Randy Bush’s Pietenpol hits 500 hours.


An email arrived last night from Randy Bush, saying that he just crossed over the 500 hour mark on his Pietenpol. If you are new to homebuilding you probably understand that this is a significant milestone, but if you have been around homebuilding for a long time, you really understand how big this is.

Getting started, we all believe that we will fly about 250 hours a year in our creation, right after it is done in 10-12 months. Dreams are made of these thoughts, and that is good, but flying planes are made of dreams and persistence. I am going to say that less than one in ten homebuilts of all kinds gets to 500 hours. This includes all weather cross country planes like RV’s. Combine this with the fact 80% of kits and 90% of plans are never completed, then you begining to see Rany’s accomplishment in perspective.

If the odds above don’t sound good, you are correct. But success in homebuilding isn’t a random a random lottery ticket drawing, it is a series of good decisions, bonded together with persistence. If you know and exercise this, the odds don’t apply to you. The reason why I spend a lot of time speaking of philosophy, is because it is the root of all good decision making in homebuilding. People who have never spent 5 minutes considering the “why?” element, and developing their own answer to this question, have a low success rate because they are not making good decisions, nor developing their own persistence.

Last week, I was speaking with well-known Pietenpol builder and Cherry Grove trophy holder Kevin Purtee. Randy’s name came up, and Kevin paused the conversation to make the point, “That guy is a first class human being.” I feel the same way. When people like to complain that the EAA doesn’t have enough old-school home builders anymore, I agree, but Randy Bush is always my first example to point out that we still have some that are every bit as good as they ever were.

Randy is going to fly his Pietenpol to Brodhead this year, and go on to Oshkosh with it also. He has just reworked his cowling and made some detail changes, like the ones in this story: Cooling with J-3 style cowls. (Pietenpols, Cubs, Biplanes, etc) and he now reports that even at full power on a hot day, his plane will only hit 325 degrees on the cht. (that is 250 below GM’s red line). This is running on the border of being too cool, an issue that some Corvairs can have, but very few other alternative engines ever have to be concerned about, as they are concerned with melt downs. I plan on getting a number of photos of his plane at the shows, and we can have a whole story about his mechanical installation, but to my view this is secondary to the real story, namely Randy getting to 500 hours because of the choices he has made and the persistence he has exercised.

Going to Brodhead or Oshkosh will be an excellent chance for many people new to homebuilding to meet Randy in person. You will find him to be a modest and humble guy. I have long held that negativity is an infectious disease, and you should not spend your aviation hours in the company of people who have it. Conversely, I believe that the perspectives, examples and mindset of successful builders like Randy Bush are also contagious, and spending even an hour in their company can make a big difference in the positive path of any homebuilder. Below I share a few stories that I have written about in the past that give a glimpse of why Kevin Purtee, myself and countless others hold Randy in very high regard. Come, met him in person and add yourself to this group.

Above Randy at Brodhead 2012, From last years story: “Randy Bush offers his testimonial on Corvairs and Piets in combination. He now has more than 420 hours on his plane. This is a lot for an open cockpit aircraft based in Tennessee. Many Corvair people met Randy at previous Colleges. Both he and I have had many conversations about how homebuilding and developing and exercising your craftsmanship in aircraft building is a refuge of sanity and stability in our personal lives.  We have both noted that when many people hit a rough patch in life, one of the first things they think of doing is quitting their aircraft project. Either of us, and everyone else who has finished an aircraft under challenging circumstances, would gladly offer that selling your project is the last thing you should do. When little else is going right, and few people are on your side, hours spent in your shop will show you that you still control much of your life, and the opinions of you held by others are often worthless. In your own shop, your are in charge, and any hour spent building something with your own hands is well spent and the things you learn can never be taken from you. Go back and read the Sterling Hayden quote about what men really need to lead meaningful lives.”

Above,Randy’s aircraft at Brodhead .Randy Bush of TN. at Brodhead with Miss Le’Bec (it is a combination of his girls’ names). His aircraft was seven years in the making. A consistent work of craftsmanship, the plane’s creation spanned both easy and hard years in Randy’s life. Many people new to homebuilding think that it is something you do if life is treating you great and you’re rolling in dough. Here is reality: The most successful builders I know understand that hours spent in your own shop, creating things with your own hands, is a vital part of a worthwhile life, and that this reality will be most evident at the hardest of times. Learning to make things is a crucial investment in your own sanity. Does it surprise anyone that really happy people always have a way of being creative? The plane has more than 400 hours on it. It has a 100 hp Corvair with electric start and a Roy 5th bearing


I wrote the words below last year. If you are a homebuilder that has spent a lot of hours reading this site and thinking about the potential of homebuilding in your life, let me share this single prime element of homebuilding, the part of it many homebuilders find to be the most rewarding and crucial element of it. Magazines and websites all want to tell you that homebuilding is about buying things and having stuff. That is a pathetically shallow perspective, and is at the root of why people quit when the have great expenditure but feel no personal reward. If you really want to get to the core of homebuilding, then start looking at its potential to change your own life, that it is a serious arena where you can develop and test your skills in a setting that matters, that you control, and has rewards that few other challenges can match.


“If you have never met me, but read this and think that I am charmed with myself, you got it all wrong. I know countless humans who are better people than I. They are kinder, smarter, and harder working. I can’t sing nor dance, I learn slowly, and I can’t stand to hear my recorded voice nor see my image on film. If I was once handsome, all trace of it is gone along with my uncorrected eyesight. I can be a conversational bore, and I deeply wish I had given my parents more moments to be proud of me. At 50 I look back on my life with a very critical eye and stand on the far side of a very wide gulf from the heroes of my youth. Even our dog, impeccably honest and loyal as canines are, Loves Grace and only tolerates me.

Honest evaluation leads to harsh thoughts like this. I spend a lot of time alone and have long bouts of insomnia, which can lead to thinking about things excessively. But the secret I would like to share with anyone who at times feels the same way, is that I have a sanctuary where I am insulated from much of my self-criticism, and a have a front, where at 50, I am much better on than I thought possible in my youth. When I am building things with my hands in my shop, I rarely feel poor. Although I now need glasses to do any close work, and my hands have lost a lot of dexterity, I am a far better craftsman than I ever was in my youth. I am not a great craftsman, but over a very long time I have worked to develop these elements in my life, and I compete with no one except who I was last year. While all else fades, these things flourish. It is a gift I am most thankful for.

I was aware of this in my youth, but it did not come into focus until 1999, the worst year of my life. (getting burned  was 2001, but it was a picnic compared to ’99.)  Feeling dangerously low, I sought the council of a guy I knew. He had come back from such a year. He is an artist, working as an incredibly detailed wood carver. He tells me to forget everyone and everything else, go back to your tools and work with your hands. Give up your apartment, but never your hangar. Explore all the things you can’t forget, have stolen, give away or loose. At the moment, I was having a hard time picturing another week, and I asked him how long it took him. The thought with great care a slowly said “two, no really three..” I was jolted and blurted out “Three months?” he looked me in the eye and said “No. Years. It’s probably your only way out.” It turned out to be a painfully accurate prediction.

In the years since I have read letters or posts from many people in a tough spot, who have sold their project or tools. I often think their ship is sinking and they have just traded their life jacket for five more minutes on the deck. I have also met a number of successful builders who have said that when everything else in there lives was broken, they had a place of refuge in work and creation. Of the thousands of people I have met in aviation, these people are truly brothers, for we share the same salvation.”

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