FLYING Magazine

The Bearhawk line of utility kit aircraft is under new ownership as of last month. Virgil Irwin, a Bearhawk 5 builder himself, has taken over for longtime owner Mark Goldberg. Generally speaking it’ll be business as usual for the company, which has a manufacturing facility in Mexico. Irwin has moved other aspects of kit production from Texas to Fairview, Oklahoma, about 75 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. Why the change? Goldberg said that “after turning 70 years old 20 months ago, I began to think it was time to let someone younger take charge of the company.”

Virgil Irwin, a builder, was no stranger to Goldberg and Bearhawk. “At the time, I was in search of a utility airplane that could serve overseas in a remote environment. I needed true off-airport capability with great cross-country performance.” He would be the first kit customer of the six-place Model 5. That airplane would eventually be shown at AirVenture 2023 and then began some discussions about the company itself. Irwin, a serial entrepreneur since his late teens, wondered if Goldberg was ready to retire at about the same time Mark was thinking that very thing.

I had a chance to speak with Virgil in early March. He’s clearly excited about this new challenge and hugely complementary of the work designer Bob Barrows and Goldberg did. In particular, Virgil has praise for the Mexico facility, saying it’s clean and efficient and, perhaps most important, has many longtime employees as well as a steady stream of those wanting to join. It’s located near a Volkswagen manufacturing facility but it’s not hard to compete for the workers. “We pay them well and they have a real sense of belonging,” he told me.

[Courtesy: Bearhawk Aircraft]

For the short term, Irwin is concentrating on updating the kits surrounding the Model 5, the company’s largest offering and likely to be the most popular overall. “We’re going to update the kits,” he told me “and begin providing the kind of support modern builders look for.” In particular, the new Bearhawk will work on things simple (like a complete landing-light kit for the Model 5) and complex (like a comprehensive firewall-forward package). Irwin acknowledges that the airplane is terrific but some aspects of the kitting are a bit behind the times, and it’s his intention to close that gap as quickly as possible.

The goal is to build 40 kits this year as well as building out subkits and increasing the standard content level for the Model 5, planning for in-shop builder assistance and even prefabricated avionics panels. Along with a new FWF package, Irwin says he’s looking into revised cowlings that may improve cooling and provide a bit more speed. Irwin also says kit prices are likely to increase with the new content but he’ll honor existing purchase agreements on all kits.

Once he feels that the Model 5 kit is thoroughly updated, he’ll begin working through the rest of the catalog, which includes four other models from the LSA to the four-seat Model 4.

Mark Goldberg, in a statement, summarized, “I am especially appreciative of all the new friends made during these 23 years. This includes customers all over the world who are now friends, and vendors and others who have become much more than just business associates. I learned a tremendous amount from working with design engineer Bob Barrows whose engineering talent is just off the scale. My involvement with the company will continue as long as is needed to make the transition smooth and easy.”

More information: www.bearhawkaircraft.com.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on Kitplanes.

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