Matt Kunkel's Bearhawk Build Log

How We Decided on the Bearhawk

My wife, Stacey, and I have been evaluating aircraft since our first trip to Oshkosh together.  We went to AirVenture 2008 with 2 planes in mind: the RV-7 and the Glasair Sportsman 2+2.  Imagine my disappointment when she didn’t like the RV from the moment she tried to contort herself into it.  We’re both pretty tall, so it wasn’t exactly the most comfortable plane to fold into.  (I still have a soft spot for RV’s and would like one... some day.)  With the thoughts of future kids in mind, we decided to look for a 4-place design.  In 2008, we checked out the RV-10, Jabiru 450, DreamAircraft Tundra, and Sportsman 2+2. Throughout the whole process I took my wife's suggestions and preferences very seriously.  I want something she feels safe and comfortable in and likes the looks of so she'll be on-board with the project.

The -10 was pretty quickly ruled out because, “It’s an RV,” according to my wife.  Additionally, it was too expensive for us, especially the quick-build (QB) version.  We liked the Jabiru design, price, and engine.  However, it’s a little too small and the useful load isn’t much more than a 172.  The Dream-Tundra just didn't tickle our fancy; I’m not exactly sure why, maybe it was too slow.

As of leaving Oshkosh 2008, we had decided that the Glasair Sportsman 2+2 was the plane for us.  It was the main design we were interested in after having seen it in Kitplanes (Marc Cook), Popular Mechanics, and on TV.  It’s rugged, fast, and has almost 4 seats.  It’s at least big enough that it would work for the next 10-15 years when our future kids would outgrow it.  At the time, the price of a quick-build (QB) kit was over $73,000 and the slow build was somewhere in the $50,000 range.  Our only reasonable option was to slow build it, and possibly pick up kit components second-hand to honor our commitment to not go into debt on the project.  I knew I needed time to slow build, so over the next year I tried several times to get out to Arlington to get a ride and order the tail kit.

I should mention that my wife’s favorite plane at the show was the Husky.  It’s  2 place with no luggage capacity, but she really likes the looks / design.  Before we knew anything about a Bearhawk, a fabric tail-dragger caught her eye, too bad we didn’t stumble across the Bearhawk in `08.

I never made it to Arlington in `08, despite several tries and we decided that we’d go to Oshkosh '09, take a ride, and order the tail kit if everything checked out. At a spring 2009 EAA732 fly-in, Marvin Haught told us about the Bearhawk, which we had never heard of up until this point (not sure how we missed it either).  I researched it online and quickly became undecided on kits once again.  This was quite uncomfortable after planning for almost a year to build a Sportsman.  The new plan for OSH09 was to compare the Bearhawk and Sportsman.

OSH09 was great and we were really glad we didn't start on a Sportsman.  As it turns out, in our minds, there is no comparison in the planes (sorry Sportsman owners)!   The Bearhawk is like an overgrown, homebuilt  Husky, and the QB kit is cheaper than the slow-build Sportsman!  I knew nothing about fabric, so we took the covering class at OSH and really liked the process.   After getting home from OSH and evaluating a few more items we regretted not taking a demo ride at the show.  We got in contact with Avipro to plan a trip down to Austin for that purpose.  As it turned out, the plane was headed back from the show in a couple of days and Keith Vasey stopped by VBT to give us a ride.

It took one Bearhawk ride and we were absolutely hooked.  Love the takeoff performance, luggage room, and load hauling.   The 130-155mph cruise is acceptable and better than the Arrow 180 we're used to flying.  For the Bearhawk we are compromising on speed and fuel efficiency when compared to a Sportsman, but the kit is much cheaper and roomier.  We realized after searching online that a 3rd row seat is even possible if our family becomes bigger than 4, which is a real bonus.  We checked the EAA directory for all designs once again and agree nothing is better suited to our wants/needs and agreed upon the Bearhawk!

At the time (Mid-Late 09) we were prepared to get started on a slow-kit, but weren't ready for the whole QB.  The stock market was in the mortgage-meltdown 
dumps (our net worth was basically in half from the year before), we didn't have a good place to build, and Stacey was slated for Jaw surgery in a couple of months (long recovery) so we decided to postpone the build until Spring.

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  1. Whats the status on your Bearhawk? I’m almost ready to start building one and have been looking at all the info I can find. Great choice of aircraft!

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