slow loitering speed is 15kts slower and feels more solid. Landing distance is about half. This comparing to a very capable aircraft.

    We are seeing takeoffs shorter than ever before with the Hartzell carbon fibre prop and longer Hoerner wingtips with VGs fitted right out to the outboard edge. Of course it all depends upon weight on board, but when it's totally unloaded it's less than 3 seconds from standstill to breaking ground, and under 100 ft roll. Initial climb rate is over 2,600 ft/min. This is the bigger 4-place with a heavy fuel injected motor and heavy bushwheels.

    Loitering flight at 38 KIAS with 3 notches flap gives me total control, even in medium turns it feels very steady. AOA is still in the green during level flight, which means the wing is nowhere near the stall. The plane is more steady than ever on approach, airspeed about 38 kts indicated when light, about 42 KIAS when loaded to max weight. Touchdowns when unloaded are about 33 KIAS, the true speed must be around 37 KTAS at sea level.

    I guess the only area which hasn't improved is the cruising speed. We can still keep up with a Maule or C180 but it uses more fuel than before. Lean of peak cruise is about 112 KTAS at low level, 125 KTAS at high altitude. It would go faster if I wanted to burn more fuel. I figure this is about 5 KIAS slower than our original airspeed before modifications. Mods which could slow it down 31" tires, oversize tailwheel, vortex generators, and 16" extended wingtips. Maybe the prop but I doubt it. But it still cruises fast enough to keep me happy.

    Similarly, it doesn't accelerate in a dive like it used to. Whereas a Maule or C180 will quickly accelerate to 140 to 150kts at the same angle, the Bearhawk holds about 130 kts. Overall this isn't a bad thing, I don't like busting Vne.

    I hope that is interesting for someone!

  • #2
    Very interesting, thanks for sharing! I’m going for more of a cruiser but it’s fun to hear about the impressive STOL performance that can be had. My tech counselor almost didn’t believe me when I said some folks were Vso at 37 KIAS, albeit with VGs, and apparently that's even been improved... Hearing you’re still 125 KTAS LOP at altitude is making me want my plane finished yesterday. The envelope on these planes is huge and I can’t wait to get up there and see what mine can do Very inspirational!
    Dave B.


    • #3
      Thanks, great info and glad you are back up there again, some new video's would be nice. enjoy!


      • #4
        As a Maule driver, I’m inspired to keep going on my project! Great report on your performance improvement. Thanks for sharing!
        ​Christopher Owens, EAA #808438
        Project "Expedition"
        Bearhawk 4-Place Scratch Built, Plans #991
        Bearhawk Patrol Scratch Built, Plans #P313
        Germantown, Wisconsin, USA


        • #5
          Originally posted by Gerhard Rieger View Post
          Thanks, great info and glad you are back up there again, some new video's would be nice. enjoy!
          Yes, I was about to start on day-1 of a new film project when we crash landed... this winter will provide new video for sure.


          • #6
            The range of performance is why I chose to build a Bearhawk. It is what Van's always described as Total Performance. Just a notch or two slower than an RV. I have no use for an airplane I need 2000+ runway. I have lots of use for an airplane that lands and TO's in a couple of hundred feet.


            • #7
              Tell me more about those wingtips. Did you build them yourself or buy them and adapt them?