Vintage Aircraft Enthusiast Rob Bach Introduces the Pietenpol Air Camper
Following World War I, civil aviation experienced an extraordinary surge in public curiosity that ignited pilots, mechanics and enthusiasts alike. Hundreds rushed to participate in this “Golden Age of Aviation,” leading to a tremendous increase in technological advancements. One such participant was Bernard H. Pietenpol, a self-taught airplane designer from Spring Valley Cherry Grove, Minnesota.
Considered the “Father of Homebuilt Aircraft,” Pietenpol constructed his first homebuilt airplane in 1923, using a Ford Model T engine. He did not, however, gain world-wide recognition until April of 1930; Pietenpol set out for Minneapolis with two Ford Model A powered airplanes in order to prove to the editor of Modern Mechanics, now Popular Mechanics, that an auto engine powered aircraft could indeed fly. The editor was so impressed by the aircraft that the Pietenpol Air Camper was featured as the magazine’s cover story. With the increased exposure, the airplane became the favorite homebuilt of its day.
Pietenpol intentionally designed the aircraft with the “average 1930’s American” in mind; all materials used were readily available in local stores and the aircraft could be easily built with a minimum amount of tools. The aircraft was constructed from spruce and plywood, powered by a converted Ford Model A 4 cylinder engine. Due to the downward thrust of the propeller, the aircraft had a short take off run, allowing the “Golden Age” pilots to fly it from most off-airport fields.
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