Two New Zealanders are about to fly their four place Bearhawk for the first time. One of them came to the US to get a little stick time in a Bearhawk. Here are his comments:
Very impressed with the whole Bearhawk in general. It’s a stable, docile, high performing aircraft that is extremely capable. It exceeded any expectations from all the PIREPS I have read before. Your transition to the Bearhawk will be smooth I’d imagine.
I’ll give you a run down from today’s flying:
KALM Airport (Alamorgordo) 4199′ AMSL
Wind: 160/13 gusting 17 kts
Take-off was choice. We used the cross vector 16/34 Dirt runway. If you have a look at the chart for Alamorgordo, we got airborne about 50-75 meters BEFORE it turns to into the seal runway. I guess 150 meters or so ground roll. Take-off was just full power, keep straight, and have slight back pressure on the stick. The Bearhawk just flies on its own. I tried the normal technique too, which was easier to control in the windier conditions. With power on the Bearhawk was easy to keep straight.
Climb out was good at around 80-90kts, seeing 1000 fpm climb at 7,500′ DA and over 2000lbs T/O weight. We flew this crazy spiral-climb that Georg had been shown. The Bearhawk’s configured like this, 25* flaps, full power, 30 degree bank, nose attitude 10 or so degrees, climbing at least 600 fpm at 38 KIAS! It was unbelievable man. The Bearhawk just hung in there! I had to be reasonably aggressive on the stick to get a stall out of it – more on that soon. Turns have great visibility without a skylight, so with a skylight will be even better.
Stalls are a complete non-event. For a basic stall, there was no violent buffet, just a smooth transition to the stall phase with the usual Cessna-esk nose drop letting you know you stalled. We did another basic stall and held the elevator full back – the Bearhawk just started descending. Tomorrow we’re guna try chuck a bit of aileron in the mix and see how that goes, but “stable” is the word to use. Flap and power-on stalls were the same thing. The nose drop was more pronounced as you would expect. There was a very slight wing drop, which you could actually pick up with aileron! But release stick pressure and she’s up and going again, it flies itself out of the stall.
Now the spiral climb thing… this was impressive, seriously. Remember what you get taught about climbing turns as a PPL and “what not to do”, we did it – and the Bearhawk kept climbing! A steady 38kts and climbing with 25 flaps on. You really had to be quite aggressive to get it to a stalled state. But when ya did, you just ease the back pressure slightly and she kept right on climbing.
Engine leaning was a good exercise. The modern instruments are very useful. It was very easy to lean and it means a better running engine, so good news all round. LOP at 8500′ got 8.8 GPH out of it with CHT close to 300*F, perfect. Managing the mixture control in the descent needs to be stressed when running lean. Every 500-1000′ it needs to be wound in a few turns.
Circuits were good. We used about 20inHg at 2700rpm giving us around 90kts downwind. Reducing power mid-late downwind to around 10inHg and that’s good for an approach to start with. I went 2 notches of flap off the bat, and added the 3rd on short final, never needed the 4th. We crossed the threshold at 60-65kts for wheels, 55-60kts for 3 point landings. Touchdown was slower.
As mentioned earlier, it is easier to handle the rollout with airspeed and/or power thus the wheeler landing was nicer and easier for me. The 3 point required a bit more foot work once you slowed down (what tailwheel doesn’t?). It’s just when there is no power you just have to be active on the pedals once you’re below 35kts or so. Transitioning from rudder to brakes smoothly and not being excessive on the brakes helped to give a smooth ride. It’s not hard at all – it’s just something to think about.
Baulked landings and go-arounds were sweet as. Georg has installed electric trim and this was slightly slow to respond on the go-around… The flap retraction at low speeds is quite necessary because the flaps do require a bit of force to operate at higher speeds. Something to get used to.
Taxiing in the wind was interesting. Lot of brake work required but not impossibly hard – again welcome to taildraggers. We had to do the whole 270 left turn to go right cause of the strong winds. Similar to the Citabria.
All and all, it is no doubt an impressive aeroplane. We have built the right aircraft and it will suit our purposes well. I am very excited for the next few months ahead. I will add though as caution, since this aircraft is so forgiving it will be easy as to be complacent and lazy, especially if we end up flying other aircraft. All manageable risk, but we will need to be careful that we don’t get too comfortable and push on beyond our own limitations. But if we do find ourselves in a situation where our personal limitations are at the limit – this aircraft is the best to deal with it.
Otherwise mate, the Bearhawk is mint.