Flying in the Bush Hawk

Bush Hawk & StephenLast Saturday I went for my first flight in Stephen’s Found Aircraft Bush Hawk – what a great experience!

You may recall from a previous post that this Bush Hawk arrived in Australia from Alaska in November last year. Since then, Stephen has been flying it to gain his RPL and get used to an aircraft that is very, very different from the Carbon Cubs he flies and sells in Australia.

Although the aircraft is physically big – at least to us mere LSA pilots – the first thing that you notice is how easy it is to get into (and out of). There’s a step on the main gear leg, two big forward opening front doors and no stick to contort yourself over.Bush Hawk panel The next thing that strikes you is how small the control yokes feel; can they really control such a monster? However, the yokes themselves are mounted on a Y-shape tube which would do justice to the Sydney Harbour Bridge…

Buckling in, there’s a 5-point harness (is this plane aerobatic? Surely not) with inertia-reel shoulder straps. The door closes with a satisfying clunk and if you want a really tight seal, you can optionally operate the corner latches to secure it. One interesting aspect of this aircraft is that there are also two rear doors to access the cavernous rear cargo/seating area, which although currently fitted with three rear passenger seats, still leaves a baggage area behind them which is bigger than many estate wagons!

Considering it’s a taildragger, the view over the long nose isn’t bad – although that will likely change when Stephen fits the big bush tyres, which will lift the front by several inches. The upright seating position is comfortable but feels a bit like a truck, something which is further prompted by the view along the ‘bonnet’ as Stephen fires up the 300 hp 6-cylinder engine. The starter spins the prop at a rapid pace – much faster than my old Interstate – and soon the engine has settled down to a subdued rumble. In spite of a plethora of dials and digital instruments, all the basic indicators are easy to recognise and monitor. Warming up such a beast takes a while at around 1,100 rpm, during which the fuel flow meter shows a steady 15 litres an hour. For someone used to a cruise fuel consumption of not much more than that, this takes a little while to absorb…

Once warmed up, we’re on the move. The suspension is surprisingly compliant, particularly considering we are at least 350 kgs under gross weight. All the lumps in the Tyabb grass are nicely soaked up as we taxi to runway 35 for departure. After an engine run-up and c/s prop check, we’re ready; a few final checks of the harnesses and doors and off we go. There’s a very strong shove in the back as the engine hits peak take-off rpm and in no time at all we’re flying. The fuel flow meter reads 85 litres an hour…

Inside, the noise is subdued – in part due to the excellent Bose ANR headsets. Outside, I know the aircraft is making quite a noise, a characteristic of a propeller running full speed at fine pitch. Climb out is not particularly steep but the forward speed contributes to a rate of climb well over 1,000 fpm.

After take-off we make a right turn and head out over the water for a clockwise circumnavigation of nearby French Island. Stephen trims out, leans off the engine a little and hands over to me. Now, the control yokes really do feel very small! Although the aircraft feels quite stable, it’s easy to turn, using a bit of rudder to keep the ball in the middle. Steeper turns need a little back pressure to maintain height but in all other senses the aircraft is just a big pussy cat and really nice to fly. At a cruise of around 115 knots, the fuel flow meter reads 49 litres an hour…

All too soon, we are round the island and Stephen takes over for the approach and landing. I am told this aircraft drops like a stone when you take off the power and add flap. If so, it doesn’t feel like it – Stephen’s many hours of practice have smoothed out all the lumpy bits. We turn on to final at around 70 knots, reducing just a little to 65 on short final. The landing felt great to me but Stephen’s a bit of a perfectionist and felt he arrived a bit to soon. But there was no bounce and the aircraft settled nicely on the grass. You can see the video I made of the approach by clicking the picture below.

Overall, I enjoyed this short flight; the Bush Hawk seems easy to fly – at least on this no-wind, smooth-air day. It feels and sounds a bit like a big luxurious truck, with its long nose and 6-cylinder engine beat. The fuel burn took my breath away but if you want an aircraft like this, low fuel consumption is not too near the top of your priority list. However, the Bush Hawk will carry up to 5 people and their baggage, in relative comfort, into and out of bush strips. It has a relaxed cruise in the 115-125 knot range, so you can get to those far-away places reasonably quickly. Which is exactly what it was designed to do. It’s a shame that Found Aircraft could not make their business work – they certainly deserved a better destiny after designing and building this superb aircraft.

The Bush Hawk arrives in Australia!

Bush Hawk 01My friend Steve (Australia’s Cubcrafters Agent) has bought himself a Bush Hawk aeroplane and today it arrived at Moorabbin Airport near Melbourne after its long journey in a container from Alaska.

For those of you not familiar with this aircraft type, it is, as its name suggests, a bush plane – big wheels, slow stall, taildragger etc etc. What makes this one different is that via its four door configuration, it will carry five people and their luggage into and out of pretty well most places – paved or unpaved – that you could expect to take a plane. Almost uniquely for a bush plane, it has a single, cantilever wing (no lift struts). It will cruise around 140 knots and it goes without saying that it is as rugged as they come.

What makes it even more interesting is that its gross weight falls below the 1500 kgs limit for the new Australian Recreational Pilot License (RPL). OK, Steve currently ‘only’ holds an Ultralight Pilot Certificate and an RPL so he will need a co-pilot with a PPL or higher if he wants to carry more than one friend or get a class 2 medical. But in the meantime, he can carry everyone else’s luggage when we all go off on a trip!

The Bush Hawk (or Bush Pig to its friends) has a bit of a varied history – originally designed back in the 60’s by the Found brothers of Ontario, Canada, the design was updated put into production for a while by Found Aircraft. In the late 2000’s it morphed into the Expedition Aircraft but alas, as of early 2014 Found Aircraft no longer manufactures aircraft – Steve’s Bush Hawk was was built in 2005 as a company demonstrator, then put to work in Alaska by Mountain Flying Services as an air-taxi and sight-seeing aircraft.There are some great pictures of Steve’s Bush Hawk on the Mountain Flying Services website.

Bush Hawk 02 copyHaving helped unload the aircraft from the container, the first thing that strikes you is the sheer size of the thing. Even without its wing installed, it’s impressive. On it’s 29″ bush tyres, it will look truly massive and even at 1.86m (6’2″ in old money) I will be able to walk under the wing without ducking my head. Space in the second row seats is palatial – I can sit behind the pilot and stretch my legs all the way out in front of me. Hopefully there will be room for a table for our in-flight service!

The aircraft is now being re-assembled at the CAE Aircraft Maintenance hangar at Northern Avenue, Moorabbin. For the time being it will remain on its USA N-registration. Although Steve has many hours of tailwheel experience on the Carbon and other cubs, he’s very wisely arranging some further training and familiarisation with an experienced instructor. Although by all accounts, one of the great features of the Bush Hawk is that it handles like a happy pussycat on the ground and in the air.

More news and pictures when the aircraft is ready to fly.