Kyle Bushman and the Vintage Air Rally: Across the Americas in 45 days

Pleasant Hill’s Kyle Bushman sits in a Navy N3N Biplane – the plane he and Bryan Harper, of Junction City, will use to retrace the 1920s airmail routes from Argentina to Florida in November as they participate in the Vintage Air Rally. MIKE ROTHGEB/THE CRESWELL CHRONICLE

On Dec. 17, 1903 in North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright performed their debut flight for a distance of 852 feet, in 59 seconds. This landmark achievement paved the way for modern airplanes. On Nov. 1, 2018, 115 years later, Kyle Bushman, 25, of Pleasant Hill and Bryan Harper, 30, of Junction City will undertake the daunting task of the Vintage Air Rally.
The Vintage Air Rally is an endurance competition starting at the southernmost airport in Argentina and ending in Florida, spanning 19 countries in 45 days. Bushman and Harper will travel in a Navy N3N Biplane and retrace 1920s airmail routes with pit stops every 250 miles. The aircraft, which they named Old Glory, was manufactured in 1943 and depicts a red, white and blue pattern that would make any American proud to support them.
Out of 800 applicants from 73 countries, Bushman, Harper and 28 others were selected based on their skillset. While neither Bushman nor Harper have undergone an air rally before, they have flown across Malaysia, which mimics weather patterns they’ll encounter during the rally.
Fourteen other planes with pilots from the US, UK, Ireland, France, Brazil, Australia, Italy, Norway and Poland will fly in the rally. While there’s no official prize for winning, those who finish will receive all the glory and recognition they deserve.
There are many dangers involved in making their 7,000-mile journey; from taking off from the windiest city in the world to navigating a 250-mile stretch of open ocean, the opportunities for failure are numerous. Biplanes aren’t meant for long distances, and most aircraft similar to Old Glory are used for crop dusting on farms. Under ideal conditions, Old Glory’s maximum distance is about 400 miles; even with minor headwinds, their max distance is reduced to anxiety-inducing levels.
To combat these challenges, each team relies on GPS navigation, weather updates, radio communication and a team of rescue helicopters, which will accompany them. Emergency Locator Transmitters are also implemented if a crash or loss of communication occurs.
While the Vintage Air Rally may officially end in Florida around Dec. 12, Bushman and Harper aren’t home yet. The 3,000-mile trek across the U.S. will take them an additional two weeks, which they hope to accomplish just in time for Christmas.
In the months leading up to the Air Rally, Bushman and Harper will disassemble, replace, reassemble and inspect every part of the plane to make sure it’s working properly. This process isn’t new for Bushman and Harper as both men have ample experience. Bushman is also constructing a custom equipment pod which attaches to the underside of Old Glory. This pod sits below the center of gravity and will contain all their equipment, parts and supplies, without affecting the aircraft’s performance. He has also upgraded their 450-horsepower radial engine for more power during their journey.
When Bushman isn’t flying long distances, he’s the owner and operator of Ragwood Refactory at the Creswell Airport, where he specializes in antique aircraft restorations. Bushman received his Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) license in 2013 and worked for Tim Talen, founder and former owner of Ragwood Refactory in Springfield for three years. Under Talen’s instruction, he learned the tube and fabric restoration process. Talen is known nationally as an antique aircraft expert and is in the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Hall of Fame.
The tube and fabric process involves applying plastic strips over the frame of the plane’s wings before stitching and ironing them in place. This process is essentially the same as when the Wright Brothers took flight, but the materials have evolved from a cotton-based fiber to a synthetic plastic material for increased the durability and longevity.
Bushman’s interest in aircraft started at a young age with radio controlled (RC) airplanes and models. Bushman has been going to Creswell Airport since he was 14 and his interests quickly shifted from RC planes to the real deal. For his 16th birthday he performed his first solo flight, something he accomplished even before obtaining a driver’s license.
Harper has also been flying from a young age and specializes in warbirds and large planes. He is a seventh-generation hazelnut farmer in Junction City and brings years of experience and knowledge to the table. Bushman and Harper are both working on their Instrument and Communication licenses, which will aid them in their journey.
Bushman, Ragwood Refactory and Creswell Airport welcome guests and pilots from all over the world. Creswell Airport is growing, and the City is constantly bringing in new business. While Eugene Skydivers attracts most customers, the airport also receives private planes and jets during their travels, providing the town with tourism dollars. Creswell Airport even offers ”courtesy cars” to travelers arriving from out of town. These cars are free to use in town and all they ask is to leave the tank full of gas.
Whether you’re a Creswell resident or an aviation enthusiast, call or visit Bushman at his shop and support these two men as they represent the United States in November. Kyle Bushman and Bryan Harper have the experience, knowledge and ambition to soar to great heights.

Ragwood Refactory:
Hanger F1 (77s)
Creswell Airport
Creswell, OR 97426
PHONE: 541-514- 5164

Vintage Air Rally:
EMAIL: [email protected]



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