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Best Bang for the Buck STOL

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USMC227

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Jun 5, 2007
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Hi all. Would like some opinions. I have mine that I'll share but I'd love to know yours and why you feel this way.

I've been looking long and hard for a scratch build STOL plane. There's really not a lot to choose from (at least for me) because price is an issue too, as is customer support and length of time building. Needs to be LSA capable and have a scratch build option.

So I guess I've narrowed it down to three manufactures and 4 planes in no particular order.

First off is the Zenith CH701. Downside is the limited useful load compared to others. Upsides are: lot's of them flying, good support and very good performance, especially solo. Get enough ponies up front and it really gets up quick. I would probably go with a Yamaha Apex but I can't wait to see one fitted with a Verner Radial. But the limited carrying capacity is a big deal. Sub kits available for purchase. I'm not sure about individual parts.

Next up is the CH750. Can be built LSA or Experimental with a 1440 gross IIRC. Handles the passenger situation and lots of people building and flying this plane as well. I'm not sure the performance would ever match it's little brother but I'm not sure that most people can either fly the difference or have the "stones" to fly in places where it would make a difference. Bigger plane, more expensive to build. Same engine choices as above in addition to certified engine choices for those that prefer those options. Sub kits available for purchase. I'm not sure about individual parts.

Next is the Bearhawk LSA. Probably the longest build time of any option listed. Superb design and although it has no flaps, can slip in to some tight areas according to owners. Best cruise. Can be built to Experimental at 1500 gross. C-85, C-90, O-200 all very good options. Superb support with lost of parts available to purchase if the builder is limited in skill, tooling or time. Downside is the plane is more complicated IMO than the others and therefore has a much longer build time. But it's sleek and beautiful.

Last is one not considered a STOL plane per se but I think it can and should make the list. Leonard Milholland's Legal Eagle and Double Eagle/Cabin Eagle. Not the prettiest chick at the dance but they look very simple to build. And if fitted with a proper sized Verner Radial (like these Legal Eagles)
Leonard's plane is by far the least expensive to build and along with the Bearhawk has no flaps. So it may not land on a dime but I think it'll do okay, especially fitted with the right gear, tires and brakes.

My favorite of the bunch is the Bearhawk LSA. But I'm also the most concerned about it as a first time builder. When I ask about scratch building on the Bearhawk forum, most say to buy the kit. I'm looking at probably a 3-5 year commitment to build. I believe I can get 10-15 hours per week to build.

But I'm not in love enough with the Bearhawk to risk an unwise decision. I think I could get a CH750 in the air in 2-3 years at the stated rate. Maybe quicker. It looks easier to build. Same for the 701.

I'm leaning away from the Double Eagle a bit. I would have to have a beefier gear and that would add time. As would the engine mounts for the Verner but it'll be that way with most builders that wish to use that engine. Scale Birds is a dealer and said they design one.

So what are your opinions. It's gotta be LSA compatible.

Thanks,
Paul
 

cluttonfred

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I think a Milholland Double Eagle or Cabin Eagle would provide excellent performance on a budget if you don't need to carry too much weight of people or stuff. Leonard's designs are a little vague in places but lots of beginners have built them successfully. On a budget you may find the Verners a bit expensive (though the more affordable Scarlett 5V might work) but a lightly-built Cabin Eagle or Double Eagle with something like a hand-propped Hummel 2400cc VW would surprise a lot of people.
 

ScaleBirdsScott

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A Bearhawk with a Verner wouldn't offend my sensibilities either ;)

Fred above has the right idea on the larger Eagles with the 5V; could be a good option, and the 5V seems definitely like better bang/buck if you aren't trying to go to a part 103 type build.
 

BJC

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You won’t get any bang regardless of the bucks unless you complete the project. The LE probably has the greatest probability of being completed within your time frame, and will be a blast to fly.

Check out videos here of Rockiedog2’s LE.


BJC
 
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Victor Bravo

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Hi Paul, welcome! Thank you for volunteering to walk into harm's way as a Marine.

I have a few questions:
1) Define STOL for your personal purposes - a 300 foot clearing in a farm field for fun on a calm day... a 100 foot tennis court in the mountains when the wind is blowing... haul 500 pounds of moose meat out of a river sandbar way north of Fairbanks?

2) Give us your level of FLYING experience. We don't actually care whether you're a 3000 hour sandbox F/A-18 pilot or if you've never been in an airplane before, we just need to calibrate what we suggest to your specific level of experience.

3) Give us an idea of your building/metalworking/welding/wood/machine tool experience AND the type(s) of materials you like working with the most.

4) Have you defined your "80% of the time" mission profile yet? Will you be taking someone else with you most of the time, or will it mostly just be you and a fishing pole, etc.

Of the airplanes in your list, I will offer an educated guess that the Bearhawk LSA is likely the equivalent of the Ferrari. Best handling, best speed, most expensive, and prettiest. May or may not be the overall best choice because it will take the longest to scratchbuild.

The Zenairs are the Jeeps. Definitely not the prettiest, but beautiful the same way as a Jeep is beautiful. Dirt simple to build, easiest to maintain and patch up in the field, and can be made even more beautiful through the use of nasty-looking camouflage. An airplane that looks like it ought to have a gun rack and 500 rounds.
 

Doran Jaffas

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Jun 25, 2019
Messages
223
Hi all. Would like some opinions. I have mine that I'll share but I'd love to know yours and why you feel this way.

I've been looking long and hard for a scratch build STOL plane. There's really not a lot to choose from (at least for me) because price is an issue too, as is customer support and length of time building. Needs to be LSA capable and have a scratch build option.

So I guess I've narrowed it down to three manufactures and 4 planes in no particular order.

First off is the Zenith CH701. Downside is the limited useful load compared to others. Upsides are: lot's of them flying, good support and very good performance, especially solo. Get enough ponies up front and it really gets up quick. I would probably go with a Yamaha Apex but I can't wait to see one fitted with a Verner Radial. But the limited carrying capacity is a big deal. Sub kits available for purchase. I'm not sure about individual parts.

Next up is the CH750. Can be built LSA or Experimental with a 1440 gross IIRC. Handles the passenger situation and lots of people building and flying this plane as well. I'm not sure the performance would ever match it's little brother but I'm not sure that most people can either fly the difference or have the "stones" to fly in places where it would make a difference. Bigger plane, more expensive to build. Same engine choices as above in addition to certified engine choices for those that prefer those options. Sub kits available for purchase. I'm not sure about individual parts.

Next is the Bearhawk LSA. Probably the longest build time of any option listed. Superb design and although it has no flaps, can slip in to some tight areas according to owners. Best cruise. Can be built to Experimental at 1500 gross. C-85, C-90, O-200 all very good options. Superb support with lost of parts available to purchase if the builder is limited in skill, tooling or time. Downside is the plane is more complicated IMO than the others and therefore has a much longer build time. But it's sleek and beautiful.

Last is one not considered a STOL plane per se but I think it can and should make the list. Leonard Milholland's Legal Eagle and Double Eagle/Cabin Eagle. Not the prettiest chick at the dance but they look very simple to build. And if fitted with a proper sized Verner Radial (like these Legal Eagles)
Leonard's plane is by far the least expensive to build and along with the Bearhawk has no flaps. So it may not land on a dime but I think it'll do okay, especially fitted with the right gear, tires and brakes.

My favorite of the bunch is the Bearhawk LSA. But I'm also the most concerned about it as a first time builder. When I ask about scratch building on the Bearhawk forum, most say to buy the kit. I'm looking at probably a 3-5 year commitment to build. I believe I can get 10-15 hours per week to build.

But I'm not in love enough with the Bearhawk to risk an unwise decision. I think I could get a CH750 in the air in 2-3 years at the stated rate. Maybe quicker. It looks easier to build. Same for the 701.

I'm leaning away from the Double Eagle a bit. I would have to have a beefier gear and that would add time. As would the engine mounts for the Verner but it'll be that way with most builders that wish to use that engine. Scale Birds is a dealer and said they design one.

So what are your opinions. It's gotta be LSA compatible.

Thanks,
Paul
Cisler Cygnet with a 125 horse power.
 
Last edited:

USMC227

Active Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2007
Messages
29
Hi Paul, welcome! Thank you for volunteering to walk into harm's way as a Marine.

I have a few questions:
1) Define STOL for your personal purposes - a 300 foot clearing in a farm field for fun on a calm day... a 100 foot tennis court in the mountains when the wind is blowing... haul 500 pounds of moose meat out of a river sandbar way north of Fairbanks?

2) Give us your level of FLYING experience. We don't actually care whether you're a 3000 hour sandbox F/A-18 pilot or if you've never been in an airplane before, we just need to calibrate what we suggest to your specific level of experience.

3) Give us an idea of your building/metalworking/welding/wood/machine tool experience AND the type(s) of materials you like working with the most.

4) Have you defined your "80% of the time" mission profile yet? Will you be taking someone else with you most of the time, or will it mostly just be you and a fishing pole, etc.

Of the airplanes in your list, I will offer an educated guess that the Bearhawk LSA is likely the equivalent of the Ferrari. Best handling, best speed, most expensive, and prettiest. May or may not be the overall best choice because it will take the longest to scratchbuild.

The Zenairs are the Jeeps. Definitely not the prettiest, but beautiful the same way as a Jeep is beautiful. Dirt simple to build, easiest to maintain and patch up in the field, and can be made even more beautiful through the use of nasty-looking camouflage. An airplane that looks like it ought to have a gun rack and 500 rounds.
Yes sir. Glad to do it.

Those are some great questions, I'll try to answer as best I can.
1. STOL for my purposes. I would love go barnstorming (to borrow a phrase). I'll be a VFR guy, would love to hit some sandbars, fields, etc. Maybe some remote fishing or camping. But mainly to learn to master the craft as best I can. To learn what my capabilities are and that of my plane.

2. My flying experience is limited. I've been a soloed student pilot on two occasions. Once as a teenager and once in my late 20's. No tail dragger time and I don't currently fly but will certainly get licensed of course.

3. That's a tough one. I'm very comfortable with cutting, welding mild steel and working with sheet metal. I've built some stuff out of wood as needed. I don't have any machinist experience. I do have access to a Tig welder and also a buddy who is a certified welder (it's his machine) who would do any welding I didn't feel comfortable doing. Actually I would probably tack with my gas rig and then let him weld it up. I also have a very active EAA group near me, 976.

As for likes, I enjoy building things regardless of what method. They only thing I've yet to try is forming parts from sheet aluminum, but building the forms, etc., looks fun too.

4. 80% mission profile. My wife says that she will not ride in anything I build, lol. My son is very interested and wants to help and get his pilots license. But he's an active duty Marine right now so his time home is limited. But the plan is to one day share this plane, so my passenger time could very well pick up. I would say it would be best to plan on passengers.

In my mind and if I could buy a kit, LSA would be the ticket. But I'm not sure that's a good plans project for a new builder. I'm thinking the the CH750 may be the best compromise. But I'm going to see a guy stick building a Bearhawk LSA in a couple of weeks. May lead to a whole new perspective.
 

Pops

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Friend of mine in WY scratched built a Bearhawk LSA after the scratched built 4 place Bearhawk, after a scratched built Christiva 1.
The LSA is finished and trying to get the sign-off.
The LSA is a big job when scratch built but when done a very nice airplane. It will fly very slow even without flaps. Slips very good, so not having flaps is no big deal. Very good cruise speed for the HP. Lot of room for 2 people.

Picture of the Bearhawk LSA at my place with Bob and friends having a "Bull" session.
Think is was toss-up for the biggest tall tale. :)





DSCF0010.JPG
 

Victor Bravo

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OK, then for whatever my highly opinionated opinion is worth, the CH-750 looks like a very good bet. The reasons for this recommendation are:

You can more easily/cheaply take instruction toward getting your Sport or Private license in a side by side nosewheel airplane these days. Tandem taildraggers are fine, but the truth is that the SBS nosewheel will be a little or a lot faster, for both you and your son to take instruction in.

The learning curve will be a little faster by postponing the tailwheel portion. I'm a loud, strong supporter of tailwheel skills, but there is more than one factor in this equation. Getting in the air today instead of tomorrow is also a value.

It will be far easier/cheaper to insure for a low-time pilot than a taildragger. Like thousands of dollars different over the course of a year or two.

You can do any combination of scratchbuilding and kit building on the 750. Buy any component pre-built, kitted, or just the drawing. This means you can spend a little extra money to get a pre-fab part when you prefer it or need it, and still save money by cutting flat sheets with scissors when you need to save money.

You will be in the air faster with the 750 than with the Bearhawk. I greatly respect and value the Bearhawk, it is definitely a more prestigious and refined airplane than the Zenith, and turns more heads at a fly-in, and handles extremely well. But I believe Pops will agree it is not a quick-build airplane.

So if it happens that your mission and needs favor a square old-school low-tech Jeep instead of a refined Porsche or Ferrari, I think the 750 is worth looking into.
 

USMC227

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Jun 5, 2007
Messages
29
OK, then for whatever my highly opinionated opinion is worth, the CH-750 looks like a very good bet. The reasons for this recommendation are:

You can more easily/cheaply take instruction toward getting your Sport or Private license in a side by side nosewheel airplane these days. Tandem taildraggers are fine, but the truth is that the SBS nosewheel will be a little or a lot faster, for both you and your son to take instruction in.

The learning curve will be a little faster by postponing the tailwheel portion. I'm a loud, strong supporter of tailwheel skills, but there is more than one factor in this equation. Getting in the air today instead of tomorrow is also a value.

It will be far easier/cheaper to insure for a low-time pilot than a taildragger. Like thousands of dollars different over the course of a year or two.

You can do any combination of scratchbuilding and kit building on the 750. Buy any component pre-built, kitted, or just the drawing. This means you can spend a little extra money to get a pre-fab part when you prefer it or need it, and still save money by cutting flat sheets with scissors when you need to save money.

You will be in the air faster with the 750 than with the Bearhawk. I greatly respect and value the Bearhawk, it is definitely a more prestigious and refined airplane than the Zenith, and turns more heads at a fly-in, and handles extremely well. But I believe Pops will agree it is not a quick-build airplane.

So if it happens that your mission and needs favor a square old-school low-tech Jeep instead of a refined Porsche or Ferrari, I think the 750 is worth looking into.
Thanks much for the input. I certainly had not factored in the insurance costs.

I do have a question about the 750. I've read somewhere that the design may not be as rugged as the Highlander, etc. In the thread it was stated that most of the 750/701 drivers tended to stay away from rugged terrain because of that. Any merit to this?
 

Pops

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The Bearhawk is a nice airplane but scratch building will take a long time. I like the 750 for a lot quicker build and as VB said, lower insurance cost.
 

Daleandee

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I agree with what VB and the others have said and would just add that scratch building an airplane takes an incredible amount of perseverance and patience. Mine began life as a kit (from a former builder owner) and needed a good bit of disassembly and parts replaced for the small amount that he tried to put together. My building mentor at the time insisted that any replacement parts would be made ... not bought (we did buy a replacement stainless steel firewall) so that I could hone my skills at reading the plans and making parts that were correct to tolerance.

Even if you buy a new kit that has a good bit of the parts made and holes punched it still is an incredible journey from parts to plane. I would not discourage you but rather encourage you to take the journey with a caveat ... building airplanes can be addictive and cause relationship concerns when the wife starts to realize that there is another serious love in your life :rolleyes:. I'm blessed that while my wife don't often fly with me, she is extremely supportive of the fact that I love to fly.
 

TFF

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I will be unpopular by saying buy a Champ or a low horsepower Citabria. When one of those becomes too long winded to land where you want, you are ready for a full STOL airplane. You will save money and be flying right away too.

If you have to build because it’s in your blood, build a hot rod J-3/Super Cub. Infinite STOL mods. It’s the plane that still is being chased. Configuration is mild to wild. If it has to be parked outside, I would build the Bearhawk. Much depends on how tall you are and how much you weigh, but something like a stock built Baking Duce will be highly entertaining STOL. On another forum there is a guy flying his single seat Starduster to fishing camps and another with a S1 Pitts with 8” tires flown in Alaska. Video on YouTube show off the show offs. What people really do is fly what they got. Some just can’t go as short as others.

A Bearhawk and a Cub will be worth something if it comes a time to sell. You should consider that. The used market is small for a Zenith.
 

Victor Bravo

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Thanks much for the input. I certainly had not factored in the insurance costs.

I do have a question about the 750. I've read somewhere that the design may not be as rugged as the Highlander, etc. In the thread it was stated that most of the 750/701 drivers tended to stay away from rugged terrain because of that. Any merit to this?

I don't know whether the main airframe of the Zenith is any more or less robust than a Highlander. If one of the engineers here can do an apples-to-apples comparison of main airframe only, I would love to see it. BUT, that main airframe comparison needs to be done with identical landing gears and tires. A Highlander or Super-STOL with a long-travel air-oil shock absorber cannot be compared to a slab aluminum spring gear on the Zenith. That is why a fair comparison needs to equalize the landing gears.
 

USMC227

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Messages
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I don't know whether the main airframe of the Zenith is any more or less robust than a Highlander. If one of the engineers here can do an apples-to-apples comparison of main airframe only, I would love to see it. BUT, that main airframe comparison needs to be done with identical landing gears and tires. A Highlander or Super-STOL with a long-travel air-oil shock absorber cannot be compared to a slab aluminum spring gear on the Zenith. That is why a fair comparison needs to equalize the landing gears.
Yes, me too. What I've noticed is that the guys that really take their 701's (haven't seen many 750's like this yet), have the really big tundra tires. My guess is that they are using them to soak up some of the energy. I'm mean you gotta do what you've gotta do.
 
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