Sunday, October 14, 2018

My Dad - Robert Wesley Bushby

Robert Wesley Bushby
2-24-1927 to 10-14-2018



Dad and his wife Sharon

The above three photographs were taken during my dad's induction into the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Homebuilders Hall Of Fame in 2005.





Bremer County Independent Newspaper, July 27, 1960


The Midget Mustang (or Long Mustang) was to become a production airplane made by Schweizer Aircraft, until the passing of designer Dave Long. My dad worked at Schweizer building the 6 production prototypes, the first one being the N35J. I do not recall the exact detail how or why the N35J was damaged, however my dad ended up rebuilding it. Unfortunately the FAA came along and said he could not re-use the N35J registered number, so he obtained N15J in its place.






This next text is from a typed document that I believe was intended for advertising the Midget Mustang, circa 1960.

"Bushby Midget Mustang"

"The Bushby Midget Mustang is a modernized and updated version of the famous Dave Long Midget Mustang. This aircraft was originally designed in 1947 by the late Dave Long, who at that time was chief engineer for Piper Aircraft Co., as a high performance and fully aerobatic sport airplane. In 1951 all drawings, jugs, fixtures, and parts on hand were acquired by Dr. F. Torrey and R. Bushby. Their intentions being to develop a sport aircraft for construction by the amateur aircraft builder.

Although the Bushby Midge Mustang is identical in exterior configuration to the latest Long model, it does incorporate construction changes designed for the homebuilder and sport flyer. These changes include standardization of materials to make use of the new alloys that are readily available today; construction simplifications; cockpit and canopy changes for more pilot comfort.

The Midget Mustang’s 9G structural strength and low power loading give a true high performance and fully aerobatic sport plane, as well fast cruise speed for cross country flying. The Midget Mustang can be powered from 65 to 150 HP. Level flight speeds to 230 MPH with a rate of climb in excess of 3,500 FPM are possible. The most popular powerplant is the Continental 85 HP model, which can be equipped with fuel injection when an inverted flight fuel system is desired. Because of their low cost the Lycoming 125 HP G.P.U. engine is becoming popular.

Flight characteristics are very good. The low center of gravity and wide landing gear results in very ground handling, and visibility over the nose is adequate. Take off run is short and initial climb angle is steep. The different aileron travel used reduces the rudder requirement considerably, very good aileron rolls can be executed simply by raising the nose slightly and applying aileron pressure in the desired direction, with both feet on the floor, completely off the rudder pedals. Stalls are proceeded by ample warning in the form of the tail buffeting and reduced stick pressure. Recovery is rapid upon application of power or relaxing the stick back pressure. Full power on stalls however may alarm the novice pilot. The nose attitude with full power is very high and the stall quick, with engine torque tending to drop a wing. Stalling speed with full flap is 57 MPH, without flat stall speed is 63 MPH. Landing is very similar to that of a Piper Pacer. While on downwind leg at approximately 130 MPH the flaps are lowered to 2nd position. Full flaps are applied at 90, and an approach speed of 80 is maintained until “over the fence”. Flare out is executed at 70, and the plan will touch down nicely at 55 to 60 MPH. The flaps are very effective in eliminating any floating tendency.

Being of simplified all metal construction, the Midget Mustang is perhaps the easiest aircraft to construct that is available to the homebuilder today. Due to the great utilization of aluminum by industry today, and the resultant decrease in aluminum costs, the Midge Mustang is also the least expensive aircraft to construct. Stressed skin type construction is employed, utilizing flush riveting throughout. Although the dimpling operation for the flush rivets adds about 25 hours labor to the construction time it is more the justified by the performance gained. The fuselage is of full monocoque type construction employing seven bulkheads. Wings are full cantilever, employing a built up modified “I” beam type main spar, and ten ribs. A modern laminar flow airfoil is used. There are no complicated fittings or parts that the homebuilder would not be able to fabricate. Also, no machine work is required. The construction manual, which is included with the construction drawings, gives a step by step description of the construction process so that the inexperienced aircraft builder will have no great difficulty in its construction. The construction manual is fully illustrated with photos and sketches, and the drawings are very complete."


My dad's passion was aviation. It did not matter of what type. He enjoyed planes used in air races, which is one reason he picked up the "Long Midget" to build and to help others to build. In the 1950's the popularity of building your own plane became a reality for many. The EAA came along to help join the airplane designers with the builders, helping each other in the crusade of home built aviation, and to find a new path of certification from the FAA so that they could be flown. My dad obtained membership #26, though that was because he did not decide yet to sign up the first day, and went back the second day to do so, or he would have had a lower number.

The next 4 pages are from the Sport Aviation magazine, dated May 1960. An article written by George Hardie, Jr. can be found starting on page 5. I want to thank the EAA for giving me permission to scan and load this article in my blog. This was the beginning of "Bushby Aircraft". You can find out more on the EAA by clicking "here".







I remember living in Dolton, Illinois, and watching my dad working on what I believe was prototype parts for the upcoming Mustang II. It was nice just to be there, let alone all of those mechanical toys I could play with (that I was told not to play with). We then moved to Glenwood, Illinois. Once the garage was built, I remember the prototype Mustang II center section being built in our garage. I was perhaps age 6 at the time. This began my remembrance of his devotion to the building of experimental aluminum aircraft, and supporting others no matter what type of aircraft they needed help with.



My dad still had a day job (actually night job). He worked for Sinclair Research in Harvey, Illinios, which later became Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO). He then went to work at the Westinghouse armature rewinding facility in/near Chicago. Eventually he quit there and worked Bushby Aircraft full time.

The early days at Rockford were probably the best. That is when my dad held forums on how to form aluminum ribs and bulkheads. No fancy tools required. He would stand up in front of the audience and explain the technique as he formed. In the display tent we had, there was a mockup of a Midget Mustang bulkhead and spar that was laminated and riveted by hand. Rib blanks and all the stages to the finished rib were on display as well. Fluting pliers were made by hand using a standard adjustable wrench with brazed copper pipe contoured and polished for the flute. A brass bar with a slit was on display for forming the rib lightening hole flange. All of which he had me use while in the tent to show others how easy it was. Later, my uncle made a composite set of fluting pliers that my cousins Harvey, David and I went around selling for my uncle. That, and we sold the back cutoff of the Midget Mustang bubble canopies as windshields for open cockpit planes. I think my cousins and I thought we were entrepreneurs, making sure we got our cut of the money, and we enjoyed spending it on sodas and burgers (squirt guns and balsa planes too).

One thing I enjoyed learning was forming the firewall. We would pack the stainless cut blank in dry ice, and after it cooled down, we quickly placed in on the form block and bent the flange with a plastic mallet as far as we could, then used a lead bar to wack the flange over the form block and into the flutes that were in the form block. No spring back for the most part.


I remember pulling this image off 8mm film for someone.  The date should be 1965.

First Time Flown to EAA Convention, Rockford, IL, 1966

I even had a chance to crawl into the tail cone of the prototype Mustang II to buck rivets on a modification. After a lot of Bondo on the wings to cover a poor rivet job (riveted by others, not my dad), I learned quickly that a good rivet job saves you a lot of time in the end, let alone saving a lot of weight for not using Bondo. The Mustang's performance is the wing. That is why my dad preached to start on the center section for the Mustang II. Get you practice in. There are a lot of rivets to practice on. By the time you are ready to start the wings your technique should be developed. A smooth wing is a fast wing, and is a low stall wing.

I still wonder the real reason for the Mustang II. Yes, builders were asking for two seat version. It could have been a tandem, but ended up side-by-side. What I thought was funny, even as a kid, was potential builders at the EAA convention would ask my dad to take their wife up, hoping she would be thrilled enough to allow her husband to spend the money, and time, to build the Mustang II. For the most part I believe it worked.

In 1971 I started making the fiberglass cowlings, wing tips, wheel pants for the Mustangs. I was getting more involved, and realizing that the Midget Mustang and Mustang II were a world wide popular airplane. Especially in Australia. One Australian builder changed the cowling to remove the "bug eyes" used to direct the air cooling over the cylinder heads, to a annular ring around the spinner. I asked my dad if I could modify his cowling to experiment and he said yes. The next photograph was the outcome. In the end I am not sure there was much gain in cooling.




We did a lot of trails on the prototype Mustang II. Builders who had a fear of a conventional aircraft (taildragger) wanted to know if they could add tricycle gear (training wheel as I called it). My dad said sure, and he went out to show how it could be done. I believe we used the Piper Tri-Pacer nose wheel system.

Another trail I remember was hurner wing tips. We flew one side with the standard wing tip, and the other with the hurner tip. We really did not do enough study, though my gut reaction was they seemed to give us a better turning rate of climb, perhaps because of the longer extension to the wing.

Shortly after that my dad finally remembered his dream that he kept beating his head about. That was on how to adapt a folding wing to the Mustang II. Many builders wanted to save space, or share space, especially in the winter months. By folding the wing you could either take it home, or park the Mustang II under a high wing in the hanger. I ended up creating the drawings for that after my dad prototyped the parts.
(more to follow at a later date)


One of the proud moments my dad had with EAA was when he was honored with the August Respet Award. The "Who's Who" of aircraft design as the EAA put it. You can read more about it by clicking "here". My dad won this award twice. I am not sure it was suppose to work out that way but it did. The first time was in 1967. I remember an EAA representative asking him in a telling voice, to be at the evenings festivities. So we went. My dad was totally unaware he had been selected. This one recognition wrote his story. Then in 1973 he won again. This time the EAA representative was not as stern in voice to be there. My dad had been asked many times to attend, just to attend. That evening I asked if we could go get pizza in town. My dad had forgotten about the invite to the evening festivities, so he did not have the chance to receive the award in person. I think that would have been the icing on the cake. Thank you to all those present and past who supported him for both awards.








Lots to still write.  In the mean time you can find out more about my dad on Wikipedia of all things.

Me, Dad, and my son Nick

My cousin's daughter Emily with my dad.