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Circuit Handling

Normal Landing


Caution: Please read the Safety Notes on this website regarding Loss of Directional Control on Landing. Quite a number of relatively new Bearhawks have succumbed to a groundloop, some of them with an instructor on board. The Bearhawk shares the handling traits of most Tail-wheel aircraft, albeit with very strong rudder authority. Being current, flying from a grass airfield, and in very light winds initially will help to stack the odds in favor. Getting good instruction from a Bearhawk type rated instructor or experienced Bearhawk pilot, on a Bearhawk, is a huge benefit. With practice, it's delightful to fly and extremely capable.

The Bearhawk lands well in a 3-point attitude with a couple of small differences.

For a normal approach, visually putting the top of the engine cowling onto the runway aim point will approximate an appropriate pitch attitude and AOA. If the runway becomes obscured by the nose of the aircraft, then the pitch attitude (and AOA) is more likely too high for a normal approach and closer to that of a high AOA approach (airspeed will be lower and power required will likely be higher).

Flap 3 works well for a normal landing. The additional notch to Flap 4 is nearly all drag, and the Flap 4 limit speed of 55 kts can preclude flying an approach at or above that speed.

An easy method is to fly a normal approach down to the flare, and when in ground effect hold the aircraft off (like any other aircraft) until airspeed is at a minimum. When the airspeed is approaching the stall in ground effect, the aircraft will be in the 3-point landing attitude.

At slower speeds, the Bearhawk tends to touch tail-wheel first.

After touchdown, if the control stick is held fully aft (a common technique for many tail-wheel aircraft) the Bearhawk has a tendency for tailwheel shimmy. This is due largely to the heavier aft fuselage and elevator down-force changing the angle of the tail-wheel king-pin. It can be mitigated by moving the control stick forward after touchdown, or by performing a tail-low wheel landing.

Air Exercise

Fly a normal approach to a 3-point landing. After touchdown, move the control stick forward to reduce weight on the tail-wheel.


Tail-Low Wheel Landing


A common landing technique is the Tail-Low Wheel landing. A Tail-low Wheel Landing offers the following advantages:

  1. Keeps the tail-wheel just above the ground and clear of the rocks and bumps.

  2. Gives the horizontal stabilizer additional clearance from airborne rocks and debris.

  3. Increases visibility over the nose.

  4. Allows the large main wheel shock struts to soak up the bumps.

  5. Reduces the chance of tail-wheel shimmy.

  6. Keeps the CG from moving too far forward (fuel tanks overhead the main landing gear) over the main wheels during the landing roll.

Air Exercise

The attitude to aim for with a Tail-low wheel landing can be demonstrated during Take-off by easing the control stick forward until the runway end can just be observed over the engine cowling. This is the same attitude to aim for on a Tail-low wheel landing.

Next, have the candidate set the aircraft up on a normal 3-point landing. After touchdown, ease the control stick forward until the runway end can just be seen over the engine cowling.

With sufficient practice, the candidate can begin to ease the control stick forward just before touchdown, to touch-down on the main wheels in a tail-low attitude at minimum speed.

The key point here is to use pitch attitude as a proxy to judge airspeed. When the pitch attitude approaches the 3-point attitude, the aircraft is near minimum speed.

Keeping a small amount of power on into the landing will lower the pitch attitude slightly (compared to a 3-point touchdown) and give additional time in the flare.




Bearhawks have a very large CG envelope. The additional forward weight associated with a larger engine may also increase the CG range by moving the empty forward CG further forward than those with a lighter engine.

As a result, on some Bearhawks, when on approach, the trimmed elevator position may be further aft.

In the event of a go-around, if full power is applied, the aircraft may have a significant tendency to pitch up, and difficulty may be experienced re-trimming and retracting flap.

Air Exercise

Have the candidate set the aircraft up on a normal approach, with speed reduced to around 50 KTAS, full landing flap and in trim. Commence a full power go-around from a safe height and allow the candidate to observe the high control stick forces required to maintain a normal climb. Observe the difficulty in retracting flap and re-trimming.

Repeat the exercise, but this time have the candidate apply just enough power until the aircraft is climbing satisfactorily. Then allow them to reduce the flap setting, re-trim, and repeat until a normal climb is established and full power added.


High rate of descent


The Bearhawk glides well, similar to most other light aircraft.

However when the airspeed is reduced close to the stall speed ("back of the drag curve") with power at idle, a very high rate of descent can develop. This trait is most noticeable on aircraft with larger powered and therefore heavier engines, when flown at low approach speeds with power at idle. In this condition it is common for the elevstor to lose authority, and the nose to drop quickly. The result is similar to a stall with the exception that the main wing is still flying, but the elevator has lost authority.

Adding power again reduces the rate of descent after a few seconds. Alternatively, lowering the nose further will allow airspeed to build up and a normal glide can be resumed.

Air Exercise

Demonstrate a normal glide at 70 KTAS. Then with power at idle, reduce the airspeed to below 50 KTAS (at a safe height) and observe the descent rate increase. Observe that the elevators can be held full "up" with no effect.

Next, demonstrate this effect on approach where the ground closure rate is more apparent. Add power to demonstrate how to resolve.


High AOA Approach


This exercise should be done only after demonstrating proficiency in stall recovery exercises. A discussion on the significance of airspeed position error is relevant if comparing approach airspeeds with other aircraft.

With practice, the Bearhawk is capable of very short take-offs and landings. To consistently achieve a short landing involves consistently touching down on the aim point, at a speed close to the stall to minimize float. This can be practiced first in a Normal Landing or Tail-low Wheel landing to gain proficiency.

Using a High AOA approach places the aircraft's airspeed on the back of the drag curve, allowing a slower speed (still with a comfortable margin above the stall), and a steep descent (if desired). The airspeed theoretically becomes slightly less stable though in practice is easily maintained.

The main characteristic of this type of approach is a high nose attitude, lower airspeed, slightly higher power required to balance the increase in induced drag (with increased airflow over the elevators), followed by minimal time in the flare.

Air Exercise

To demonstrate the High AOA approach setup, during late downwind reduce speed and maintain level flight by raising the nose until the engine cowling appears to be just touching the horizon. Then, commence descent and maintain this pitch attitude. The pitch attitude will put the aircraft at roughly the correct AOA for an approach on the "back of the drag curve" and should still result in an approach flown at an airspeed with a safe margin above the stall speed. Observe that the aircraft's nose will likely obscure the view of the runway on finals, and it may be necessary to look around the side of the cowling. This may be difficult in a crosswind from the same side the pilot is seated on. A side-slip may help improve visibility in a cross-wind from the left.

Demonstrate the transition from a High AOA approach into the landing with a small increase of power approaching the flare to reduce the descent rate. Observe that when the nose is raised for the flare and power reduced to idle the airspeed will very quickly dissipate.


Power Off Glide


The Bearhawk has a fairly normal glide if the airspeed is kept around 70kts. However being higher drag than many modern training aircraft it is advantageous to keep the glide approach closer to the landing area.

It is normal for most pilots to approach the normal landing flare at 50-55kts, with some power on. This not only ensures full elevator authority into the flare, but also reduces the stall speed.

During a glide approach with the accompanying loss of propeller wash over the elevators, and particularly when at a forward CG, it is very advantageous to fly a higher airspeed into the flare. This will go a long way to preventing a heavy landing.

Discuss the best practice of increasing the approach speed in the event of an engine failure/glide approach scenario, to lessen the risk of falling short or having insufficient energy left to flare.

Air Exercise

Demonstrate a glide approach with normal downwind leg spacing, using a typical approach speed of 55-60 kts. Observe the steeper glide path and potential difficulty in making the landing area. Perform a normal go-around.

Demonstrate another glide approach, this time maintaining spacing of 2/3 the previous distance from the landing area. Fly at an airspeed of 70kts throughout the approach and into the flare. Observe that sufficient energy remains to allow a normal flare.


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