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Five questions: Kyle Bushman

Airplane whisperer

We’d like to take credit for discovering Kyle Bushman in his Oregon habitat (see “Beauty or the Beast,” June 2020 AOPA Pilot), but the truth is that long before AOPA met this young entrepreneur, he was making his name known in aviation circles, especially in the world of backcountry flying.
Five Questions
Photography by Mike Fizer

Bushman started his Ragwood Refactory in Creswell, Oregon—after inheriting the company name and learning the business from owner Tim Talen—when he was just 25 years old. Bushman has an affinity for restoring—and reimagining—aircraft, made visible in unique restorations such as the Piper PA–14 and Cessna 175 featured in AOPA Pilot. He continues to tinker, tamper, and tailor aircraft to suit owners, their needs, and their environments. His Facebook page is replete with amazing new projects, new ideas, and novel approaches to restoring aircraft. We called him an “airplane whisperer” and if anyone can transform a wayward aircraft into a show-stopping example of innovation, it’s Kyle Bushman.

How did you get started in aviation? My start in aviation scaled out of the RC model world as a child. I would build models with my grandfather on the weekends and we would take them out to a grass area next to his office and fly them. It made for many great stories and adventures, crashing and losing airplanes around that area. As the models got bigger, one day my grandfather said why not head down to the airport and take a discovery flight? The rest is history. 

What were your biggest challenges? My biggest challenge in aviation was life. At first it seemed like everything got in the way. Learning can be stressful, and if you don’t keep a good mindset, it can be not fun. When it becomes not fun you are going to have a million things that get in the way and prevent you from going out to the airport. A million reasons why you shouldn’t fly today. But if things remain fun you will always find the time. Even the challenging things that don’t seem fun, you have to figure out a way to look at them in a fun way. When flying became fun it all changed for me. Now you can’t keep me out of an airplane. Seems overly simple, but that challenge of keeping it fun through the learning phase was the game changer for me. 

What is your favorite aircraft? At this moment in time it’s the 7AC Champ I recently bought. It’s such a simple airplane. Very affordable to operate. I can throw the keys to my friends and let them fly it. Seeing the enjoyment they get out of that, is really starting to make it my favorite airplane.

What is your favorite aviation activity? STOL flying. Seeing the explosion of the sport. Being on the STOL drag team and bringing STOL drag racing to different places has been just about the most fun I have had around airplanes. 

Do you have any advice for new pilots? Build a community of like-minded people in aviation. That can be on social media, at the airport, over the phone. The community will push you to explore and try new things. My community is made up of pilots, nonpilots interested in aviation, all the way to 10,000-hour pilots. Hearing and trading stories in that community keeps the fire alive for me. That community in aviation becomes a very powerful tool for you to grow your aviation life. 

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Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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