Mike Taylor is a veteran design engineer, mechanic, builder and marketing consultant who writes occasionally about extraordinary planes. Mike has spent 30+ years visiting aircraft facilities around the world exploring the fascination of flight.
AUSTIN, TEXAS, MAY 17, 2021 – Bearhawk Aircraft announced today the first flight of a Bearhawk Companion, side-by-side two-place aircraft. The Companion is a utility aircraft with backcountry flying characteristics. It derived from the tandem seating Bearhawk Patrol wings and the Bearhawk 4-Place Model B fuselage.
Design goal cruise speed of 145 mph (126 knots indicated) has been met, as well as payload target of 1,070 lb. The first flight of a Bearhawk Companion was performed by the aircraft’s builder Dave Lenart of Bethel, Vermont. Dave completed the build from a manufactured kit. An experienced builder and mechanic, Dave has built two prior Bearhawk aircraft including 4-Place and LSA models. He is currently assembling a Patrol.
Working closely with Bob Barrows, creator of the Bearhawk lineup, Dave incorporated a 180-hp Lycoming O-360 engine built by Bob into the first flying Companion. The aircraft features completely flush-riveted aluminum wings, a super strong steel tube fuselage, and an airfoil shaped empennage. The two-place Companion handles and performs much like the narrower Patrol. A slightly shorter fuselage makes it sportier than the “SUV/pickup” styled Bearhawk 4-Place.
The build was completed in 10 months and an estimated 1,000 hours—a short timeframe by most kit-built aircraft standards. The first Companion has accumulated 12 hours thus far in flight tests at held Lebanon Municipal Airport (KLEB), also confirming center of gravity loading.
According to Dave, “The shorter nose of the Companion makes taxi visibility very good. With full fuel of 55 gallons, the aircraft has proven very stable.” He noted that clean stall is at 42 knots indicated, and 38 knots with full flaps. The aircraft was engineered by Bob with STOL characteristics in mind. A Riblett airfoil gives the aircraft uncharacteristically higher cruise speeds than other aircraft of its class.
Commenting on the kit, “I see excellent quality welding, fit and finish of the tubular steel frame. Wings were delivered at an advanced stage of completion. Tanks were installed, wings were drilled with proper dihedral and angle of incidence. The wing struts were finished. Its tail surfaces were balanced.” Dave added, “The skylight formers and other improvements are nice updates to the older kits.” He estimated a savings of 100 hours or more from his earlier projects.
Buyers were clamoring for a side-by-side, two-place Bearhawk and the Companion delivered. The result is a very rugged utility plane with a large area for cargo. The model was introduced in August 2019, with first kit deliveries in January of 2020. Dave’s Companion came in at 1,130-lb empty weight and 2,200-lb gross. It spins a Catto 76×62 two-blade, composite cruise propeller.
Bearhawk Owners Gather in New Zealand
The other down under is an untamed wilderness comprising the South and North islands of New Zealand. Together they outsize Great Britain. However, just over 5,000 aircraft are registered in New Zealand, while Great Britain is the fourth-largest aerospace producer in the world and lists about 27,000 aircraft operating in country. Nevertheless, the Bearhawk has come to roost in the southern hemisphere.
The first ever Bearhawk gathering took place in New Zealand the last weekend in April 2021. In attendance were two 4-Place Bearhawk aircraft, a Patrol, and an LSA. “Participants included other wannabes [not to be confused with wallabies] and guys still building,” according to Bearhawk.
Graeme Prankerd, of Stratford, owns PBH, the only Bearhawk Patrol flying in New Zealand. Jonathan Battson of Christchurch and father/son team Murray and Dave Patterson, also of South Island, fly 4-Place Bearhawks NJB and FHR, respectively. Not in the photos was Nic Roberts of Hawkes Bay, his Bearhawk LSA is presently the lone example of this model in New Zealand. Simon Nicholson expects to have his 4-Place completed by Christmas 2021. While the seasons may be different down under, the holiday still falls in the late December timeframe.
All Bearhawk models appeal to backcountry and cross-country flyers alike, and can perform a variety of flying activities. The 4-Place Bearhawk fills a utility and transport role extremely well with its large cabin. The Bearhawk Patrol is a tandem two-place version that excels at accessing remote airstrips. The Bearhawk LSA is a lightweight design that meets U.S. Sport Pilot requirements. The Bearhawk Companion is a side-by-side 2-place model with superior strength and payload capability. Each aircraft excels at stable slow flight and attains higher than expected cruise speeds. Bearhawk Aircraft manufactures high quality quick-build kits for all models.