|Why Bearhawk? Hmm, first maybe a description
of the Bearhawk, for those not familiar with the design is in order. It's
a big four place aircraft, with a 1250 pound usable load.
Here's the specs (borrowed from Paul Beam's site) Why reinvent the wheel? Or the html, as the case may be.
|Maximum Speed||175 mph|
|Cruise Speed||120 - 150 mph|
|Landing Speed||40 mph|
|Take off roll||250 - 600 ft.|
|Range (55 gal @ 60%)||800 miles|
|Empty weight||1150 lb.|
|Gross weight||2400 lb.|
|Wing span||33 ft|
|Wing area||180 ft2|
|Length||23 ft 6 in|
|Cabin width||42 in|
|Engine HP range||150 - 260|
* Performance figures are for the prototype (N6890R) with a 170 HP Lycoming IO-360 with no electrical system. Aircraft weight and performance are dependent upon engine choice, electrical system, and avionics.
Bob Barrows, the designer of the Bearhawk, estimates that the build time at between 1500 and 2000 hours, for this built-from-scratch, plans-only airplane. Why spend 1500+ hours to build an airplane? Why not just go buy a used Cessna 180, you might ask. Or why not at least build a kit, that has a lot of the parts pre-made?
Well, price and seats play a BIG part of this equation. The Bearhawk is normally configured with 4 seats, however, after talking to the designer, it could be configured to carry 6, as long as the back seat passengers aren't too big, by using club seating and using up a lot of the cargo area. This is an acceptable trade-off for Knightflyer. If the project takes as long as he believes it will (he doubts he'll finish in under 8 to 10 years...), he may well be able to go back to the normal 4 place arrangement. The 6 seat possibility was needed to sell this to his lady. She's actually very supportive of his building an airplane, but she doesn't want him to spend hundreds of hours, and thousands of dollars, then not be able to take the family up in it. "Gee, hon, it's not like we'd have to hire a baby sitter by then..."
Why else? Well, while Knightflyer loves the sexy lines of composites, he's rather fond of having something that is as survivable in a crash situation as possible. In his opinion, steel tube provides a pretty good suit of armor, if something bad were to happen. Further, the low cost of the airframe may allow him to splurge on a Ballistic recovery system (read: really big parachute, that brings the whole plane down in one piece, more or less, for those new to aircraft).
Lastly, but perhaps most important is the cost. As you have probably guessed, Knightflyer has a swarm of kids, and kids cost money! However, eventually, kids move/get thrown out, and most household budgets quit bleeding red ink at that point. The airframe cost is currently estimated at $6000, and this bird can be started just for the cost of the plans, a sheet of aluminum, and some forming blocks. Thus, Knightflyer can start building, and at the same time pursue raises in his job to help the project along. In fact, he already has a plan in place. Mundanely, Knightflyer is a computer technician, and his employer has offered to send him to classes for an MCSE certificate (Microsoft Certified system engineer). Also, they'll pay for his tuition so he can finish his degree. Since the family budget is (barely) in the black, a portion of any raises that the MCSE & degree create could be channeled into his aircraft project. This is very good, since the engine & instruments for this beast have the potential to cost far more than the airframe...