A customer built 4-place Bearhawk took top honors in the Heavy Touring Category in the premier New Zealand STOL competition.
Jonathan Battson, in his Bearhawk NJB, outperformed all entrants with a combined score of 229′ (74.1 meters), landing plus takeoff.
The Heavy Touring Category is for aircraft greater than 2550 pounds.
The event’s official title is the “Healthy Bastards Bush Pilot Championships” and is held annually at Omaka Airfield, Blenheim, in New Zealand across the Cook Straight from Wellington. This seventh annual competition, run by the Marlborough Aero Club, was held on Feb. 2, 2019.
Battson built his Bearhawk from a quick-build kit in 2013. It is powered by a 260-horsepower Lycoming IO-540 with a Hartzell Trailblazer propeller. The Bearhawk won this year’s competition by about a 43′ margin.
“This is our fourth season at the contest, and we’ve worked hard to get the best out of the pilot and plane,” said Battson.
The trophy has been in his field of vision for some time. In 2014, Battson took third place at Omaka. STOL modifications to NJB include 31″ Alaskan Bushwheels, vortex generators by Stolspeed, and Hoerner wingtips.
Worldwide, similar STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) competitions pit specialized aircraft head-to-head. STOL aircraft are designed uniquely for backcountry flying where landing on unimproved strips, and in often difficult conditions, requires short takeoff and landing capabilities. Pilot skill also plays a major role in operating these aircraft in such environments.