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A Sad Announcement

The Experimental Aviation Community Mourns the Loss of Morry Hummel

By Jamie Reynolds, EAA 483027

Morry Hummel

We regret to inform aircraft enthusiasts everywhere that one of aviation’s biggest fans of homebuilding has taken wing to the world beyond this one. Morry Hummel, EAA 8892, died at his home on February 4, 2010. Our prayers are with them and their family.

James Morris “Morry” Hummel, age 94, of Bryan, Ohio, died at 12:25 a.m. on Thursday, February 4, 2010, shortly after admittance to Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers in Bryan. Morry worked in auto body repair for Riter Body Shop for many years and also operated his own body shop for several years. He was an avid aviator, founding Hummel Aviation in Bryan, and was known worldwide for his designs and the building of experimental and other small aircraft, most notably the Hummel Bird. He flew his own aircraft until the age of 91 and has been honored with numerous awards for his design and building of aircraft. He was a member of Faith United Methodist Church in Bryan and the Lite Flyers ultralight aircraft club.

Morry was born on August 5, 1915, in Bryan, Ohio, the son of James and Manata (Caswell) Hummel. He married Kathryn Ridgway in 1939, and she preceded him in death in 1989. He married his second wife, Myra Branch, on June 29, 1993, and she preceded him in death on December 30, 2009.

Surviving are a son, Ronald (Connie) Hummel, of Reno, Nevada; a daughter, Sandra Kay (Larry) Partee, of Montpelier, Ohio; five grandchildren, Gina Bacon and Jim Hummel, and Mike, Mark, and Bob Smith; and eight great-grandchildren.

I’ve never told anyone this, but for over 15 years I’ve been contemplating the inevitable passing of Morry Hummel. Now, before you call the state police or the FAA, thinking I had something to do with this recent turn of events, let me explain; Morry Hummel had my deepest respect from the day I met him. Even before that, actually, ever since I had heard of his legend long before then. We shared the same hometown, and I still remember the absolute first time I met him. I knocked on his door and asked his thoughts on a Hummel Bird project that had come to my attention. I can’t remember the exact words, but I do remember (after he answered those questions) his main point was that I should join the EAA and that I should come on out to Al’s next Saturday morning and join in the fun and learning. Al’s is a grass strip, north of Bryan, Ohio, and owned by Al Johnson. So I went to Al’s that Saturday morning, and from then on I could hardly wait until the next Saturday.

I never got that Hummel Bird, although I ended up owning a different plane, one that Morry himself recommended to me. That story is in last month’s Experimenter. Morry was also the main reason I successfully finished that plane, with safety in mind. And that brings me back to explaining the first paragraph.

For years I had been wondering if there would be enough time for all of Morry’s local pilot friends to go from the church or funeral to the airport, into their planes, and into the air so the group could fly a missing man formation over the cemetery during the internment service.

I always thought that it would be fitting. I know that if I were on the ground when that formation of Morry’s friends flew over, with a spot missing, I would cry. The tears would well up in my eyes and run down my cheeks, and I would be standing there proud to have been a part of Morry’s life. But of course, I planned to be flying one of those airplanes; I would still cry, but nobody would see it.

As I write this, it’s early February. Morry passed just a day ago, and I can hear the wind of a snowstorm whistling outside—the funeral is still days away, all our planes are snowed in for the winter, and there isn’t going to be any fly-over. But that isn’t important. The important thing is that Morry will be shown the respect that he earned and deserved from all the people that he touched throughout his long life. For those of us who will attend the services, for those whose hearts seemed to skip a beat when they heard the news, for those who will learn of Morry’s passing for the first time when they read the title of this article, Morry made such a difference, and he left this world better than he found it. He lived to be 94 and could still tell you about metal stress analyses on spars and how you should do Dutch rolls and slow flight, as daily training. He’d tell you a joke, or he might tell you about Jesus - he had a way of knowing what it was you needed.

So let us all imagine that missing man flying over the funeral service. Morry would like that. I think that we, too, should all live our lives in a way that, in the end, there may be a flyover for us, weather permitting.

Morry Hummel
While in his early 80’s, after recuperating from a life-threatening aircraft accident, Morry developed and built the “UltraCruiser, God’s Gift”

Edited from the Hummel website:
July 9, 1995, was a day that changed Morry and Myra’s life forever. Morry went flying in his Mini-Max as he had so many times before. This time, however, a bolt on the aileron control system broke, causing Morry to crash and nearly lose his life. He suffered a broken left leg, a broken jaw, and crushed face, and lost his right leg below the knee.

During his four months in the hospital, Morry made a deal with God. He promised Him that he would tell people about Jesus if allowed to live through these injuries. It was during this hospital stay that he dreamed of the “UltraCruiser, God’s Gift” - an all-metal ultralight.

Morry made an amazing recovery from his injuries, and the UltraCruiser prototype was under construction by 1999 and completed in June of 2000. He started selling plans shortly after that.

The first plans-built UltraCruiser was completed in April 2002 by Jack Roberts. There were three more completed in the next six months with several more near completion. As the first few UltraCruisers neared completion, the plans were redrawn to incorporate changes and improve clarity. This resulted in several pages being added to the plans and a positive response from builders.

Also, in April 2002, Morry started working with Terry Hallett to modify the UltraCruiser for larger pilots. This new design was named the UltraCruiser Plus. After several months of working with Terry, Morry agreed to turn the day-to-day operations of Hummel Aviation over to him, while still remaining involved in technical issues as required. Up until his death, Morry went to work on a daily basis and enjoyed helping Terry with the UltraCruiser Plus. He toyed with the idea of designing a new ultralight and enjoyed the freedom to fly his UltraCruiser around the Bryan, Ohio, skies. Mostly, he enjoyed just doing what he wanted to do and nothing more!

Morry Hummel
The original Hummel Bird, registered as a Wind Wagon on March 1, 1981, plans number 147, build by James Morris Hummel.

Morry Hummel
At the following EAA Oshkosh, it didn’t win the Dead Grass Award, but it should have.

Morry Hummel
It did, however, win the Arvad Szaraz Memorial Award for Design Advancement.

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