One of the ultralight industry’s longest enduring designs is the Hawk. First offered in 1982, the Hawk flies today – 15 years later! – in essentially the same form. A few years ago the Arrow name was added to a refined version (becoming the Hawk Arrow) but the basics didn’t change. The original became the Hawk Classic.
So, why are we reporting on it? Two reasons quickly spring to mind.
First, the plane deserves it. This is an excellent little bird that has delivered a lot of aerial fun to virtually a generation of pilots. However, new pilots enter the community between articles and these aviators need to know this design still works well today like it did way back in the early ’80s when ultralights were new on the aviation scene.
Secondly, this isn’t the same Hawk.
Oh, it still looks much the same. Such a statement is hardly fair, though, to the many refinements that showed up on the plane I flew for this report. It would be simply wrong to dismiss the so-called Dope and Fabric Hawk Arrow as the same old bird.
In addition, this particular plane was fitted with a Hirth engine. Everyone recognizes the Hirth name, but it possesses only a fraction of the market (dominated by Rotax) and therefore I rarely evaluate aircraft with Hirth powerplants. I have to say, because it truly impressed me so much, that this was the smoothest-running engine I can ever recall flying on an ultralight aircraft. My goodness, this motor purred along so sweetly the difference was immediately obvious.
By so saying, I’m not endorsing the Hirth any more than I “endorse” any aircraft. Nonetheless, when something is good I report it, and this engine was exceptional.
Our test plane was running a 50-hp Hirth 2704 twin-cylinder inline engine fitted with electric start. I’m no engine expert, so I can’t tell you why the Hirth was so delightful, nor am I saying it is a superior powerplant. Yet many aspects of flying are judged by their smoothness and this engine wins that category hands down over any other I can recall after hundreds of evaluations.
One way the Hawk Arrow is different from the Hawk Classic involves the use of a few curved fuselage members which add to an already comfortable cockpit. A close look at the interior photos will easily reveal the gently curved parts.
Overhead in the cockpit, the curved member allowed me to wear my helmet without banging my head. Going on my soapbox for a second, I often feel like I am a disappearing breed of ultralight pilot who prefers a helmet inside a fully enclosed aircraft. Helmets offer serious, proven protection in mishaps and I appreciate the Hawk Arrow for letting me wear my helmet comfortably. After all, “stuff happens.”
Lots of ultralights are so small inside (to fly more efficiently) they leave little room for instruments and other gear like radios or GPS units. On basic ultralights flown close to a home field, this is of little consequence and many pilots like the simplest machines precisely because of their lack of complexity. However, when you want another engine gauge to do careful monitoring, it can be frustrating to have no place to put it.
One method to save some panel space involves using one of the newer electronic instruments that serves several functions. Unfortunately, the engine monitoring instrument installed on this Hawk wasn’t working.
As a result, we lacked some information useful to a pilot’s report. Since the altimeter was also out, what we had was airspeed and compass. In these type of aircraft, that’s enough for flight, although it won’t allow any monitoring of engine specifications. It also makes it tougher to check some factory figures shown on the sales literature.
This Hawk Arrow’s instrument panel had plenty of room for more electronic goodies. Even a radio could be installed in the ample space.
Flaps were immediately to my left. They have clear detents including neutral and two levels of drag-producing deployment. The system is simple but has proven itself to me on previous Hawk flights. Of course, simplicity has long been a useful design premise and this lesson isn’t lost on Hawk designer and CGS Aviation owner Chuck Slusarczyk.
Our test Hawk had no brakes on it. With full enclosure and floor, this situation forces the pilot to plan ahead better, but I experienced no need for brakes. Of course, any builder can add them since the Hawk Arrow will require an N-number; it cannot make weight for Part 103 operations (you’ll need the Hawk Classic with a 40-hp Rotax 447 engine if you want a single-seat Part 103 ultralight Hawk).
This Hawk was fitted with one of my favorite instruments: a yaw string. The material selected was too stout for optimal response, but you never have to replace the batteries and the purchase price is right.
In spite of electric starting, I had a little challenge getting the Hirth fired up, though the error was mine. It turned out I hadn’t primed enough.
Inside the Hawk series – Arrow or Classic models – you’ll find a very wide cockpit. With spaciousness bordering on huge, the Hawk is sized to a big guy like Slusarczyk (who once in the early ’80s contested then-Pterodactyl builder Jack McCornack to a personal weigh-in to prove who was the “largest ultralight manufacturer”).
Dual doors and dual latches made for easier-than-ever entry and exit, but the latches don’t go to the front. At first this concerned me because unsecured leading edges of doors are an invitation to a door blowing open in flight. However, the Hawk doors hinge at the sloped upper, and forward, edge.
This makes entry better because it’s less likely you’ll bump your head on the door. It should also assure no door opening problems while flying.
The reach to the throttle is a little long, for me anyway. Comfort is reduced when you have your arm stretched. However, the builder can accommodate his body size to some extent and this probably cures the complaint. I found I could put my hand on the seat bottom and hold throttle position with one extended finger. This may not be the best situation but is workable.
Entry is bottom first in the seat. You merely sit down, first lowering the nosewheel gently and then swinging your legs and feet into position. In actual practice, this proves quite easy.
Contrary to the throttle, I found a good, comfortable reach to both stick and rudder pedals for someone my size.
Among my few gripes in the cockpit area, the space proved hot during the Florida springtime. The canopy had holes prepared for those rotating air scoops, which Slusarczyk planned but had not yet installed. So what we had for ventilation was two holes and only by yawing the aircraft could an appreciable amount of air be brought inside. Whew!
As I prepared for flight by starting my taxi, I found the nosewheel to have a wide rotation range. As long as you maintained a little inertia you could practically spin around quickly to check for traffic before takeoff. Oddly, this doesn’t translate to a tight turning radius in very slow speed maneuvering, where differential brakes would be useful.
The nosewheel swivels considerably, is well aft of the front of the fuselage and about a foot forward of the joystick. It worked quite well and my only concern was a lot of clunking as we hit irregularities in the turf taxiway. Noise usually relates to wear in my experience, so I’d keep an eye on nosewheel fittings.
Shines in Flight
The moment the Dope and Fabric Hawk took to the air, it seemed to smooth out – a clear, unmistakable sensation. Although taxiing the Hawk produced a series of clunks and squeaks, lift-off made all these little noises mellow out graciously.
I first thought the flaps could be set for only three positions (neutral and two down), but on closer inspection, it turned out the flaps lever offered four positions. One notch up allows slightly speedier cruise while also affecting stick loads beneficially. All detents are clear enough that you can guide the lever to the next setting without needing to look.
The Hawk is one of the most delightful airplanes in ultralight aviation. She offers such complimentary behavior during takeoff and landing that I recommend it enthusiastically to beginners, though even old veterans will enjoy the easy launch and landing qualities.
Oftentimes I leave landing evaluations to a later part of the flight, giving myself time to get used to the bird. With the Hawk, these tasks are so straightforward that I immediately went around the patch and did a few touch and goes.
Another benefit I quickly noted was visibility. With its overhead skylight, this Hawk gave a panorama that was simply excellent. I could look upward and behind me, keeping traffic easily in view, which was very comforting.
Full-flap landings were very modest in touchdown. I used the recommended 50 mph as an approach speed. This gave a wide margin, and later I achieved approaches that were significantly slower. Without flaps, I had firmer landings so the use of them seems advised.
Sideslips also worked pretty well, but I ran out of arm to push the stick forward enough. In any event, with flaps as useful as those on the Hawk, you won’t need to employ slips very much.
With your eye right at the leading edge of the wing, and the curved windscreen and nose to lessen glare or reflection, visibility in the Hawk is enormous. When flying ultralights for photos, I like to get in fairly tight formation with the photo plane. Doing so with aircraft of differing speeds and characteristics is challenging enough, but when visibility is impaired or blocked it can be much more difficult to get and stay close.
Doing tight formation flying provided an excellent chance to judge handling qualities. I found roll response to be very good, what I’ve come to expect from the Hawk. My only complaint is, when I controlled vigorously using hard rudder, the stick bumped into my leg using up some of the stick’s range potential. Roll response both in and out of turns was quite good; that’s not always the case among ultralights.
Pitch was excellent, holding gentle attitude differences without the need for trim. This suggests a dynamically well-balanced aircraft.
Searching for something to complain about on Hawk Arrow handling, I’d been told the right wing was a little heavy, and indeed it was. It always wanted to enter a shallow right turn. This was a minor annoyance that some work on the rigging of the test plane would no doubt cure.
I’ve already stated how impressed I was with the Hirth engine that ran with such exceptional smoothness. It was literally much smoother than any of the dozen or so Rotax engines I’d recently flown. Of course, I don’t know how this will remain as the engine ages, but it was certainly a fine start.
Unfortunately, because of the inoperative engine monitor, I had to assess power setting by adding full power and then backing off, not a very accurate method. Given my initial satisfaction with the 50-horse Hirth, it’s a shame I couldn’t more fully explore its potential.
Full throttle in the Hirth, which continued to be smooth, brought about 72 mph indicated. Even backed off on the throttle and with stick well forward, the Hawk didn’t want to exceed about 80 mph indicated. I wasn’t real aggressive, but I was close to what seemed the maximum speed of the bird. If true with all models, I’d call this a great safety quality. To get that much forward stick, I had nearly run out of arm movement.
Please remember, such speed evaluations are dependent on installed instrument accuracy and ASIs are notorious for having small errors.
On Good Behavior
Stall occurred at about 38 indicated, but factory folks had said something about a Pitot tube getting bent, so perhaps it was not 100% accurate. Stall at 38 seemed a bit high for this aircraft. Chuck had said the stall was a little sharp, although my several experiences didn’t find any sharp break. When I performed full-power stalls, the aircraft just hung on the prop at 42 mph indicated.
Adverse yaw was pretty significant and didn’t want to go away. A distinct prop burbling could be heard during all asymmetric conditions. Rather like those noisy grooves in the road on the shoulder of a freeway, you are given an audible warning if you aren’t flying straight. When I tried rudder-only turning, I found it possible, but the prop made a continuous burbling noise.
As a show of my confidence flying this Hawk, I did perform spins each direction – even without a ballistic chute installed (as is normally my rule). Half-turn spins in each direction were easily exited and I limited speed to 80 throughout.
The tailwheel or tri-gear Hawk Classic (with Dacron wing and tail covers) sells for under $11,000 and that’s with a 40-hp Rotax 447 engine, perhaps explaining why nearly 1,000 of these birds populate the sky. CGS says it can make Part 103 weight (less than 254 pounds empty) as long as you build carefully and avoid weighty options.
The Hawk Classic is also available in a 2-seat model for under $14,000, using the 52-hp Rotax 503 dual carb engine. At 335 pounds empty, it can operate easily within the 2-place training exemption to FAR Part 103, so long as the pilot has qualified as an instructor under the rule.
With numerous parts that make the Arrow model a more deluxe version, the subject of this report retails for under $12,000, still employing the Rotax 447. The 50-horse Hirth will add about $1,800. Other options include instruments, a ballistic parachute, brakes, floats, electric start, and numerous other choices.
Finally, a 2-seat Hawk II Arrow model goes for $14,936 with a 52-hp Rotax 503 dual carb engine, and still easily qualifies under the 2-place training exemption at 395 pounds empty weight.
The two Arrow models – which, like our evaluation aircraft, can be made with dope and fabric covering – add such refinements as streamlined wing struts and the curved overhead support member and curved supports, which allow the gentle bending of the windscreen that many pilots find desirable. By significantly reducing glare and adding headroom, the seemingly subtle difference is popular – nearly 200 Hawk Arrow models are flying today.
CGS Aviation’s Hawk line is certainly a mainstay of the ultralight industry. In fact, with close to 1,500 units in the fleet, the Hawk is one of the success stories of all of aviation. Fair prices, a straightforward design and the company’s engaging and entertaining owner, Chuck Slusarczyk, are all partly responsible for the Hawk’s proliferation.
However, it is no contest in my mind that the main reason may be its wonderful flying manners. Adding the long-lived nature of a dope and fabric covering and the smooth and slick finish that comes with a painted surface, the Hawk Arrow is definitely an ultralight at which you should look closely.
|Empty weight||345 pounds|
|Gross weight||650 pounds|
|Wingspan||28 feet 10 inches|
|Wing area||135 square feet|
|Wing loading||4.8 pounds/square feet|
|Length||21 feet 3 inches|
|Height||4 feet 8 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||5 gallons|
|Build time||120-215 hours|
|Set-up time||20 minutes w/folding wing|
|Standard engine||Hirth 2704|
|Power loading||13.0 pounds/hp|
|Cruise speed||55-80 mph|
|Stall Speed||32 mph|
|Never exceed speed||120 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||800 mph|
|Takeoff distance at gross||150 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||150 feet|
|Standard Features||Flaps, removable wings, tri-gear (steerable nosewheel) or taildragger (steerable tailwheel), curved Lexan® windshield, full enclosure with zippered doors, large cockpit, lower surface rib battens, removable side windows, shoulder harness, fiberglass landing gear legs w/Stream-Line| fairings, extruded aluminum streamlined wing struts, 16-inch wheels, 2-blade wood prop.|
|Options||Dope and fabric wing covering, folding wings, folding tail, 55-hp Hirth 2703, 65-hp Hirth 2706, 46-hp Rotax 503 single carb, 52-hp Rotax 503 dual carb or 66-hp Rotax 582 engine, C type gearbox, electric start, mechanical or hydraulic brakes, wheel pants, cockpit-adjustable trim tabs, 10-gallon fuel tank or wing tanks, composite prop, ballistic chute, instruments, amphibious or standard floats, hard doors, map case in doors, nose window, Mylar| sailcloth, tinted Lexan, fast-build kit (50-75 hours), ready-to-fly option, financing available.|
|Construction||Anodized aluminum tubing airframe, aluminum tube reinforced tail boom, aluminum gussets, aluminum roll cage cockpit, all aircraft hardware, 3.8-ounce Dacron sailcloth covered (optional: dope and fabric covering); prebuilt wings, control surfaces and subassemblies; no welding required.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros – Virtually unchanged for 15 years, the Hawk is still one of the better choices among all ultralights. Does everything quite well and is applicable for both beginners and veterans. Many satisfied customers. Test aircraft with doped skin will last for many years. Good experience with a fleet in the field (good safety record). Owner Chuck Slusarczyk is one of the most enjoyable characters in ultralight aviation.
Cons – Some folks may want an aircraft that is a more recent design (though this older design lacks for nothing). Test plane was a single-seater; 2-seater available, but only in tandem configuration (no side-by-side seating). All-aluminum structure carries somewhat more build time compared to welded steel fuselages.
Subsystems available to pilot such as: Flaps; Fuel sources; Electric start; In-air restart; Brakes; Engine controls; Navigations; Radio; (items covered may be optional).
Pros – Hawks are often built simply, as was the test plane. Nondifferential brakes installed; operated by lever on joystick. Pull starter can be operated by a strong-armed pilot while seated (though electric starting was appreciated). Flaps are standard, work very well, and are easily operated and position identified. A zippered panel offers some engine area access. Instrument panel can accommodate more instruments and radio.
Cons – Brakes did not aid with steering. Flaps caused the nose to raise, a somewhat unorthodox response. No trim installed (though hardly needed if one pilot operates aircraft). In-cabin pull starter will require some muscle. Refueling may cause some fumes inside cabin.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros – Huge, spacious cabin feels quite deluxe compared to many fully enclosed ultralights. Entry is simple; bottom first (lowering nosewheel), then swing legs in. Seat cushion and back quite comfortable. Reach to controls exceptionally good. Cockpit will shield pilot from colder weather. Some area available for cargo if tie-down straps added and if weight and balance verified.
Cons – Sits on tail when unoccupied; frowned upon by some potential buyers. Zippered doors seem too basic for those used to general aviation aircraft (though they can be folded inward a bit to allow ventilation). No quick seat adjustment.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros – Excellent taxi visibility, even to sides as you sit at leading edge of wing. Fairly high gear position assures good clearance on rougher fields. Steering was quite responsive, pivoting with ease. Wide stance offers good stability. Good gear absorption.
Cons – Though steering responsive, turn radius was not particularly tight and without differential braking, planning was required on a crowded ramp. Nosewheel clunks and squeaks during turf-field taxiing.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros – Arguably one of the best two or three aircraft I’ve ever flown for the critical takeoff and landing phase. If you have trouble with these operations in a Hawk, go back and get more instruction! Excellent approach to landing visibility. Approach recommended at 50 mph, which seems to have a liberal “fudge factor.” Very little precision demanded to achieve smooth touchdowns. Reasonably good energy retention in ground effect (aiding touchdown). Flaps were very helpful on approach. Good controls for crosswind operations.
Cons – Flaps moved nose unconventionally, raising nose on deployment. My landings without flaps were firmer, suggesting you should use them on all landings. No other negatives.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros – Wonderful overall control feel and response; not too light or quick, yet you get what you expect easily and quickly. All bank angles tried felt comfortable and effective. Clear and unchallenged control authority in all maneuvers attempted. Harmony also felt quite superior. Pitch response shouldn’t surprise any pilot regardless of experience level
Cons – Roll rate is hardly fast and feels insufficient for aerobatic work (manufacturer does not encourage this type of flying). Adverse yaw was quite significant; coordinated control usage recommended at all times. Hard to find any other gripes.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros – Wow! One of the smoothest engines I’ve ever experienced in any ultralight aircraft – Hirth powerplant simply deserves a look because of this reason alone. Hawk flew efficiently, holding altitude even at power settings down into the low 4,000s. Performed very well in low-and-slow flying which I consider to be the ultralight realm. Literature speed figures proved honest by actual experience.
Cons – Not the speediest ultralight if that is your desire. Climb and sink rates seemed only average, not thrilling. While well-rounded, performance doesn’t stand out in any category.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros – Very mild stalls in all regimes attempted, even when aggravated. No spiral instability noted during any maneuver attempted. Spins each direction practically flew their way out (done even though no parachute; personally a very strong statement of my confidence).
Cons – Adverse yaw demands coordinated use of controls (though this is not a strong criticism). Unable to check thrust line response due to a creeping throttle and lack of trim. Same comment for longitudinal stability check.
Addresses the questions: “Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?”
Pros – An excellent choice for a true recreational aircraft. Dope and fabric covering will ensure longer useful life (for wing/tail coverings at least), and is recognized by many aviators as a more “proper” covering. Priced with engine/prop to ease consideration. Company owner is one of the more delightful folks in ultralight aviation. As single-place ultralights go, this is one of my top recommendations.
Cons – Build time is considerably higher than with slip-on Dacron wing covers (though payoff in longevity may be more than adequate reward). Design has changed little over the years, reducing its appeal to those who like to buy the “latest and greatest.” New pricing moves the Hawk line out of the “bargain” category (although they do offer an “Econo Hawk” version where the builder does more of the work for a lower price).
Dale Myers says
Dan: I found this very interesting, I have been flying since 1988. I started trying in a Colt. I soloed in and got my instrument in a Warrior. I bought a 1977 Sundowner in 1996 and flew it tell March 2018. Loved that plane. Sold it to guy who will not only fly it but his daughter is going to take lessons as well. i’m 67 now and I thought I was done with flying. This week a friend who owns a 1946 Euro Coupe and wants to fly Light-Sport class because he is in his 70s were at my 34 acres, which with little grading can get 1,100 ft. He brought up the Hawk Arrow. He would sell the Coupe and we would buy and build a Hawk. I’m thinking the Plus. It is a big change from a Sundowner so I would like to still go into the local airports.
We and our wives have been great friends for years so the wife is no problem. We live in south east Ohio. I have flown out of KPKB forever. In your comments you wrote that this is one of the best designs that you have flown. It sounds great to me and Dave saw it at Sun and Fun and was impressed. He happens to be within 30 miles of the factory when he goes to Florida in the winter. Our thoughts were to go down and visit the factory and fly one and look them over.
This is a lot of comment but you now know little more about us and our training. My question is of all the other planes like the Hawk is there anything else we should look at as well? thank you for your time and for info about this plane was very informative.
Dan Johnson says
Hi Dale: Hawk is a good choice and the two teams building them today seem well prepared. As to other aircraft you should consider, I’m afraid that’s way to big a question to tackle here. Please look around the website, where you can see hundreds of choices. Good luck!