01/31/2011. The original Ford Tri-Motor was first produced in the 1920s by the Stout Metal Airplane Company, a division of the Ford Motor Company. The late William B. Stout conceived the idea of modernizing the design and putting it back into production as a simple and economical transport aircraft able to operate from grass surfaces. The prototype Bushmaster 2000 (N7501V c/n 1) was built in 1966 by Aircraft Hydro-Forming of Gardena, California, USA, of which Ralph P. Williams was President.
New features compared with the original Tri-Motor included more powerful and lighter 450 hp Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-l or AN-14B engines, with improved cowlings for better engine temperature control; Hartzell HC-B3R30-2E fully-feathering three-blade constant-speed propellers; 24V 50A engine-driven generator; aileron, elevator and rudder trim tabs; oleo-pneumatic main landing gear shock-absorbers; B.F. Goodrich single-disc brake main wheels and tubeless tires; Hayes Industries fully-swiveling tail wheel.
It further featured a modernized cockpit with larger windows; rerouting of control cables internally; addition of a large cargo door; strengthened floor for concentrated loads; a larger tail fin; and redesigned elevators which were interchangeable with each other and with the rudder. Construction remained all-metal, but the corrugated skin panels were made of new, lighter and stronger aluminum sheet, riveted to the flanges of structural members. The wing was built around three main spars, with five auxiliary spars to reinforce the corrugated skin. Inter-spar stress distribution was accomplished by struts and diagonals instead of ribs.
The Bushmaster normally accommodated 15 passengers, or equivalent freight, and a crew of two, but could be operated by a single pilot; a high-density seating arrangement could accommodate a pilot and 23 passengers. Optional items included a 600 gal (2,272 l) tank for firefighting, forest dusting, etc, and a large floor hatch for loading extra-long items such as oil rig equipment. The normal wheel landing gear could be replaced by floats or skis. Standard fuel capacity was 360 gal (1,363 l), with provision for auxiliary tanks.
On February 27, 1969 Aircraft Hydro-Forming was sold to Whittaker Corporation, this sale included rights to the Bushmaster 2000. In August 1970 Bushmaster Aircraft Corporation was formed at Long Beach, California, by former Aircraft Hydro-Forming President Ralph P. Williams and the Bushmaster 2000 project was re-purchased from Whittaker Corporation.
However, despite ambitions to manufacture at least 100 airplanes for the bush market, only one more Bushmaster 2000 was produced, first flown in 1985. It was lost in a nonfatal crash at Fullerton, California, on September 24, 2004. Due to a makeshift gust lock still attached to the rudder and left elevator of the airplane, the aircraft veered off the runway during the takeoff roll, became airborne, and began an uncontrolled descending left roll until impacting vehicles and the ground.