Why Build a Bearhawk?

Why build?   

It’s a question that I’ve been asked dozens of times since I’ve started this project.

Usually the question is vocalized with qualifying statements like, “What do you mean full size?  You don’t plan on getting in it do you?” or “When did you learn how to do that?” and once in a while, “That’s cool”.  Most have no concept of what I’m undertaking, and their eyes will glaze over as I enthusiastically convey what a great idea it is to build a plane.  That’s OK, planes aren’t for everyone.  Homebuilding, it seems, is for only a fraction of that number.

 So, how does one come to the conclusion that building an airplane is the thing for them?  I haven’t the foggiest idea how others decide, I do know what I went through in my decision making process.  I’m going to attempt to put that process down in words.  If I fail miserably, please bear in mind that if I were an accomplished author, I’d be charging for my thoughts and words.

 I chose to build for many reasons. A challenge, transportation, a hobby, a means to an end, even creating something that will (hopefully) outlive me.   You could say it is my way of leaving my mark on the world.  

Of all the reasons I could come up with for building, the item that tops the list is my need for something new to engage my brain.  Work is the same old same old day in, and day out.  I hear the same questions over and over.  I have developed practiced responses.  It’s a rare day when something I haven’t done hundreds of times before crosses my path.  

Building a plane on the other hand; that’s a project that will really get you thinking.  Metal shaping, project planning, resource allocation, welding, woodworking . . .  the list is nearly endless. It’s this aspect of building a plane that really intrigued me.  I enjoy learning all of the new skills, working with new materials, meeting with like minded people and most of all I love figuring out solutions to problems.  

Another item that brought me into the homebuilding world was the current cost of aircraft.  A new Cessna 172 retails for 200k +.  I certainly don’t have that kind of money available to make this kind of purchase.  A 30 year old Cessna can still be in the 75k realm.  Again I just couldn’t justify that kind of expense for a 30 year old aircraft no matter how well maintained.

 Then you could add the cost of annual inspections to the cost of ownership.  After hearing horror stories about 10k annuals I seriously started to doubt that I would ever be able to afford my own airplane.  If the purchase price didn’t kill me the upkeep would.  

So that left me with the Experimental class.  For relatively cheap money I could build my own plane.  I would know every detail, every nut, every bolt, every rivet and crimp.  I would be the manufacturer, and I would do the upkeep.  I wouldn’t have to worry about the methods of the local mechanic, or what the last pilot may have done to it.  It just seemed to make sense to me.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Gary Corde.  Gary had built his own RV6 some years prior, and was just a wealth of information in most all things aviation related.  Gary has nurtured my experience in flight from the first time I spoke of taking lessons.  I’ve known Gary for a number of years now.  He and I both ride dirt bikes, and belong to an online forum for the sport.  It was in a dirt bike chat room that we first started speaking about my pursuit of a pilot’s license.

 As my training progressed Gary would quiz me on different topics I needed to learn, and he would take the time to answer all of my questions.  He became a mentor to me.  I didn’t know it then, but he was also laying the groundwork to get me sucked into this world of homebuilt airplanes.  Thanks Gary :).

 I could probably stretch this out for another couple of pages.  I still might add to this page from time to time.  But, in the end, after defining my mission, taking a look at my finances, determining the skill level needed, and checking with my wife, I am building for a purely selfish reason:


Because I want to


 How much more reason do I really need?


Keith Salisbury