4-Place Bush Plane Showdown

Bearhawk bush plane tied down

Let’s Begin

In just a minute I’ll show you a spreadsheet I made with some information about the planes discussed in my last post. Before I show you the sheet I want to clarify some things because if you look just at the numbers you may draw the wrong conclusions. Take everything here with a bit of a +/- because nothing about a kit plane is written in stone. Two kits built right next to each other will not be 100% identical and build times, costs, and performance will differ. I have taken some liberties in reading on forums and comparing the manufacturer data for some data. Let’s start off with some definitions and go from there-


    • Cost: Straight off the respective manufacturer websites and while some include more in the base kit than others as is the case with the BOSS, they all require covering, paint, avionics, and engines.
    • Build Times: Subjective to countless variables, from builder experience, airframe modifications, engine choice, avionics etc. I have done my best to approximate what a builder with some experience might be able to accomplish.
    • Empty and Gross: Weights are taken from the manufacturer
    • Empty Weight: The weight of the aircraft, power plant, furnishings, installations, systems and other equipment that are considered an integral part of an aircraft.
    • Gross Weight: Maximum weight the aircraft may weigh at any point on the ground or in the air. This is the Empty Weight plus all fluids, persons, and cargo.
    • Useful Load: Derived from Empty Weight subtracted from Gross Weight with some wiggle room as we don’t know what type of “Empty Weight” each manufacturer uses. (MEW, OEW)
    • Wing Area: Square feet is from the manufacturer, just the surface area of the wing
    • Wing Loading: Units of lb/sq ft is the the Empty Weight divided by the Wing Area. Helping us understand how much work the wing is doing just to sustain flight
    • Range: Given in miles from the manufacturer, the shortest of each approximation given
    • Fuel Capacity: US Gallons is the smallest option from the manufacturer, some do offer extended range tanks
    • Engine/HP: I used the largest engine each manufacturer recommended. In this case I assumed the commonly used 250hp O-540 is used. The Zenair says anywhere from 150-240hp though is seems the common engine is the O-360 making 180hp. I gave it 200hp on the chart for good measure.
    • Takeoff and Land: This is distance in feet. This data is hard to judge as the manufacturers don’t always supply it but I used the larger of the numbers I could find as it wouldn’t make any sense to land on a strip shorter than you can take off. Keep in mind there are SO many factors that go into this: pilot skills, weight, CG, weather, wind, density altitude, engine, propeller, runway surface, airframe modifications, pilot technique, the list goes on.
  • Max lb/hp is just the Empty Weight divided by the Engine HP. Not a very useful number in all reality, but curious nonetheless.


Spreadsheet of specs


It may seem that this chart contradicts my previous post as to the BOSS being the best there is. Based on the chart it would seem that the other 3 beat it in several categories. The reality of it is, you might be right, the Bearhawk might actually be the plane to get!

Bearhawk bush plane tied

I’ll be honest after looking back through the research and watching a LOT more videos and looking at more pictures the Bearhawk really seems to be a contender. Several strong sellings points for the Bearhawk: extremely strong builder community. There have been over 1400 plans sold, more than 100 are flying, and it has been around for nearly 20 years! This is impressive in the experimental/kit plane world, quite rare. Not to mention, they have been used and modified in almost any way you can imagine already, and it’s likely been documented for you to research.

If you’ve made it this far, you may wonder if I’m ever going to make up my mind I have received some very good advice that I think I’ll need to follow before I pull the trigger. That advice is to do whatever it takes to spend a couple hours in whatever plane you think you might want. Go around the pattern, cruise it out hands off, feel the controls, see how it handles on the ground etc. Only then can you make a truly informed decision. And that is where I’ll leave you. You’ve seen this research, read my opinions, now get out and fly. Even if it isn’t one of these planes, go fly and pay attention – do you like heavier controls, do you like having to use a lot of rudder, do you like the layout of the instruments etc. Make a note of these things for when you are deciding on and then building your own plane!

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