Palm Beach County Chapter


The Construction Story of Gary Gustafson's 
Murphy Rebel 242R (now N52GG).

The Rebel is a kit from Murphy Aircraft Mfg., Ltd of Chillwack, BC, Canada and has the following specifications listed on their website:

 Horsepower                      160                                    Gross Weight                   1650 lbs

Wing Span                        30 Ft                                  Length                              21 ft 4 in

Wing Area                        150 Sq. ft.                          Fuel Capacity                   60 gal

Rate of Climb                   1200 ft/min                         Empty Weight                  950 lbs

Take Off Run                   300 ft                                 Cruise (65% power)         120 mph

Landing Roll                     400 ft                                 Range                               975 miles

Stall (with flap                40 mph                               G Limit                             +5.7  -3.8


The profile of the completed plane is pictured below. With the exception of the flaperon covering, which is fabric, the Rebel airframe is aluminum. It has a roomy interior with 44 inches of width and enough room for two to sleep inside. The Rebel fuselage uses semi-monocoque construction. Bulkheads are stamped aluminum. The skins are .020" 6061–T6 aluminum, giving the fuselage exceptional strength.

 The wings have a chord of 5 feet and have one heck of a lot of AVEX pop rivets. There are three spars, 14 nose ribs and 13 main ribs in each wing, which are all covered with three sheets of pre-punched aluminum sheet. Pre-formed leading edge material covers the nose ribs creating a D-Cell, which ties into a box section that is formed by the main ribs and upper and lower skins. This results in exceptional strength. 12 full-length extruded stringers help stiffen the skin against torsion and shear loads. The wing is joined to the fuselage by extra heavy fail-safe 2024-T3 aluminum fittings.  In this picture, the tank has been Prosealed.


The flaperons are made of fabric over aluminum to reduce the weight and run the full length of each wing. Pictured are the 2 sections for each wing with the lower left one having one coat of Polybrush fabric sealer. The flaperons were painted white after 3 coats of frabric sealer and 3 coats of UV protection paint.


Finished fuselage with a recently overhauled Lycoming O-320 (160 HP) engine mounted on the fuselage for the first time. None of the accessories, instrumentation, or final baffles (the ones pictures came with the overhauled engine) have been installed yet.

Fuselage, wings (1), tail feathers, bottom half of the cowl assembled. Windshield looks dirty because of its protective plastic. At this stage bungee cords were planned for the landing gear, but later replaced with coil springs. Other owner/builders indicate that coil springs make for softer landings and easier ground handling.

First look at the panel and controls installed in the plane. When the panel was first planned, glass cockpits were just starting to replace the steam gauges initially planned. The panel was subsequently redone as a later picture will show.

Firewall with Ontario Mod stiffeners installed at bottom and in upper right and left hand corners based on an AD from the factory.  Oil cooler with plenum has been installed. During the course of building about six modifications were suggested based on the experiences of previous owner/builders. All that are applicable to my non-float version were installed, some requiring re-doing sections previously completed.

Engine installed with all accessories, instrumentation, wiring harnesses, ducting, and new baffles in place. There is a lot of time invested in cutting and fitting baffles and installing instrumentation leads to monitor engine performance. All wiring has to be secured to prevent vibration wear and one has to make sure that nothing touches the hot exhaust pipes.

Cowl modified and fitted so that cooling air can easily escape out of the 1 ½ inch gap at the bottom of the cowl. To increase the pressure delta across the cylinders, a good rule of thumb is to have the exhaust area 70 percent larger than the inlet openings. Spinner has been cut and fitted also.

Several friends helping out just prior to first engine run in October 2007. After some initial start problems (one strand of wire on the P lead was grounding the magneto), the engine ran and sounded fine. One fitting had a slight oil leak which was easily solved.

Windshield retainer strip fabricated and clecoed in place.

The fun begins as cleaning, alodine, paint primer, sanding, and the final coats with sanding in between begins. Paint is Polyfiber’s Insignia White, two coats, and Santa Fe Red which takes many coats to get even color. Interior was painted first and then the exterior.

At this point wings and horizontal stabilizers have been painted and the primer covers the alodined fuselage. The interior is being painted with second or third coat. The entire plane was painted with 3 ¼ gallons of paint and there is plenty for future needs.

After masking out the design paint scheme the highlight coats are being painted on. Painting is like Thanksgiving dinner. Lots of preparation time, lots of cleanup time, while the eating (painting) time is pretty quick. However, painting takes a very steady hand and a good eye for putting just enough on so that it does not orange peal and not too much so that it runs. There is a fine line between the two.


New Hoerner wing tips with lights by David Fife are being fitted prior to paint. Total paint time was about three months, about half of which was waiting for no rain, very little wind, and/or lower humidity.

The instrument panel was the next chore. I figure that I had 141 wires to connect correctly, 28 wires to ground, and a lot of crimping and soldering. You are looking at the backside of the panel with the lower left and right sides showing the back side of the two sectional sized glove boxes. The blank section to the right of center is for future installation of a Garmin 396, AvMap EXP-IV, or another Grand Rapids Technology (GRT) EFIS, if they get a good moving map.

Not only do the instruments have a lot of interconnections on the back side of the panel, but inside the plane there are a few connections to things like engine instruments, a magnetometer, strobe lights, position lights, landing lights, and the ELT. Hope it all works.

Below is the first installation of the panel in my Rebel. Starting from the left quarter panel, I have an ELT and the Flightcom 406d intercom along with a sectional chart glove box on the bottom. In the center section starting from the left is the ASI and altimeter,  Garmin GTX327 transponder, the RC Allen trim tab indicator and rocker switch with the starter switch (not installed) in the center, a GRT EFIS (Electronic Flight Information System) with a Garmin SL40 radio below, and a compass in the upper right corner with room for an auto pilot below. In the right quarter panel, I have installed the a GRT EIS (Engine Information System) which is interconnected to the EFIS and the second sectional chart glove box on the bottom.

Along the bottom I have all of my switches and controls, starting from is a Wig Wag switch for the landing lights, an auxiliary power receptacle, throttle control, cabin heat control, carburetor heat control, the mixture control, master switch, alternator field switch, avionics master switch, strobe switch, position light switch, aux fuel pump switch, landing light switch, taxi light switch, panel/cabin light switch, and the auxiliary power switch.

I will be installing the panel into the Rebel soon and then testing each circuit separately before testing all together.  If all checks out well, the panel will be riveted and screwed in as per the installation directions. Most tasks will have been completed at that point and then final assembly (hope I can find everything) begins.

I along with a number of others are very interested in seeing how the old gal flies. This kit has a long history, having been originally purchased in 1994. As far as I know, I am the fifth owner. The original purchaser apparently bought the kit with good intentions of building it in two years. After receiving the delivery crate (about 4 ½ ft X 2 ½ ft x 12 ft.) and laying out and labeling all the parts as suggested, he said something like “Oh S___!” and proceeded to put all the parts back into the shipping crate to have it sit in the back of his garage for 5 years. After some heated discussions with his wife, the plane in the crate was put up for sale. A speculator bought it and then sold it to the fourth buyer who accomplished about as much as the first buyer.

Finally two older (80+) fellows in Daytona Beach bought the kit and started to build during the winters. They already owned and shared one Murphy Rebel and bought with the intent that they could fly together up to their summer cottages in Maine and return to Daytona Beach for the winters. They had a lot of time and did very good work during the winter months. They were about half complete in the construction in 2004 when one of the partners died unexpectedly. Having inherited but not needing two planes, this partially complete Rebel was put up for sale. So I have the good fortune to be able to buy a plane that I had been looking at for several years and one that had quality workmanship to boot. I have put a good two years of work during the past four to get it to the point where it may soon fly.  So that is the story of Murphy Rebel 242R and I hope that there is much more to add.

This is a final update of my airplane builders project, my first and last for sure.

My Murphy Rebel finally left the ground on Friday, October 16 at about noon, after 5+ years of building. At the controls was Randy Berry , a 16 year Piper test pilot with over 14,000 hours experience, largely in small planes and crop dusting.


Ready to go. Static RPM slightly low during static run up, CHT temperatures 365 to 380 degrees, engine sounds fine, wind conditions 10-12 mph and good visibility to 3500 feet.


Take offalmost. At this point the airplane has traveled about 300 feet and it lifts off a couple of feet later. Specifications indicate take off within 300 feet at gross weight. So being first test flight throttle was increased slowly, but the gross weight was only 1300 pounds. So specifications appear to be possible.

Coming in for landing – after 20 minutes of flight testing.

Close to Terra Firma.

Touch down.


Back to the hanger for a debriefing

Test pilot report was that the plane flies and handles very well. It is an easy plane to fly (that’s what I want) and appears to meet or exceed the manufacturers specifications, which is rare. During stalls it falls ever so slightly to the left, which might be due to the weight of the pilot. Slow flight at altitude with full flaps was about 40 mph and 44 mph with no flaps. With full flaps it has a high sink rate, but I was warned about a high sink rate from the Murphy Rebel builders site. The conclusion of the test pilot was that he would not change a thing. However, Murphy recommends a prop of 74” x 56” for climb and a prop of 74” x 58” for cruise. My prop is 74” x 61” a former Piper Tripacer prop and may be over pitched. The Tripacer has the same engine, about the same speed, and is 300 pounds heavier with same wingspan. When I told the test pilot my reasoning, he laughed and asked “Do you know what the take-off distance of a Tripacer is?” (Answer – 1500 feet at a today’s temperature)  Further testing will tell. All in all it went well for a first time flight.

Some minor adjustments were identified to be fixed before the next flight. They are:

  1. Down elevator authority – insufficient back range as stick is limited by ones crotch and can not be pulled back to the point required for full down elevator authority. Minor adjustment of the cables are called for.
  2. Tail wheel does not break away in left hand turns. Correct so that left and right hand can be executed easily.  
  3. RPM indicator reads at 2/3 of the actual RPM. I have an electronic tachometer and I may have set it inadvertently to a 3 blade prop. Action is to check all settings on EIS (Engine Monitoring System).

Plane topped 120 mph at about 65% power, but we are not sure due to tachometer problem.

There is still a lot of testing and mapping out flight characteristics yet to be done, but the first flight

went very well after the loose wire attached to the ignition switch was tightened.

Thanks to Chris Conn, Bernie Kerr , George Fritschle , Rob Kermanj , Joe Baker, and others who have helped me through the years, both with their labor and knowledge. This project would not have been possible without their help

 Gary Gustafson


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Last modified: May 11, 2016