At workweek’s end, winding down only to wind back up might seem antithetical to that hungering for a few day’s break. But for Mike Silvernagle, this routine makes perfect sense. The responsibilities of managing his construction business actually compel him to welcome the end of the typical workweek with yet another set of projects. The many projects inside his hanger may seem grand, but by comparison they are quite small compared to the large-scale construction jobs he runs during the week. For Mike, the airplane builds are the small stuff, at least with regards to easing the worries on his mind.
Moreover, Mike likes turning his airplane building projects into springloaded adventures. Another way one might look at it is, building airplanes enables him to spend his winding down with mother nature—Earth’s grandest builder. To admire her work, to soar above and lose oneself in the middle her earthly paradise, this time is the most constructive in his view.
Starting in 2017, Mike set out to build a Bearhawk Patrol for the express purpose of flying the backcountry in his native Saskatchewan. The Patrol was his first aircraft project from a kit, and the result is now a spectacular one-off example of the Bearhawk lineup. Around the same time as the aircraft first took flight in 2018, Mike was enlisted as the Canadian distributor for Bearhawk Aircraft, the model line’s manufacturer of kits and parts. Mike’s enthusiasm for everything Bearhawk is self-evident, and he’s well acquainted with how these aircraft are put to use.
There are countless places for fishing in Upper Canada, though Mike numbers three as sufficient for his preferred form of the sport—flying in. Saskatchewan is a province with no natural borders, its marked by prairies of grasslands, plains and lowlands stretching in every direction. By all counts, it’s an earthly paradise, uniquely his own Shangri-La. This particular geography is the whyfor of the region’s many lakes. And by December 15th every year, they are frozen solid.
This past winter, a trio of airplanes, two of which were Bearhawks, took to the tundra despite the freeze-over and raffish extreme cold temps. Including Mike’s Patrol, an experimental 4-Place Bearhawk utility aircraft and a Cessna 185 went along for the temptation. Mike had previously owned and flown there in this same C-185.
Tongue-in-cheek, Mike pointed out, “The 185 owner was previously freeloading off me.” Now both fisherman have their own skiplane aircraft. Evidentiary proof also exists that Mike enjoys the company of friends as much as the sport of flying in for fishing.
The trip was to be a proving ground for the new C-185 owner as he had previously never flown on skis. However, his prior floatplane experience would pay off as the aircraft was on amphibs first, according to Mike.
“I went down the Bearhawk road six or seven years ago,” Mike capitulated. First, he purchased a completed 4-Place Bearhawk from its owner/builder. He later bought the Bearhawk Patrol kit as a companion to the 4-Place. Both he conceived as upgrades to his admiringly steadfast C-185.
Mike recalled his very first skiplane fly-in, “It was minus 26 [degrees] Celsius. We landed on the lake with a generator and a tent. We almost turned back twice due to moisture inside cabin that was freezing on windshield. After finally arriving, we set up the tent, started the generator and plugged the plane in. Temps warmed up to a comfortable minus 12 Celsius during the day,” he effused, “and we were fishing in hoodies.”
This type of adventure has long been a dream for Mike, as well as his convincingly like-minded flying companions. “To go where nobody would go,” he asserted, implicating the challenge to be greater than the simple idea.
Mike pointed out, “There are definitely things you worry about. Such as wings snapping off in the extreme temps, and engine health.” Planning for running an engine in severe cold requires advance preparations including preheat and controlling air flow. Dressing the pilot properly involves wearing full skin suits. One of Mike’s favorite attributes of his Bearhawk is its heated seats. Mike also points to the autopilot as a key component, much more than a luxury, to his backcountry flying excursions. An autopilot allows a pilot time to tend to and monitor everything in the engine compartment as well as the environmental variations on the outside.
Having access to a cabin on a skiplane excursion is a step up from sleeping in a tent. Mike’s pad is six miles from “real” land. “While it may look like a peninsula there’s no road,” he said. “It is boat or fly-in access only,” making it literally a pad. The shelter is a solid wood log cabin with wood heat gathered from the trees around. On arrival, one must auger through the ice to pump water into the cabin. With no electrical lines, he supplanted, “solar power offers a workable solution.”
For a bit of extravagance, there’s a hot tub. The water gets to 105 degrees (F) by way of a wood fire beneath. While the pilots are warmed and sheltered, the skiplanes are left exposed. Therefore, at night it is necessary to cover the whole plane. Pilots are up at 5:00 AM to fire up the generators. This delivers preheat to loosen up the engine oil and dissipate the moisture camped inside. Two or three hours later, Mike and crew huddle again with their planes to unstick the skis and set up for fishing alongside their ski-footed fowl.
Next to the main cabin, there’s also a guest cabin, but according to Mike, no neighbors for about six miles. The 26 miles of lake are accessible via boat in the summer. When flying in during the thaw, Mike moors his floatplane on an island and arrives at the cabin via canoe that’s left there year round.
Presently, Mike prefers taking his Bearhawk Patrol on fishing trips. Alternatively, he has the Bearhawk 4-Place, similar to the (green) one his fishing buddy brought in on this trip. Also, Mike is close to finishing up the build of a Bearhawk LSA, a slightly smaller version of the Patrol that will satisfy Canadian Advanced Ultra-light Aeroplane (AULA) requirements.
While Mike concedes the Cessna 185 as the gold standard for utility and flying into remote locations, this one can get into trouble due to its wheel penetration skis. With the wheels and skis both contacting the ice, one must, per Mike, “Pull it up for cool down every five minutes and inch it forward. If you leave it set, the snow and ice will melt and then will refreeze and stick.” Icy water builds up in the gap between the wheel and ski making the bond especially strong.
Comparing landing performance to the C-185, Mike says, “The 4-Place [Bearhawk] gets in in half distance. Quite simply, it excels at slow speed performance.” The Bearhawk has large cargo doors, by design, for ease of loading bulky and heavy cargo. “This also makes it great for setting up a tarp/tent structure off both the cargo doors.” With such a shelter set up, Mike says he’s able cook on the floor of its cabin.
Comparing to the other gold standard, the Piper Super Cub, Mike adds, “The Bearhawk Patrol on skis is 140 mph aircraft. A Super Cub, on the other hand, is not even close to that speed.” Its swiftness advantage is not lost at the low end. The Patrol lands at 35 mph, also outperforming the typical Cub.
Avoiding the sticky ice issue, the Bearhawks Patrol and 4-Place had straight skis. However, one might add that flying with straight skis limits the number of landing options enroute. Fortunately for Mike, there’s La Ronge (Barber Field) Airport off Lac La Ronge in the center of Saskatchewan territory. The airport has a ski strip, so landing and refueling there is possible if needed. But for Mike, another plus of the Bearhawk is that it can hold enough fuel for a round trip to the cabin. During his summer trips, Mike stockpiles avgas at the cabin to be more self-sufficient.
Canada has its share of “portage” lakes—those only accessible by canoe. While one waterway may offer better fishing, getting to it requires carrying the canoe across land. This is particularly relevant for fly-in visitors. Skiplane and floatplane operations require space for takeoff and landing. There’s not really a STOL option here.
“What’s more you can’t just drop in and land, or leave the mains down.” Mike explained, “You must fly over the snow covered ice creating a long set of tracks where you intend to land, and fish.” This will cause flood ice, by “heaving” on top. And it keeps happening, in layers. As you wait for the track to refreeze, you then come back and do it again along the side, “because you never land in exactly the same place,” Mike added. You do this in three or four sets to pack down your landing track.
To get out, he explained, “You must make 360-degree turns to pack the whole area down. While the lake is frozen under three feet of ice, the flood ice still comes in. Again, it’s all about the layers.”
Mike assures that it’s generally not unsafe. There’s no threat of falling through, but getting stuck requires a lot of work. To lift the plane, and repack the snow beneath it, requires leverage and ingenuity when isolated and your only resources may be a tree and a rope.
The 3-day weekend fishing trip was nothing out of the ordinary for Mike. For the non-winterized type, it’s an exceptional way to enjoy flying. Mike usually makes plans to go when the temps are warmer than minus 20 degrees C. To buffer from unexpected weather, pilots are always aware that there’s no rush to get back.
While attending to domestic things like cooking, cleaning, resting and hot tubbing, the planes remain on the lake the entire time. “The house is on an island about eight miles long,” Mike exclaimed. “There are others around on three-acre islands.” In this setting, remote takes on a whole new meaning and that’s the winding down component.
“The world is a small place when you have plane,” said Mike. He lives near Regina, 200 miles north of the U.S. border. Tazin Lake is in the far northwest of Saskatchewan, seven miles from Northwest Territories of Canada. The two regions are divided by the 60th parallel, a line half as long as the Equator. In his Bearhawk, Mike can fly up to the lake and back in one day.
Neighboring Tazin Lake is Lake Athabasca. On its southern shores is Athabasca Sand Dune, one of largest in the world. “You can land there, and there’s no house for 300 miles. There are hardly any trees. You get a sense that no one has ever set foot there before,” said Mike.
The Bearhawk is so well suited for this type of flying, Mike Silvernagle and Bearhawk Aircraft Canada portend to have found that mystical, harmonious place literarily known as Shangri-La. Perhaps it does exist in Saskatchewan, unencumbered by natural borders, a permanently happy isolated land. For Mike, getting to unwind is being gently guided to earthly places in the well-equipped Bearhawk skiplane he deftly conceived and constructed.
AUSTIN, TEXAS, MAY 21, 2020 – Bearhawk Aircraft announced today the introduction of its largest Bearhawk model to date, the Bearhawk 5. The new aircraft was designed by engineer Bob Barrows and is the first in the lineup of Bearhawk aircraft to use a 300-horsepower engine, seating up to six occupants.
The Bearhawk Model 5 made its first flight on May 3rd. The prototype has flown more than five hours in testing and is exhibiting excellent flight characteristics, according to test pilot Rollie van Dorn. Further flight testing is expected to confirm the airplane’s projected 3,000 lb gross weight.
The Bearhawk Model 5 has been under development for two years. Slightly wider and longer than the original 4-Place Bearhawk, the new design is powered by a spec-built Lycoming IO-580 engine. The first Bearhawk Model 5 was built in collaboration with avid Bearhawk builder Collin Campbell of Bolivar, Missouri. Collin has scratch built a fleet of different Bearhawk models and has a reputation for outstanding workmanship.
Mark Goldberg, president of Avipro / Bearhawk Aircraft, manufactures Quick Build kits of the Bearhawk models. Mark has been eager to announce the Model 5 for some time. “A brief history of how this design came about… a friend of design engineer Bob Barrows requested he create a larger version of the Bearhawk 4-Place as this friend is a big guy. Bob did the drawings for his friend who began construction on it. However, health issues forced him to quit working on the project and it sat for about a year. One day I was talking to Collin Campbell who told me he was getting bored now that his Bearhawk LSA was finished and flying.” Mark said a light bulb came on and, thus, a plan was hatched for Collin to finish the Model 5 project. “Truly, there is no one in the world, except Bob himself, more qualified to have built this prototype than Collin,” he concluded.
In many ways, the new Model 5 can be compared to the Bearhawk 4-Place the way the Cessna 185 is compared to the Cessna 180. Just like the two Cessnas, both the Model 5 and 4-Place use the same wing. The Cessna wing has 174 sq ft of surface area while the Bearhawk wing has 186 sq ft with its Riblett airfoil. Compared to the 4-Place Bearhawk, already bigger than a C-180, the Model 5 has a wider, longer fuselage and features a bigger motor. Specifically, the Model 5 is two inches wider than the Bearhawk 4-Place, and its cabin is fourteen inches longer. Overall length of the Model 5 is twenty-four inches longer than the 4-Place. There is room in the Model 5 for 5th and 6th seats in the back or, alternatively, extra cargo space. The Model 5 has considerably more interior room than a C-185.
While the Bearhawk 4-Place can use four-cylinder Lycoming engines, up to the parallel valve O-540 series, the Model 5’s smallest engine will be the six-cylinder 250/260 hp Lycoming O-540. The Model 5 has the ability to use the heavier angle-valve cylinder Lycoming O-540 and IO-580 of 300 and 315 hp respectively.
The prototype Model 5 partly owes its outstanding performance to the Lycoming IO-580 at 315 hp. A three-blade Hartzell 82-inch diameter carbon fiber Trailblazer propeller completes the package with its really strong takeoff thrust and climb. At a projected gross weight of 3,000 lb, with utility category strength at full gross, the 1,512 lb empty weight of the Model 5 results in a plane that is expected to carry double its own weight.
Cruise speeds around 160 mph are also expected as 156 mph TAS, at 3,500 ft and 24-squared, or 72-percent power, was seen during tests. Reduced, economy lean-of-peak fuel flow speeds of around 145-150 mph and 14.5 to 15 GPH are also anticipated. Takeoff performance was 220 to 300 ft. Landings were kept to under 650 ft as the wet, muddy runway conditions in the very middle of the 1,350-ft runway allowed use of only half the strip, Rollie reported. “Collin did a beautiful job building it, and he and I worked together for the three days I was there to get as much done as we could. The Bearhawk Model 5 offered no surprises on takeoff or climb out. With all that power, things happen quickly.” Rollie also noted power-on stalls to be less than 40 mph.
The Bearhawk lineup includes two-place Patrol, Companion and LSA models. The 4-Place and new Model 5 fill out the larger end of the lineup with excellent carrying capacity. All are available in kit or plans and excel at accessing remote airstrips. 2-Place and 4-Place Bearhawk kits are now shipping, including a Bearhawk 4-Place Model B shipment to New Zealand today. Bearhawk aircraft are renown for their rugged construction and large cargo areas.
– Bearhawk –
AUSTIN, TEXAS, MAY 11, 2020 – Bearhawk Aircraft announced today the first flight of a Bearhawk Patrol in Brazil and a Bearhawk LSA in New Zealand. The Patrol and LSA are tandem two-place aircraft designed by engineer Bob Barrows. Delivering superior strength and durability, these aircraft fly fast and land slow. Bearhawk aircraft are also known for their short field capability, gentle slow speed manners, and hauling capacity. Also announced, a New Zealand based Bearhawk wins a STOL competition down under for the second year in a row.
The Brazilian Bearhawk Patrol was completed in January. First flight followed after “some time waiting for official paperwork.” The aircraft received its official release on April 10th. Build customer was Fernando Frahm, along with his son Andre and co-owner/builder Roberto Lindner.
“Boa tarde Mark,” was the message sent from Alexandre Henrique de Barros of Magnólia Cubs, the Bearhawk Aircraft representative in Brazil. Alex continued, “Brazil’s first Bearhawk Patrol flew on 4/10/2020 out of Lontras, Santa Catarina, Brazil (ICAO SSLN).” The Quick Build kit was purchased during EAA AirVenture 2014 by Fernando Frahm of Rio do Sul, Santa Catarina, Brazil. “A few months after the arrival of the kit, Fernando sold a share of the kit to his friend Roberto, who joined him in the construction. The average time spent working on the aircraft was about four hours a week, eventually increasing up to eight hours during the covering and painting phases. The basic configuration includes a Superior IO-360 180-horsepower engine with a Dual Plasma II Ignition system [from Light Speed] and a constant speed propeller from MT-Propeller [of Germany]. According to Roberto, the Patrol exhibited takeoff and climb performance never before experienced in any aircraft of its class.”
Roberto also highlighted the handling characteristics, especially concerning the Patrol’s predictability. He attributed this to the “harmony and balance of the flight controls and well-dimensioned surface areas,” adding, “It truly felt that we had had been flying this aircraft for a long me.” Speaking on the construction, Roberto emphasized the high quality of the welding and kit components in general, its ease of assembly, and constant support from Avipro, Bearhawk Aircraft’s kit manufacturer.
Though not as ubiquitous as the “corner bar” in Brazil, the number of Bearhawks in the country is expanding. Fernando’s kit, being the first shipment of a Bearhawk Patrol to Brazil, unites with another local operator of a 4-Place Bearhawk model. Also using an IO-360 Continental engine, this 4-Place Bearhawk was the first to fly with that engine.
As a rancher in southern Brazil, Fernando knew immediately this was the aircraft for him. His decision followed a demo flight at AirVenture. A Patrol was just the airplane he needed to land at the short strip on his ranch, and it would also allow him greater travel flexibility at better cruise speeds than similar STOL/utility aircraft he had been considering.
This two-minute video, created by Mike Silvernagle of Bearhawk Aircraft Canada, highlights the Bearhawk Patrol’s capabilities and modern equipment, illustrating why its perfect for unimproved fields and travel expeditions… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdLJl-D_qXM.
Nic Roberts of Plane Torque Ltd. in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, built and recently flew the first Bearhawk LSA aircraft in New Zealand. The aircraft was purchased as a Quick Build kit. According to Nic, “The LSA has produced a large amount of interest from local aviators. The Bearhawk line of aircraft have become well known for their capability. They perform well in New Zealand.” He noted that other 4-Place Bearhawk aircraft are flying in the island country and making impressions. “A point of difference is these aircraft have a presence more like standard category aircraft than amateur-built.
“We have flown just over ten hours in our Bearhawk LSA aircraft, completing the mandatory test flight period. After the first flight, our test pilot said, ‘What a fantastic little aircraft,’ along with an enormous grin on his face. The aircraft is performing very well with its Continental O-200-D and Catto propeller. The test flying creates much attention during takeoff and landing on the local airfield, Hastings Aerodrome.
“We are yet to push the Bearhawk capability to establish it absolute limits. However, my test pilot of 3500-plus-hours experience states, ‘Your Bearhawk LSA is the fastest to get airborne from all the aircraft I have flown.’ The taxi roll of the Bearhawk LSA is incredibly smooth and soft as the landing gear strut/shocks provide fantastic support. I am really enjoying the journey this Bearhawk LSA aircraft provides. I look forward to seeing the Bearhawk aircraft fleet grow.”
In related news, Jonathan Battson has taken top honors, for two years running, in his Bearhawk in a New Zealand STOL Competition. The regional contest takes place each year in February. Battson and his Bearhawk continued their winning ways by a wide margin. “We managed to clean up the heavy touring category again this weekend, convincingly this time with a total combined distance of 71m compared to 108m and 131m for second and third place. There was less wind than usual, so I was pleased with the landing,” he commented.
“This year we had a couple of key people from the Valdez STOL contest here, Lon and Bob. Lon organizes the Valdez event, and Bob and his son Bobby (Breeden) have won numerous times. They liked the event and said the flying was as good as they see in Valdez… except here the action is faster and the crowd is much closer to the action which they seemed to like. They said we have less Super Cubs than in Alaska.” For event details, visit… http://www.marlboroughaeroclub.co.nz/healthy-bastards/Healthy-Bastards-introduction/
The Bearhawk Patrol is a tandem two-place aircraft, available in kit or plans, that excels at accessing remote airstrips. A side-by-side seating version is the Bearhawk Companion. Both are renown for their rugged construction and large cargo areas. The Patrol and Companion are capable of carrying twice their empty weight. The Companion offers 2,200 lb. gross weight, while the Patrol offers 2,000 lb. gross. Avipro / Bearhawk Aircraft manufactures high quality Quick Build kits for the Bearhawk 4-Place, Bearhawk Patrol, Bearhawk Companion, and Bearhawk LSA. All models are available for immediate shipping.
For more information on Bearhawk Aircraft, visit www.bearhawkaircraft.com, or contact Bearhawk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-528-4776.
– Bearhawk –
The UH-1 Huey has a well-earned reputation for dependability over a 65-year history. Now iconic, its image is synonymous with aircraft of the Vietnam era. This example, updated by Gardner-Lowe Aviation Services… (Sport Aviation Magazine, May 2020)
1939 PIPER J3 CUB FLITFIRE TX • $34,500 • OFFERED FOR SALE • Flies like a Cub… predictable, low-and-slow and fun! J3 C-65 Piper Cub s/n 3150, Continental A65, TTAF 2936, SMOH 693, painted in historic Flitfire Texas scheme, well-maintained & documented, 406 MHz ELT, auxiliary fuel tank, sealed struts, Atlee Dodge safety cables, new bungees 2017, metal and wood propellers, new carburetor, auto gas STC. Aircraft hangared and kept in flying condition by museum organization since 1980s. Alamo Liaison Squadron, San Antonio, TX. Need to make room for other aircraft. Call Gene 210-842-0429 or Richard 210-478-1132 for more info. • Contact Mike Taylor, – located San Antonio, TX United States • Telephone: 210-624-2226 • Posted on Barnstormers.com February 27, 2020 • For more information visit als-cannonfield.com or download the Trade-a-Plane flyer.
The Alamo Liaison Squadron in San Antonio, Texas, restored this 1939 J-3 Cub to resemble the “Flitfire” aircraft produced by Piper Aircraft. The aircraft resides at the squadron’s museum and is one among a collection of World War II L-birds the organization maintains in flying condition. (Photo by Paul Bigelow). General Aviation News, February 6, 2020, Leading Image, page 4. Read the full edition here.