Monster Bush Plane Is A One-Off Engineering Masterpiece

All of us dream of reaching a point in life where we have the knowledge, skills, energy and resources to pull off builds that match our wildest dreams. [Mike Patey] is living that dream and with a passion for engineering and aviation that is absolutely infectious, he built Draco, the world’s most badass bush plane.

Draco started life as a PZL-104MA Wilga 2000, which already had impressive short take off and landing (STOL) capabilities for a 4 seater. Its original 300 hp Lycoming piston engine failed catastrophically in 2017, very nearly dumping [Mike] in Lake Utah. He decided it was a good excuse to start building his dream plane, and replaced the motor with a Pratt & Whitney PT6 turboprop engine, putting out a massive 680 hp.

Almost the entire plane was upgraded, and the engineering that went into it is awe-inspiring, especially considering that [Mike] did most of it himself. This includes a redesigned fuel system, enlarged wing and control surfaces, new avionics, oxygen system, upgraded landing gear and an array of lights. The wing tip landing lights are actually from a Boeing 737. [Mike] estimates that the upgrades cost somewhere in the region of a million US dollars. All the highlights of the build is documented in series of videos on [Mike]’s YouTube channel. What we would give for a personal workshop like that…

Try not to let your jaw hit the floor when watching the video after the break.

[Mike Patey] has quite a bit of experience with crazy planes. One of his previous builds, a race plane named “Turbulence”, holds a US transcontinental speed record and the average speed record (438 mph / 704.9 km/h) for a single engined turboprop.

We have covered some home-built aircraft before which are slightly more accessible for the average aviation enthusiast. But always remember that just because your dream build is crazy doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

36 thoughts on “Monster Bush Plane Is A One-Off Engineering Masterpiece

    1. Citation needed. As far as I know quite a few of them are still in use at glider clubs for towing duties. I can’t find any reference to them being banned in Poland (Nor do I see a reason for them being banned for being old, there’s plenty of designs of that era still flying. Being 50 years old isn’t exactly super old by GA standards. The Wilga is actually more modern than the Cessna 172 (First flight 1957, versus 1962 for the Wilga)!

      The Wilga is however getting phased out at many clubs because it’s simply a very fuel hungry aircraft and very maintenance intensive. Fine if you have a paid for by the state full time mechanic on duty at your local flying club or cropdusting firm, less so if the members have to pay for it themselves. The fact that it has a 1 in 3 glide ratio when the engine cuts out also doesn’t help. In the words of a Wilga pilot I spoke with “If you can’t see the field directly below you through the chin windows, you can’t land there when the engine stops”.

        1. There is much more in common between all 172s than not. The 172S is still manufactured under the same Type Certificate (3A12) as the original 172, and has not been certificated as a different airplane. LED strobes and glass cockpit don’t change the way the airplane operates; those are separately certificated components, and it could be argued they don’t affect the airplane any more than changing the fuels and lubricants used.


        2. That new production includes modern improvements doesn’t change the fact that vintage models are still being flown. My father had a ’59 straight tail 172, which replaced a comparatively modern ’76 150. The point being that it’s very much NOT uncommon for 40, 50, 60+ year old aircraft to still be in active use, which makes the claim of the Wilga being banned because of it’s age a bit suspect.

          As for the Draco, it’s definitely a cool airplane. And while taking absolutely nothing away from the builder’s skill, the ability to dump a million US into a hobby project (and all the resources and requisite discretionary time that comes with that) goes a long way to ensure a killer end result.

          1. “, the ability to dump a million US into a hobby project (and all the resources ”

            I read this a bit differently…
            “[Mike] estimates that the upgrades cost somewhere in the region of a million US dollars.”

            I figured he had/found such things as the engine/prop/parts used, and if he had to build one for a customer using new parts and the labor of love cost he put in, that it would be $1M.

            If I found a totalled Ferrari at a junk yard and was able to drop the engine into my Honda, making my own adapters, would it be considered a cost of $250,000 to build?

  1. BTW, if you are going to [Mike Pattey]s youtube channel, take a look at the next plane they’re (he and his brother) building. “Scrappy”, a carbon cub with a 780 cubic inch 6 cylinder Lycoming engine. Designed to have a better power to weight ratio than Draco (Yes, really).

  2. Oh Hackaday. “He built…” He didn’t “built”, he replaced parts. Back in the 1950s or 60s there was a guy who built an airplane in his living room. Handmade many of the parts. He “built”. It was on “I’ve Got a Secret”.

    1. Many people designed and built their own planes,not just some guy in the 50s or 60s. Also, this guy engineered changes and built hardware. He didn’t simply just swap parts considering many of the changes made had never been done before.

      1. Actually he designed completely new and non-existant parts, redesigned and replaced many older parts, so yes he did “build” a completely different plane. Very much like taking a Honda 1000 and breaking it down to the frame, modifying that and putting non Honda parts back on it in a completely redesigned way. That “chopper’ is a “built” bike. On “Draco” very little was “stock” Wilga. The same on “Scrappy”.

    2. Watch the videos.

      If, after that, you still believe he “replaced parts” then you must be some kind of flaming genius well beyond anything that Mike and Mark have done. I look forward to your creations as you show us all how it’s really done. (and if you can’t detect my dripping sarcasm here, go soak your head)

  3. Not really that “monster” of a bush plane. A DeHaviland DHC-2 Beaver is a “monster” bush plane. This thing is comparable to the Cub, which is one of the smallest things flying.

    1. Slightly more info: (Blancolerio, providing weather info and a slomo)

      The plane is likely a complete write off. Broken main wing spars, broken fuselage, broken prop, broken engine and engine mount. Technically you can rebuild anything, but I doubt they will put in the effort and dollars on Draco.

  4. Wow. Cant believe it just crashed. I had read all about it during its debut at OshKosh.. but I spent all night last night watching every single Draco build video. Then I see this today. Absolutely surreal.

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