Alaskan Bearhawk Demonstrates ‘Trifecta’ of Seasonal Versatility

For the third year in a row, Bearhawk pilot Jonathan Battson won a STOL competition in New Zealand in the heavy touring category. Phil Craig

Based in Kenai, Alaska, a coastal city southwest of Anchorage on the mouth of the Kenai River, Robert Taylor, owner/operator/builder of a four-place kit-built Bearhawk has access to shorelines, waterways, and often-frozen tundra throughout the year. To make full use of his “triphibious” Bearhawk, Taylor has demonstrated his airplane’s performance operating from turf, water, and snow in the past year.

Taylor and his son built the aircraft together, with the original idea to put it on floats. “I fly year-round here in Alaska,” Taylor said, “And I am on skis now, but it will soon be time to swap to wheels. In June, the airplane will go to a nearby lake and be on floats again.”

The triphibious Bearhawk is powered by a 260-hp carbureted Lycoming O-540-E4B5, six-cylinder engine, the same big-bore engine type typically found on Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six and Britten Norman BN-2 Islander aircraft. Taylor is an A&P technician and former inspector, and since completing his Bearhawk in August of 2017, he’s accumulated more than 400 hours of flight time in it.

On wheels, Taylor said the aircraft is powerful and responsive with plenty of power from the Lycoming O-540 up front. “The flight controls are very responsive and can be flown with two fingers. Stalls are very predictable with no tendency to drop one wing. The six-cylinder Lycoming has all the power you could ever need, which makes it a safe airplane to fly. I’ve seen speeds of up to 160 mph IAS in the aircraft and landing speeds of 52 mph, both while on wheels,” he said.

Robert Taylor’s Bearhawk is based in Kenai, Alaska, and sees flight time all year long on wheels, floats, and skis. Bearhawk/Robert Taylor

The Bearhawk fits perfectly into the Alaska environment where Taylor flies, the pilot said. “Building the Bearhawk as a floatplane for operation on the Kenai Peninsula equates to placing it in its natural habitat as landing locations are abundant. On skis, the extra power comes in very useful in deep powder snow. When flying frozen tundra, this combination gives us a very useful ski plane as handling characteristics are similar to flying on wheels,” he added.

Another Bearhawk four-place aircraft has been showing off the STOL capability of the model in New Zealand, where Bearhawk pilot Jonathan Battson has won the ‘heavy touring’ class of the annual Healthy Bastards STOL competition in Blenheim, New Zealand, for the third year in a row. Battson completed his Bearhawk trifecta by winning his class during the competition in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Along with its four-seat Model B, kit-built Bearhawk aircraft are available in the Bearhawk Patrol, the side-by-side Bearhawk Companion, two-place Bearhawk LSA, and their six-place Bearhawk Model 5, which can accommodate a 300-hp Lycoming IO-540 engine. Quick-build kits are available as well as plans only for more adventurous builders. The Austin, Texas-based company will not be exhibiting this year at the Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo April 13 to 19 in Lakeland, Florida.

Dan Pimentel is an instrument-rated private pilot and former airplane owner who has been flying since 1996. As an aviation journalist and photographer, he has covered all aspects of the general and business aviation communities for a long list of major aviation magazines, newspapers and websites. He has never met a flying machine that he didn’t like, and has written about his love of aviation for years on his Airplanista blog. For 10 years until 2019, he hosted the popular ‘Oshbash’ social media meetup events at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

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