There is an assumption by some that because an airplane is a light-sport airplane (LSA) that it is a compromise and can’t fulfill the function expectation of a “real” airplane. It is assumed that it will be lighter, smaller, and slower. Of course that isn’t necessarily true, especially in the case of Bob Barrow’s latest design, the new Bearhawk LSA
“From the moment you climb aboard the Bearhawk LSA, you feel like you are sitting in a real substantial, solid airplane.”
The prototype Bearhawk LSA came in at 728 lbs. empty weight, with an aluminum prop and no electrics. Barrows estimates that 750 pounds is a realistic empty weight for a builder who works hard to keep the airplane light. With the LSA maximum gross weight of 1320 lbs. (in the utility category), this 2-place LSA has a very respectable useful load. Barrows has said that the airplane is really designed for a max gross weight of 1500 lbs (in utility category), so there is a built-in margin of safety for those who do not have to fly under the LSA rules.
The Bearhawk LSA can take off in as little as 200 feet and climb at 1500 ft. per minute and then level off and cruise at 120 mph sipping only 5 gph.
The Bearhawk LSA utilizes the traditional 4130 Chromalloy tube and fabric along with all-aluminum, flush riveted wings.
The Bearhawk LSA can stay aloft for a very long time. Barrows reports an economy cruise speed of about 110 mph sipping only 4 GPH with the Continental C-85 engine. With a 30 gallon tank that gives you over 7 hours in the air. Not many vehicles can do 110 mph only consuming 25 miles per gallon. If you want to get there a bit faster, you can push it up in cruise to 120 mph burning about 5 GPH.
Also, with a nice roomy cockpit, you can cruise in comfort. The cabin width is a spacious 31” wide and 97” long. The Bearhawk LSA can be flown with the windows open for taking those perfect aerial photos.
After working with Mr. Way for about a year on his QB Bearhawk LSA. I wanted to drop you a line about the project. First I would like to say it was a pleasure working with you and your team of fine craftsmen. The kit construction was excellent with all the difficult parts done to very high standards, it required no jigs and all parts fit as per the plans. My subsequent flight proved that Bob Barrows designed a great flying aircraft. Performance of the aircraft is great, meeting or beating the advertised numbers. This is a FUN airplane to fly. This aircraft redefines LSA. A large guy cockpit, classic looks and configuration, speed to the edge of LSA limits, great handling plus short takeoff and landing roll. A real airplane and a winner kit.
Before I talked to Bob Barrows, I had thought about what the differences were between my old J 3, homebuilt PA 11, and the Bearhawk LSA that could account for the differences in spin characteristics out of a slip. After all, more things seemed to be similar than different. In a slip, all would have the air flowing diagonally over the wing effectively, it would seem, shortening the wingspan and increasing the chord. The ailerons seemed similar. The only thing that I thought of that was quite different (at least on my planes) was the dihedral, but I could not envision how that might cause the difference, so I called Bob to discuss the matter. Bob told me that he thinks the primary difference that accounts for the better behavior with the Bearhawk is the airfoil used. Both of the rag wing Pipers use the same airfoil, essentially, which is very different from that of the LSA. I’ll take Bob’s word for this as he is the expert and I know for a fact that the airfoil used on the LSA far outperforms that of the Pipers in other areas such as climb and speed while still allowing impressive slow flight so I’ll just add one more thing to my list of reasons that I think the Bearhawk is not just a great LSA; it is a great airplane, period.
I think the only big surprise for me was when you let me fly the LSA. I was amazed at how much fun that plane is to fly. I only have a little time in Cubs and I have always thought that if a Cub had 100hp, it would be great, especially if you could change that door so it isn’t so awkward to get in and out of the Cub. Well, forget all that – the Cub will just never be what the Bearhawk LSA is. Super short take offs, great rate of climb, and higher cruise than a J3 could ever hope for. All in a plane that flies great, is easy to get in and out of and even has an adjustable front seat, I guess when they were making Cubs all pilots were the same size or something. If my mission didn’t involve long cross countries and hauling more payload than will fit in any light sport plane, I would be kicking myself for not building the LSA instead and saving a bunch of money on a smaller engine and fixed pitch prop.