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How to Build a Pietenpol Air Camper or Sky Scout Airplane

Pietenpol airplanes built to the plans of my grandfather Bernard H. Pietenpol are
straightforward, no-nonsense airplanes. They're great for puddle jumping or even long cross country trips. They fly low and slow, the same way they have for over eight decades.

Pietenpol Airplanes (Air Camper and Sky Scout) are low in cost, durable and most of all, FUN!! Probably the biggest reason they are inexpensive to build is that almost no aircraft-rated materials are required by the design. They are durable because the designer, B.H. Pietenpol, went out of his way to make every part of the ship stronger than necessary.

In short, we have found the Pietenpol Air Camper and Pietenpol Sky Scout to be real honest-to-goodness airplanes, built simply and inexpensively by honest-to-goodness people.

The Air Camper has some interesting design features. Because of the downward thrust of the propeller, (the engine is angled downward 5 degrees) the plane has a short/slow take off run, and landings are light on the wheels. The beauty of the Air Camper design is, that except for engine changes, more than 60 different engines have been adapted for use on the airplane. The basic plans behind the firewall do not need to change. This aircraft was the first to use the split axle landing gear and was the basis for the 1933 Improved Air Camper plan drawings by Orin Hoopman.

Bernard Pietenpol never lost sight of the cost of flying and showed his true genius in keeping the cost down - within reach of the "common man".

Let's discuss what makes up a Pietenpol Airship ("Air Camper or Sky Scout").

Your own set of "Original plans";

To build a Pietenpol Air Camper or Sky Scout, first you need a set of plans available from Andrew Pietenpol (can be ordered on this website), and a work bench. For building tips, and construction detail, the builder's manual "Original Air Camper & Sky Scout Builders Manual" is recommended.

Fuselage;

The longerons are made of 1 inch by 1 inch Sitka spruce. All struts and braces are milled from 1 inch by 3/4 inch Sitka spruce. All wooden pieces are glued together and held in place with rectangular wood gussets cut from 1/8 inch aircraft grade plywood, glued down with aircraft glue, and held in place by small aircraft brads while the glue is setting. The forward half of the fuselage is covered on both sides with 1/4 inch aircraft plywood. The plywood only extends from the firewall to back of the rear seat. Once the sides are assembled, they are up-righted on a workbench and joined together with struts and braces cut to provide tapering from the rear seat to the tail where the two sides will join. Quarter inch aircraft plywood is used for the floor of the cockpit, and firewall.
Turtle Deck;
A turtle deck is created aft rear cockpit seat to facilitate crowning atop rear fuselage. This is accomplished by seven 1 inch x 1/4 inch Sitka spruce stringers set on edge to create what Mr. Pietenpol called a "Streamlined appearance".

Wing;

The wing is a one piece wing without any dihedral. The wing spans 28 feet 2 inches, giving it 140 square feet. Plans are also available for a three piece wing of the same length. Building a three piece wing is recommended when building space is of value. The three piece wing requires the additional building of a few extra wooden pieces, and metal fittings. The wing is built up with 28 ribs. The ribs are easily built in a homemade jig (no steaming required). Each rib is built out of 1/4 inch by 1/2 inch cap strip. This size cap strip is also used as rig struts which hold the top rib cap strip to the bottom cap strip. All ribs are held together by 1/16 in. aircraft plywood gussets 1 in by 3/4 in. The ribs are hung on two 28 foot long Sitka spruce spars of identical size (4 3/4 in. x 1 in x 28 foot). Each spar can be made of two 15 foot spars spliced together (very common). If you are building a three piece wing, each spar is then made up of three smaller length spars, with no splicing required (very common). Leading and trailing edges are made of Sitka spruce and are added.

Tail Feathers;

The tail group (rudder, vertical and horizontal stabilizers) is built just like the fuselage and wings with Sitka spruce spars, wide cap strips, and plywood gussets.

Covering;

The choice is yours! When Mr. Pietenpol built his airships in the 20's and 30's, Ceconite wasn't even invented. Grade A aero cotton was used. Today Ceconite works well. Newer technologies exist that work very good (Ploy Fiber process). The wing, fuselage, and tail feathers are covered. Interior of fuselage is finished with three coats of spar aero/marine varnish, sanding between coats.

Engine;

Over time, Mr. Pietenpol built Air Camper's with Ford Model A engines, and lightweight aircraft engines; with appearances from Continental (A-65), Lycoming, Franklin, and yes the boxer style type Corvair auto engine (110hp) All very good! Many people are experimenting with other types of auto and aircraft engines.

Fuselage fittings;

The rudder is controlled by simple U-foot pedals attached to the cross members. The control cables are simply fastened to the control stick. All wing and tail feather fittings and the landing gear are built of 4130 aircraft steel.

Changes over the years:

Of course there were changes over the past 65+ years, but mainly to the powerplant. Over time, Mr. Pietenpol built Air Camper's with lightweight aircraft engines; with appearances from Continental (A-65), Lycoming, Franklin, and yes the flat six boxer type Corvair auto engine. When Mr. Pietenpol used light weight aircraft engines, or Corvair engines, he added 6 inches of length to the fuselage. These and all changes over time are reflected in the Air Camper plans. You can build it with any of these engines. They all work great! Plan on spending 900+ hours of wonderful fun and rewarding time building your Pietenpol Air Camper or Sky Scout!
You will need a flat bench top: I turned my bench top into a waste high jig to save my back muscles - Start with fuselage first, ribs are so easy they can wait to the end. Remember everything attaches to the fuselage! (AP3)
Start by putting up your two longerons: 1" x 1" (top and bottom), then insert your struts and braces. 1/8" glued down gusset plates hold everything together. Easy and very strong! (AP5)
Attach 1/8" aircraft plywood sides: Look at these as very large gusset plates. (AP6)
Construction Airplane Photos

Sitka Spruce Wood: You do not need much. You also need (1) 4x8 1/4" - (1) 4x8 1/8", -
(2) 4x8 1/16" Aircraft Plywood plus 2 square feet of 4130 sheet steel. (AP2)
Connect the two fuselage sides: Connect with 1/2" x 1" braces and struts. All held together by 1/8" gussets. Just that simple! (AP7)
Add a 1/4" Aircraft Ply floor: two seat backs, and two wooden seats. (AP8)
Install Turtle Back aft of rear seat: Gives your ship an aerodynamic look. (AP9)
Time to cut a little 4130 sheet steel: You do not need much time or steel. Good winter project! I found that purchasing an inexpensive metal band saw from Harbor Freight (167.00) worked wonderful for this. Cut out, grind and round corners on a bench top grinder. All metal pieces are primed with zinc chromate primer. A little welding is required. Tig/Mig or Oxy Acetylene all work good. Many people will pre-jig their parts and take them to a local welder who can in minutes weld up what you need. This is a photo Bernard shot. (AP10)
Install all metal fittings: on your fuselage, wing, and tail feathers. I used AN type aircraft hardware (bolts). (AP11)
Let's bring it all together! Mount your Engine, Put on your landing gear, add instruments. Then it's time to cover!
Additional Construction Photos Below;
Original Pietenpol Air Camper Specifications: (Two seat Airplane)(above)

Wing Span 28' 2"ft.
Wing Chord 5 ft Wing Surface 140 sq ft Length 17 ft. 8 in.
Height Overall 6 ft. 6 in.
Tread 53 in.
Empty Weight 625 lb.
Engine Ford A, 65-85 Cont.,Subaru,Jabaru, other Useful Load 456 lb.(Psngr,Gas,Water Baggage).
Climb Light Load over 500 ft. first min.
Climb Full Load over 200 ft. first min.
Take-Off Speed 60-75 mph.
High Speed 90 mph.
Landing Speed 35 mph.
Fuel Capacity 10-18 gal.
Take-off Run 150 ft.
Landing Run 250 ft.
Weight of Wing, Complete 95 lbs.
Weight of Body, Complete 130 lbs.
Weight of Motor with Magneto, Complete 244 lbs.
Weight of Radiator 21 lbs. Weight of Propeller 21 lbs. Total Weight of Airplane with Water 625 lbs.
Gross Load 1080 lbs.
Load per Square Foot 7.7 lbs.
Original 1928 Pietenpol Sky Scout Specifications:
(Single seat Airplane)(above)

High Speed 62 mph.
Cruise Speed 55 mph.
Landing Speed 35 mph.
Take-off Run 150 ft.
Landing Run 250 ft.
Climb Light Load over 500 ft. first min.
Climb Full Load over 200ft. first min.
Wing Span 27 ft. 3 in.
Wing Chord 5 ft. Length 16 ft. 3in.
Weight 610lbs.
Useful load: 267 lbs. (Person plus gasoline)

The Pietenpol Sky Scout is a little less in length than it's bigger brother the Pietenpol Air Camper. It is a single-place airplane designed in the 1920s by Bernard Pietenpol. The Pietenpol Sky Scout is very like the Pietenpol Air Camper but with a single seat for the pilot and a unique dampening landing gear. The Pietenpol Sky Scout uses many of the same Air Camper parts.

The Pietenpol Sky Scout was designed and intended for easy inexpensive home construction and to be built from readily-available materials. Wood, fabric, a used Ford Model T or Model A engine was needed. Fewer metal parts and even less minimal welding is required than that of the Pietenpol Air Camper.

Fewer Pietenpol Sky Scouts were built in the 1920's - 40's as it was overshadowed by the two-place Pietenpol Air Camper. The same still holds true today. Bernard Pietenpol designs remain popular today! The Pietenpol Sky Scout continues to be a successful design for the same reasons homebuilders were so fascinated by the design over
85 years ago.

The Pietenpol Sky Scout still has graceful styling, still has those predictable easy flying qualities, still easy construction, and finally still an inexpensive way to fly (Extremely rugged)! The Pietenpol Sky Scout today is the ultimate one man Bush Plane!!! Good/ Great for Barnstorming!

More Fun Facts;

Are Pietenpol kits available?

No. Pietenpol did advertise and sell kits back in the 1930's. He also built a few ''fly-away'' models. Today, some members of the Broadhead Pietenpol Association make and sell some components. But Pietenpol's are essentially a ''scratch-built'' airplane.

How much will it cost to build a Pietenpol?

It's difficult to answer. In the late l980's, one Broadhead Pietenpol Association member finished a Ford powered Air Camper for less than $3500 in out-of-pocket expenses. However, he was an experienced builder who wanted to build for the lowest possible cost. Also, being retired, he had the time to ''scrounge'' materials.
Andrew indicates that today for about $10,000 - $12,000 (2013 dollars)
and some scrounging, you can build a Pietenpol Air Camper or Sky Scout.

How much time will it take to build?

Another tough one ... one builder started an Air Camper in November of 1988 and flew it in June of '89. He, too, is an experienced builder and is retired. At the other extreme, one Air Camper flew in 1990 for the first time; some twenty years after it was
begun. Experienced builders remind the novice that ''airplane building is just a whole bunch of little jobs.'' Budget yourself about 900+ hours of construction time.

Model A Engines;

Many Air Campers are being flown today with the Ford Model ''A'' engine. Some of these ships are quite old; some are brand new. Many are currently under construction. Five million Model ''A'' Fords were produced and there are plenty of engines that
are available today. A rebuildable engine; block, crank, cam, etc., can be purchased for less than $100. New pistons, boring, babbitting, align boring, etc. will set you back another $1,500.00 or so.

Start your looking by writing one or both of two national Model ''A'' Ford clubs: The Model ''A'' Restorers Club, 24800 Michigan Ave., Dearborn MI 48124 and/or Model ''A'' Ford Club of America, 250 S. Cypress St., La Habra, CA 90631-5586. Ask for the name of a chapter near you, then phone an officer and attend a meeting.

Corvair enthusiasts also have a national
organization: Corvair Society of America,
PO Box 607, Lemont, IL 60439.

Who knows the most about Corvair Engines used in
the Pietenpol Air Camper?

This is a very easy question to answer: My good friend William Wynne. You can contact William at www.FlyCorvair.com. Tell him Andrew Pietenpol sent you!


Where do I obtain The 3 Piece Wing plans?

They are available from this web site. Andrew Pietenpol continues to run the late Bernard Pietenpol's Aircraft Company: B.H. Pietenpol And Sons Air Camper Aircraft L.L.C.
The URL is http://community.pressenter.net/~apietenp/

Registration Numbers;

Many use B.H. Pietenpol's number NX899 followed by builder/owner's initials (i.e. "NX899AP". Nice tribute to Mr. Pietenpol.

Are Model ''A'' Ford engines still available?

Yes, Henry made five million of them and there are plenty still around.

Steel fuselage available?

Yes we do have the plans.
They are Available from this web site. Andrew Pietenpol continues to run the late Bernard Pietenpol's Aircraft Company: B.H. Pietenpol and Sons Air Camper Aircraft L.L.C.
The URL is http://community.pressenter.net/~apietenp/

Shouldn't I redesign the _______?

WHY? Why would you want to? It's been working just fine the way it is for the past seven decades. People have been trying to "improve" the Air Camper and Sky Scout for seventy years. And the ones who build a second Piet always build it closer to the original plans than their first! There is a lesson here.

Am I building a Pietenpol?

If the plans you are building from were signed by Bernard H. Pietenpol, it is. If Bernard, Andrew, or Don Pietenpol supplied you with the Air Camper plans then it is.

If I'm not building a Pietenpol, am I welcome in the
Broadhead Pietenpol Association?


Yes, we encourage you to do so!

Can you tell me the minimum length table required
to lay out the fuselage
(long version)?


168 inches or 14 foot work bench.

We want you to know (this is very
important) please read!!!!!!!

The Pietenpol designs have been popular and successful for over seven decades. Like most of the best homebuilt designs, Pietenpol's have been copied and modified by some builders. That's a legitimate activity. After all, most are members of the Experimental Aircraft Association. But we think it is unfortunate that the builders who change the design persist in calling their creations Pietenpol's.

When looking at airplanes, remember the old adage ''Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery.'' Remember too, Pietenpol plans are labeled ''Designed by B. H. Pietenpol''. If you want to build an Original Pietenpol, you need to build from Original Plans. The Pietenpol Family and the Broadhead Pietenpol Association organization suggest you build from authentic Pietenpol plans. Bernard's Grandson Andrew Pietenpol, age 52, sells a complete set of Bernard's Original Air Camper, or Sky Scout plans by exchanging a personal check or by credit card through this website. Once processed, you will receive your plans via the (United States Postal Service - snail mail). (Shipping is free)
And there is more;

The Pietenpol Family and the Broadhead Pietenpol Association want you to know as prospective Pietenpol builders that on occasion we find builders believing they were using authentic plans, but have actually purchased the plans of others and started to build from them before discovering they weren't building a Pietenpol.

It is not our intent to denigrate the designs of others, nor is it to convince a builder to build one design rather than another. But, as members of a ''type'' club we are sometimes asked by builders for advice or help with their ''Pietenpol'' projects, only to
discover the builder is not working on a ''Piet'' at all.

Join the Broadhead Pietenpol Association organization. Why? (Read On)!!

The Broadhead Pietenpol Association Newsletter is a quarterly clearing house for Pietenpol news, building tips, Pietenpol-related events, etc.

The Broadhead Pietenpol Association exists to promote Pietenpol airplanes, and
acknowledge Bernard H. Pietenpol's contribution to the world of amateur-built aircraft. The association was formed in 1981 by thirteen Pietenpol enthusiasts from Ohio, the Buckeye state. It's grown to be the preeminent voice of the Pietenpol movement with
members in many countries. Their newsletter is published quarterly. Contributions in the form of articles, photos, letters, etc. are always welcome.

Andrew Pietenpol, the grandson of the late designer Bernard Pietenpol continues to actively build Pietenpol Air Campers. Andrew Pietenpol flys a good sum, and is currently finishing building an Air Camper, and is designing the "Air Camper II" prototype of the future. Andrew lives, thinks, sleeps, builds and fly's from the same "Pietenpol Field" in Cherry Grove, Minnesota that his grandfather Bernard Pietenpol did when he was at the peak of his designing, constructing and flying days. Andrew is the last original flying Pietenpol.