Bearhawk Aircraft on April 9 announced the successful operations of a Bearhawk 4-Place aircraft on wheels, floats and skis. Built by owner and operator Robert Taylor of Kenai, Alaska, a coastal city southwest of Anchorage on the mouth of the Kenai River, the “triphibious aircraft’s versatility is well suited for regional access to shorelines, waterways and often-frozen tundra.
“My son and I built the aircraft together,” said Taylor. “The idea from the start was to put it on floats. I fly year-round here in Alaska. I am on skis now, but it’s time to swap to wheels. In June, the airplane will go to a nearby lake and be on floats again.”
Taylor’s triphibious Bearhawk is powered by a carbureted 260-hp Lycoming O-540-E4B5, 6-cylinder engine. For comparison, Bearhawk notes this is the same big-bore block typically found on Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six and Britten Norman BN-2 Islander aircraft. Taylor is an A&P mechanic and former inspector. Since completing his Bearhawk in August of 2017, he’s accumulated more than 400 hours of flight time on it.
“The flight controls are very responsive and can be flown with two fingers. Stalls are very predictable with no tendency to drop one wing,” said Taylor. “The 6-cylinder Lycoming has all the power you could ever need, which makes it a safe airplane to fly.”
Taylor has reached speeds of up to 160 mph IAS in the aircraft and claims landing speeds of 52 mph, both achieved on wheels. “The ability to fly fast and also fly slow makes the aircraft very versatile. At a power setting of 22 x 22 [2,200 rpm x 22 inches MP], the Bearhawk economically cruises at around 130 mph burning 11–12 gph.”
Bearhawk explains Taylor’s installation of Edo 2870 floats (now serviced and supported by Kenmore Air of Kenmore, Washington) required minimal modification. The model 2870 was originally certified for use on Cessna 180/185 Skywagons. Adding floats slows down the aircraft by 15 mph in cruise, due to increased drag, according to Taylor. A ventral fin (a single strake / tail fin beneath the empennage) was also installed. This enhances directional stability when flying at higher angles of attack.
Taylor claims takeoff time from idle to separation is approximately six seconds at sea level. An allowed gross weight of 2,700 lb on floats makes the aircraft “truly useful” he says.
“The double cargo doors really shine when loading or unloading cargo on floats. Forward visibility is exceptional on the float-equipped Bearhawk.” On skis, Taylor notes, the cruise speed of the Bearhawk 4-Place is slightly faster than on wheels due to reduced drag. “The extra power comes in very useful on skis in deep powder snow, and especially on floats,” he said.
As winter conditions dictate, Taylor’s Bearhawk gets fitted with M3000 main skis (all metal wheel replacements from Aero Skis of Brooten, Minnesota) and a T3000 tail ski (an all-aluminum wheel-penetration ski for the Scott 3200 tailwheel). When flying frozen tundra, Taylor explained, “This combination gives a very useful ski plane. Handling characteristics are similar to flying on wheels.
“As a pilot, I find the Bearhawk meets all my needs. As a licensed aircraft mechanic, I have had experience with just about all the classic general aviation light aircraft,” Taylor continued. “With this in mind, I find the quality of materials and workmanship of the 4-Place Bearhawk compare favorably with any certified category aircraft I have worked on.”
(Photo: Bearhawk Aircraft, Robert Taylor)