The Bearhawk Patrol was designed by Robert Barrows of Fincastle, Virginia. Bob has a BSc degree in Mechanical Engineering and has over 4,000 hours of flight time, almost exclusively in tailwheel aircraft.
Bob has built numerous aircraft, including a scratch built Midget Mustang. He designed and built a single place, high wing, open cockpit STOL plane he named the Grasshopper which was powered by a 65 HP Continental. He designed, built, and then flew an open cockpit two seat acrobatic biplane for aerobatic competition and an RV-3. He restored and flew a Cessna 170 which he used to deliver aircraft engines for his customers. Finding the 170 marginal for that task, in the early 1990's Bob began work designing and building the four place Bearhawk.
Bob's follow-on design, the Patrol, first flew in 2002. His prototype Patrol now has over 1000 hours on it. While very similar in appearance and construction to the four place Bearhawk, the Patrol incorporates some new design elements like the aerofoil shaped tail ribs and a special Riblett airfoil
Wayne Giles, who lives at Fly Inn Estate in Gauteng, built his Bearhawk Patrol, appropriately registered ZU-BHP at Fly Inn Estate where he has an engineering workshop. Wayne is an Arab Horse breeder and a successful industrial refrigeration engineer. He has about 1500 hours on taildragger aircraft. Wayne presently owns and regularly flies a pristine Cessna 180. It took 20 months to complete his Bearhawk Patrol "quick-build" kit in his workshop. I house my Cessna 170B in my happy pilot cave adjacent to the workshop building at Fly Inn and have monitored the construction of ZU-BHP from the start and was asked to do the proving flights for the SA CAA Authority to Fly. Although the Bearhawk Patrol has been likened to a Super Cub on steroids, I found it an amazing upgrade that can scarcely be compared to that type.
This Bearhawk Patrol surprised me on every flight as one of the most benign taildraggers I've ever had the pleasure to fly. In spite of the gentle handling nature of the aircraft, the performance is scintillating in every respect. In my view, the LSA version as well as the regular Patrol will be superb taildragger trainers due to their robust construction and predictable handling characteristics. As ZU-BHP is the first of type in SA, I carried out an extensive testing programme to ensure that there were no surprises for anyone who builds or buys one in SA. ZU-BHP testing was a pleasure and on the advice of General Des Barker, the tests were flown to a carefully pre-determined plan. Wayne built his Bearhawk to an incredibly high standard with diligent attention to detail. The aircraft is fitted with a Superior I0-360 engine and an MT 3 bladed constant speed propeller. This is a wonderful match and the engine is turbine like in its smoothness of operation. The Advanced EFIS is a delight and there are also regular modern RT (Round Thing) instruments.
The new engine on ZU-BHP had to be run-in before serious flight testing that required power changes. I carried out the run-in in accordance with recommended practice. I had to do this in early morning calm air as at high power settings, the speed would be well into the yellow still air only arc. The EFIS allowed close monitoring of the engine parameters that noticeably stabilised after about 11 hours when the rings had bedded.
This Bearhawk Patrol at Max gross of 2000 lbs (907 kg) stalls with full flap at IAS 35 knots (65 km/h) and clean at 45 knots (84 km/h). The design is suitable for STOL operations and 'back country' flying from unprepared fields. The flight envelope of the patrol is quite remarkable. For cross country flying, 75 % power cruise is 130-135 knots (240-250 km/h) due to the clean design and the Riblett aerofoil section. The handling is crisp and during spin testing, the ailerons were effective. The stall, when it happens at ridiculously steep angles of attack results in a straight ahead sink with little tendency to drop a wing unless the aircraft is grossly mishandled. To induce a spin requires power on and abrupt control input. Recovery from a spin happens when the controls are simply released. Normal spin recovery of course makes regular flight resumption a cinch
The spacious interior dimensions can accommodate large pilots and passengers comfortably and the 210 litre fuel capacity permits a safe endurance of 6 hours and up to 9 hours at minimum drag speed. With 2 large occupants and full fuel permits about 50 kg of baggage to be legally carried in the spacious cargo hold which has a conveniently large access door. If the aircraft is built with basic instrumentation, a legal payload of 485 kg is possible. There are a few 4-seater Bearhawks in SA and I'm sure that there will be many more of the 2-seater Patrols in the near future when discerning pilots meet up with this lovely aircraft. The Bearhawk stable of aircraft are available as 51% kits. Please view www.bearhawkaircraft.com
Editor's note: Karl Jensen retired from SAA as a B747-400 Captain in 2003 and has continuously been involved in aviation for more than 50 years and has 26,800 flying hours. He is the present Chairman of the Johannesburg EAA Chapter 322 and has held this position for 8 years