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  • New member in Denver

    Greetings and thank you for all the helpful information I have gleaned so far from lurking on this site!

    Senior-hood is descending upon me so I’m planning to 'change careers’ in one year. Licensed in 2000, about 95 hrs in C152. Last flown in 2001. Flew from Boulder Municipal (CO) and along the Colorado Front Range. Medical issue: deficient vision in one eye and 'color blindness' required extra night check ride, but ultimately the only restriction was must wear glasses. It’s a hassle I expect to be repeated annually for a ppsel. I can see red and green just fine, my only worry is spotting traffic, though am 20/20 in one eye. I have since had cataract surgery both eyes, so probably improved. There may be a strategy to getting an easier Medical, but Sport Pilot license and LSA a definite possibility!

    My mission: travel around the country by short hops, without strict itinerary, not limited by schedule, two people with light baggage. (maybe then I will begin to appreciate the airlines…) Want to be able to operate from shorter airstrips, grass and gravel, fly low and slow, try to take it easy. At the elevation where I live, STOL characteristics should be a big benefit as well as a general safety feature.

    I want to build a high wing taildragger for the joy of building - and at least a few years of flying before I get too old. Then sell it, knowing that the engine and a few items will have the most value - not necessarily my craftsmanship.

    High wing, because I like to look out at the ground - not the wing. Hard to pitch a tent under a low wing. More suited to off-field landing if necessary.

    Taildragger, because it’s more aesthetically pleasing, more aerodynamic looking. But there are disadvantages and I may live to regret it.

    According to current projections, I’m not able to buy a kit. Must go the plans route and start the project with smaller expenditures which will keep me busy for quite a while. Will have far more time than money, not concerned with calculating my hourly rate. Gives me time to budget for the engine and propeller. Starting out this way gives me an easier escape route in the event that I fail as a builder.

    Limited work space and skill set. But hoping to get help from local EAA chapter and from this forum. A brother is highly experienced Pitts pilot who wants to build a Vans. My best assets are patience and nimble fingers. I am accustomed to attention to detail.

    The Bearhawk LSA is my first choice for the project. But I have been advised that this may not be the best choice for a first-time builder. My impression is that the main difficulties are:

    1. Reading and understanding the plans, and formulating a set of step-by-step set of instructions.

    2. The wing is complex and requires skills I have yet to acquire. Reading other builders’ stories are daunting. (But it’s such a beautiful wing!)

    3. The fuselage also complex and difficult. Will have to practice welding a lot and do destructive testing until I know what I’m doing.

    So what would be a better choice for first-time plans-built aircraft?

    I've been looking around and there are maybe some possibilities. Many projects don’t really look any easier than the Bearhawk LSA, though you might think they would be.

    Wag-Aero Sport Trainer and the Wagabond both are similar to the Bearhawk in that you can start with plans and buy factory fabricated components as needed. But still complex for the first-timer. The only part which might make it easier are wood options and fabric covered wings.

    All wood construction is a possibility. Fisher Dakota Hawk or Horizon 2 are interesting in some ways.

    Another possibility is the Pober Junior Ace or Pober Pixie. From the sound of it, these were designed for a novice like me. They look like fun projects with an historical appeal and could be made to be very attractive. Could almost conceivably be used for travel. But open cockpit?

    If I abandon the idea of a two-place airplane, then more possibilities are out there.

    The Zenith 750 looks like something only it’s mother could love and violates one of my main criteria. But probably the best alternative.

    But I want to learn welding and I want a solid metal wing, a roomy cabin and a comfortable back seat for my passenger, great performance on a certified 100 hp engine. I want to land slowly yet cruise economically at 100 mph.

    That’s the Bearhawk LSA or am I wrong?

    Sorry to be so long-winded but I’ve been thinking about it a lot and need to start making preparations!

    Last edited by Frank; 11-07-2018, 12:07 PM.

  • #2
    Hi Frank! I used to live in Denver, Boulder and Ft Collins. Trained at Jeffco. Last stop at Boulder Muni was for a plane wash charity with the Denver Nuggets cheerleaders!

    I'm a first time builder and scratch building. Many will urge you to reconsider a kit. Your chances of completion will certainly be higher. But I understand stretching out the expenses. Still, many will say that another way to stretch out expenses is to wait, save up and buy the kit. I'm neutral on the topic, but kit economics is a funny thing.

    I can tell you that if it werent for scratch building there are several skills I would have never learned, but that I am to proud to know. And nice thing is you don't have to scratch build everything. You can pick and choose. I've purchased several parts already to save some time and tedium. But I've still learned a ton! I'm far more proud of my spars and aileron support frames now than if I had purchased a kit.

    This is blasphemy but have you considered Kitfox? The LSA kills even the super sport, but Kitfox might fit the bill for you in some ways.

    There are plan-build manuals available for the bearhawk line. Have you been to Eric Newton's website to check them out?

    Also... Have you talked to Bob directly and got his input? The ability to do that is probably the single biggest reason I chose bearhawk over anything else.

    Scratch building Patrol #275
    Hood River, OR


    • Frank
      Frank commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Mark! All good recommendations.

      You are a positive voice for scratch building. (scratching one's head?)

      I'll look at Kitfox again for their plans and options.

      Eric Newton's offerings look great! Good investment.

      And before buying the plans I would want to contact Bob, tell him what I've got and see what he thinks. I wonder what it's like for the designer to watch all these fledglings?


  • #3
    Other than the BH LSA, the Sport trainer and Wagabond are the ones on your list that would most realistically meet your mission. You don't really see the others on your list doing much cross country flying, they seem to be more suited to local joy ride type flying. I have no experience with them but usually there is a reason that people don't travel with certain planes. The Wag Aero planes are good, solid planes that will work for you but they are also just improved copies of 60-75 year old designs that you could just buy and fly. The BH will out-perform them in most ways since it is a newer design. Of course at a glance it doesn't look much different than other Cub type planes but the wing design and single strut go a long way to making flying better. I've never had a chance to fly a Wag aero but I've flown cubs and Pacers and figure that planes designed from them must fly a lot like them. When I got to fly the BH LSA, all I kept thinking was that this is what the Cub always wanted to be, that if Piper were to re-design and modernize the Cub, maybe they could come up with something close to the LSA.

    As for scratch building, we all get to choose what path will get us to the plane we want. There are still plenty of options to speed you along. The Bearhawk store has lots of parts you can buy for not much more than you could buy raw materials that will save you a lot of time, like the tubing kits which are pre-cut and notched, wing kits with partially built spars so you don't need a large brake, etc. Price wise there are options for every budget. You also don't have to commit, you can scratch build the fuselage and then buy quick build wings or vice-versa. Best thing though is to talk to Bob, talk to Mark and start building something.

    As for welding, EAA workshops, like at Osh Kosh can really teach you a lot and a good torch with good regulators (or a Tig set up) make a world of difference. And riveting is really pretty simple after a little introduction, then its all repetition.
    Rollie VanDorn
    Zanesville, OH
    Patrol Quick Build


    • Frank
      Frank commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Rollie. Regarding those other designs, you can really tell the difference compared to Barrows Bearhawk.

      All good recommendations!

  • #4
    Based on your stated mission I think you should be looking at the Patrol and going Basic Med. 2-up and baggage certainly can be done in the LSA but I think you’d appreciate the extra room of the Patrol on those longer x-countries.

    I wouldn’t say that the fuselage is “complex” to scratch build. It’s certainly not any more complex than any other tube and fabric airplane. It is tedious, repetitive and takes a good amount of fortitude to do a first class job. I’m of that opinion and anyone can scratch build a BH as long as they are willing to put in the time and effort.

    Here’s my opinion which is worth what you paid for it: I’m guessing your “career change” is retirement? Do you really want to spend the next 10 years building? Suppose your 60y/o. You still going to want climb into a small plane and fly cross countries when your 70? Will you physically be able to even if you want to? Personally I don’t want to spend my future retirement building so I can fly as some future date. I’d suggest you take a careful honest look at your future and what you want it to be. If your a builder that enjoys flying then great, spend a good portion of retirement building. If your goal is to fly and you see building as a affordable way to get the plane you want (this is me) then consider how much time you’ll have to fly after you finish the plane. Delaying your retirement by a year, or less, could provide you with the cash to order a kit and cut you build time in half or more.

    Be honest with yourself.

    I'm a Tapatalk user so I can't see your "comment"


    • #5
      Thanks whee! Good points.

      Realistically its 14 months before the possibility of building anything, 6 months before even starting to get the workshop together.

      In that time I also need to get in some instruction, some flight time, get involved in local EAA, exposure to methods and materials.

      I want to build at least as much as want to fly. My "mission" is Mt. Everest - and not everybody makes it to the top. I'm not even at base camp yet.

      But for me, it truly is the journey as much as the destination. I would be satisfied to successfully complete any part of it.


      • #6
        You sound like me. My choice was to build a kit. And then do a scratch build. I want it all. I want to go flying. But a quiet, deep part of me wants to do it all. If I scratch build first, I don't get to fly. for a long time.

        Last edited by svyolo; 11-09-2018, 11:13 PM.


        • #7
          I’m building a Patrol and enjoying it but I have also restored two Aeronca Champs. Have you considered a rebuild project say on an older Citabria. There is plenty of learning to do on a restoration and you don’t need your A&P license to
          do it but you would want an A&P or IA to guide you and to do the final inspection. Excellent support from the factory and no problem with parts availability. This would be your quickest route into the air.


          • #8
            Good suggestions, thanks. I have thought about restoration projects which have appealing aspects, not the least of which is preserving a bit of history. Nice thing about a plans built/kit project is being able to work in limited space at home: complete major components before moving to a hangar for final assembly. This may or may not be possible with a restoration, depending. Barnstormers lists many possibilities. Lots to think about.