Alaska-based Bearhawk builder Robert Taylor built his 4-Place model to handle a trifecta of conditions on the Kenai Peninsula where landing locations are as abundant as the salmon, caribou, and cranes found in or near its wetlands, rainforests, and glaciers.
First, he installed Edo 2870 floats that were originally certified for Cessna 180/185 Skywagons and are serviced and supported by Kenmore Air Harbor Inc., of Kenmore, Washington.
“It has proven to be a very nice, straight forward floatplane,” said Taylor, who also appreciates the double cargo doors and forward visibility that he described as “exceptional on the float-equipped Bearhawk.”
Taylor assembled the aircraft with his son, and since they fly year-round, the pair decided to make the 4-Place convertible from wheels to floats to skis so they could take full advantage of the local environment. “I am on skis now, but it’s time to swap to wheels,” said Taylor as he prepared for melting snow and soggy tundra. “In June, the airplane will go to a nearby lake and be on floats again,” he explained.
The Taylors hung a carbureted 260-horsepower Lycoming O-540 on the aircraft because of the additional weight of the floats. He said that adding floats slows the aircraft by 15 mph in cruise because of increased drag; however, the six-cylinder Lycoming familiar to Piper Cherokee Six owners “has all the power you could ever need, which makes it a safe airplane to fly.”
Even with the additional surface area presented by the floats, the STOL airplane’s flight controls “are very responsive and can be flown with two fingers,” Taylor noted. He typically flies at a power setting of 2,200 rpm and 22 inches of manifold pressure for an economical cruise of 130 mph at 11 to 12 gallons per hour. When the aircraft is outfitted with wheels, Taylor said he has clocked speeds up to 160 mph and landed at 52 mph.
In the winter, Taylor’s Bearhawk 4-Place is fitted with Aero Ski M3000 wheel replacement main skis and a T3000 tail ski that substitutes for the Scott 3200 tailwheel. With the skis attached, “handling characteristics are similar to flying on wheels,” he said.
Another of Taylor’s goals was to build a “new old airplane” with a feel that recaptures his earliest experiences in aviation. For the interior, he installed classic steam gauges with older rebuilt instruments. A panel-mounted Sigtronics Corp. intercom and noise-reduction headsets augment a Communications Specialists TR-720 handheld com radio while a Garmin GPS provides situational awareness during VFR flights. Headset plugs for both the pilot and passenger are mounted aft of their seats to accommodate a quick dash from the cockpit to the dock without becoming entangled in cords.
Bearhawk Aircraft said in a news release that Taylor’s “triphibious” aircraft “performs equally well on wheels, floats, and skis apropos of the season.” The Bearhawk 4-Place Quick Build kit price is $49,000 without engine, instruments, or upholstery, which are sourced separately. A rebuilt Lycoming O-540 E4B5 runs around $38,000, but a previously owned engine might be less than half that, said a Bearhawk Aircraft spokesperson.
In other news, Bearhawk Aircraft Model B owners/builders have conducted several flights in the four-seat STOL model designed by engineer Bob Barrows that was updated to a Riblett 30-413.5 airfoil. The company also recently began deliveries of the six-seat Model 5 that was announced in May 2020.